No surprise. In fact, for all the heavy breathing lately about legalization without citizenship for adult illegals, I think some variation of DREAM is all Boehner and the leadership really hope to get out of this next push. It’s too hard to convince the base that the House should compromise with Democrats to settle the issue now, once and for all, when most people expect the GOP to control the Senate next year. All they need to do right now to defang Democrats’ “you hate Latinos!” demagoguery before the midterms is pass some small-scale amnesty measure aimed at an especially sympathetic class of illegals, which means DREAM. Do that plus a serious border security bill and there’ll be no grassroots revolt.

I think?

The statement of principles criticizes the American higher education system for educating some of the world’s best and brightest students only to lose them to their home countries because they cannot obtain green cards; insists that Republicans demand that current immigration laws be enforced before illegal immigrants are granted legal status; and mentions that some kind of triggers must be included in an immigration overhaul to ensure that borders are secured first, said Republican officials who have seen the principles…

The principles say that Republicans do not support a “special path to citizenship,” but make an exception for the “Dreamers,” the immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, quoting a 2013 speech by Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader. “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents,” Mr. Cantor said at the time. “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home.”

Obvious risk here: If there is a grassroots revolt aimed at the DREAM push, Democrats will have a field day with the inevitable “you hate Latino children!” message. Better to pass it, Boehner probably thinks, and take his chances with the more nuanced “you hate the Latino parents of Latino children!” message instead.

Two data points for you while we’re on the subject. First, according to Pew, immigration is now 16th on the list of Americans’ top 20 policy priorities. Just 41 percent said it’s a top priority this year — exactly the same percentage who said so five years ago. There’s a lot of interest in this topic among professional politicians because of the changing electorate, but among the public itself, there’s no movement. In fact, here’s what happens when you split the results by party:

pewissue

Notice there are two immigration items there. One is “the issue of immigration,” which I take it is a euphemism for comprehensive reform including legalization, and the other is “with illegal immigration,” which I take it is more of a reference to securing the border. Even on the former question, where you’d expect a surge among liberals, Democrats top out at … 44 percent. Independents don’t break 36 percent on either question. Byron York notes that a recent Gallup poll found that when the public was asked what the nation’s most important issue is, just three percent said illegal immigration. Leave it to the GOP, at a moment when jobs and the economy are so high a priority for Americans that they operate almost to the exclusion of everything else, to start a big push to import more foreign labor.

The other data point comes from today’s WSJ/NBC poll and has to do with the timetable:

wsjdelay

There are more people who think the issue should be put off until next year than dealt with now, which, as noted above, makes sense from a Republican standpoint. No sense writing a weak bill this year when a GOP-controlled Congress can write a stronger one in 2015. But maybe that helps explain why Boehner would rather act soon: If he waits until Republicans control the Senate, the grassroots pressure on him and McConnell to deliver a truly tough bill will be tremendous. What’s the point in having both chambers, conservatives will argue, if you’re unwilling to dictate terms to Obama? The leadership wants some sort of sellout on amnesty to impress Latinos ahead of 2016 and it’s easier to defend that sellout to your base if you’re forced to deal with Harry Reid than it is if you hold all the cards. I’m still not convinced Boehner won’t decide to just bite the bullet and get the whole thing over with this year.