A nice example of what I said last week about Republicans forging their immigration policy based not on what works but on what they think they can sell. Legalization without citizenship is, as DrewM says, arguably the worst possible outcome policy-wise. It rewards illegals by letting them stay in the U.S. indefinitely, creating an incentive for future illegals to cross the border, but then tries to punish them by relegating them to a status of uncertainty. Will they ever be allowed to apply for citizenship or will they be stuck forever as second-class quasi-citizens? No one knows. And no one in the GOP leadership really cares. They like this dopey idea because they think they can sell it to both sides. To conservatives, they can crow that they held the line and refused to create a special path to citizenship like Rubio and the Gang of Eight did. To amnesty shills, they can crow that they’ve given illegals a legal foothold to stay and work here in the U.S., with citizenship through some process inevitable in the fullness of time. The goal isn’t to produce smart policy or to solve the problem of illegal immigration. The goal is to kinda sorta placate the conservative base whose votes they need while wooing the left-leaning Latinos whose votes they want.

And the punchline, of course, is that it’ll make no one happy. Conservative media will paint this, correctly, as a sellout and pro-amnesty groups will begin agitating for full citizenship within minutes after a legalization bill passes. McCarthy himself, I assume, knows that it’s garbage as policy but feels he has no choice but to push it because he comes from a California district with a significant Latino population.

McCarthy stated his personal view on the contentious issue in an interview with KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. He signaled that the call for a provisional legal status would be included in the immigration reform principles House Republican leaders are soon to release.

“The principles aren’t written yet, but in my personal belief, I think it’ll go with legal status that will allow you to work and pay taxes,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy made clear he did not favor carving out a new path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally. But his position appears to comport with the views of other senior Republicans who have called for illegal immigrants to have access to the existing route to citizenship once they receive an initial legal status and fulfill other requirements…

Immigration advocates have targeted McCarthy, whose district includes a large Hispanic population.

“[I]t is unclear whether Democrats would back such a compromise,” says the Hill. I don’t think it’s that unclear. Easy solution: The GOP could create a path to citizenship for DREAMers, which they seem inclined to do anyway, and offer that to Democrats in return for legalization without citizenship for adult illegals. Democrats will happily take that half-loaf. They want a deal so that they can show their Latino base that they finally delivered on immigration, but they also don’t want to lose their ability to demagogue Republicans as racist. Legalization without citizenship — i.e. “Jim Crow for illegals,” as the new lefty talking point will describe it — plus a DREAM amnesty allows them to do both. They’d be nuts to turn it down. As long as they don’t have to wait until border security has been measurably improved before legalization takes effect, they’ve got 90 percent of what they wanted from this process.

By the way, remember when Jeb Bush endorsed this idea too? It’s still bizarre to me that the great establishment hope, who’s supposed to be the GOP’s last, best chance to woo Latinos, would back a plan that’ll soon be compared by Democrats everywhere to segregation, but I guess he needed a gimmick to distinguish himself from Rubio after Rubio took the lead on comprehensive reform in the Senate. I’m curious to see if Bush sticks with it now that Rubio and his other presumptive centrist rival Chris Christie are fading.

Exit question: If Congress doesn’t pass some sort of reform before the midterms, Obama’s going to do it with via his presidential super powers, right?