Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says this with equal parts lament and defiance on CNN this morning. She’d like to see the House pursue its own immigration-reform push, but knows that some of her Republican colleagues don’t want to pass anything that will push the issue into a conference committee. Ros-Lehtinen wants to go to a conference committee, where she believes the House can guarantee a better border-security outcome than the Senate’s bill provides, which she says flat-out will not fly at all in the House:

Ros-Lehtinen points out that Reagan tried this in 1986 and it became part of his legacy … and not in a good way, she concludes, because we now have 11 million illegal immigrants in the country 27 years later. Ros-Lehtinen wants a border-security package considered separately to address the generational failure to fix that problem, but as the first in a sequence that will quickly address the comprehensive issue. Once the House passes its bills, the two sides can “negotiate, compromise” in conference committee and build a bill that will pass both chambers.

That’s what House Republicans fear — that passing anything will set up a conference report that gives away more than it secures. That would leave Republicans in position to kill immigration reform after the negotiations, and the political penalty that would follow could end up pressuring some of their ranks to acquiesce to anything in order to avoid being cast as an obstructionist, or worse.  Boehner has already said he would apply the Hastert Rule to any conference report on immigration reform, but that’s easy to say when the House hasn’t even passed a committee report on anything to do with immigration.  Will he stick to that if the House passes a tougher border-security plan and it gets watered down in committee?  Many Republicans don’t want to find out.

Besides, when will the House get around to passing their bills?  Nothing has come out of committee yet, and there’s only about three weeks left on the legislative schedule before the August recess.  When they come back, both chambers will be working on debt ceilings and FY2014 budgets, which have tighter deadlines than does immigration reform.  There’s a good chance that the House will end up doing nothing on immigration reform, or perhaps only passing a border-security bill that the Senate will ignore.