This’ll help concentrate the minds of House Republicans as they get down to business on immigration reform. Should we be worried, though, that the drumbeat of emphasis on the “path to citizenship,” i.e. the second stage of legalization, is leading Republican voters to ignore the more important first stage, i.e. initial probationary legalization? I was a little alarmed when some righties claimed that Rubio was telling English-language and Spanish-language audiences different things when he said on Univision a few weeks ago that legalization would come before border security. Er, he’s been saying that since day one; the initial probationary legalization has always, always, always been slated to come first in the Gang of Eight bill and Rubio has never claimed otherwise. It’s the second stage, in which illegals would get to apply for green cards, that comes after the border is tightened. But who cares about the second stage if they’ve already been granted some legal status? They’ll end up on the path to citizenship sooner or later through political pressure, no matter what’s happening on the border. That’s what makes the Gang’s bill unacceptable. No meaningful triggers. Don’t take your eye off of that ball or else the House might try to slip probationary legalization through too.

But I digress. Let’s not look a gift horse of good news in the mouth:

nj

Among whites generally, education levels are a divide. Forty-five percent of those without a college degree, who have the most to lose from a new supply of low-skilled labor, say they’re less likely to vote for someone who backs a path to citizenship versus just 15 percent who say they’d be more likely. For whites with a degree, the split is nearly even: 30 percent say more likely, 33 percent say less. Who’s going to break it to blue-collar opponents of the bill that, between more visas for guest workers and probationary legalization for the ones who are already here, the path to citizenship won’t affect whether they end up facing lots more competition for jobs?

Another tidbit, just to make sure Republicans in purple districts are thinking hard about this too:

Independents side with Republicans on the question, although with less fervency. Thirty-five percent of them said they will be less likely to back a lawmaker who supports comprehensive immigration reform, while only 19 percent said it would make them more likely to support the incumbent. Still, a plurality, 44 percent, said the issue won’t weigh on their decision during next year’s midterms.

The relative lack of interest from Democrats, combined with the GOP-leaning position among independents, creates further disincentive for Republicans, who are unlikely to find much general-election reward for their vote if they survive a primary.

Raul Labrador said months ago that the House won’t vote for a path to citizenship for illegals, but all he meant by that, I think, was that they won’t create a new (“special”) path by statute as part of immigration reform. Illegals won’t be barred from eventually seeking green cards and citizenship through currently existing channels. Whether in practice that amounts to something better or worse than the path created by the Gang’s bill remains to be seen, but there’s no option on the table here realistically by which illegals will be barred forever from becoming citizens. That will start Democrats screaming about “second-class citizenship” for America’s newly legalized immigrant underclass, and the GOP will wilt. Illegals have to get some path. It’s just a matter of how, and when.

Big question: Is the NJ poll a sign that Republican attitudes against amnesty are hardening as people have started paying more attention to the Gang of Eight? I can’t find anything in this data round-up from February that’s directly on point, but the anger among grassroots righties and conservative media is obviously higher lately, which is bound to move the numbers a bit. Interesting to see Paul Ryan, who’s famously pro-reform, telling CBS this morning that while passage of the Gang’s bill in the Senate increases the chances of action in the House, the House won’t bring the Gang’s bill over. They’re going to follow their own “more methodical” process and “make sure we secure the border.” You trust him, don’t you?