Well, it does seem that the tectonic plates have shifted. Arguably, this is the best possible time to make a deal. Here is why:..

5. As more 2016 contenders demonstrate support for immigration reform (the exception being Sen. Ted Cruz), it will become clear that in all likelihood a pro-immigration Republican nominee will be leading the party in a couple years. That gives rhetorical and political support to timid Republicans…

8. Unlike Obamacare, immigration reform really is popular. When GOP pols look at the numbers, the fear of being run out of town on a rail for voting for immigration reform should diminish…

10. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Yes, the most effective conservative policy wonk is obviously in the driver’s seat. If anyone can lead the House to pass a bill, he can.

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“It is a good beginning,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who has spearheaded immigration negotiations in the House, told reporters on a Friday afternoon conference call. “I am so delighted.”…

“Is it heartening? Yes, it is,” says Jose Antonio Vargas, a undocumented immigrant and former journalist who founded the advocacy group Define American. “But it also leaves a whole lot to be desired.”…

The “majority view” among House Republicans, says Florida GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, is that Republicans should tackle the immigration issue, though he acknowledged the faction that opposes doing so and another that remains leery of the political risk involved. “But there is a great distrust on behalf of the Republicans in the House toward this Administration,” says Diaz-Balart, who supports reform. The upshot is Republicans will insist on “airtight” language, Diaz-Balart said, to force President Barack Obama to enforce the law. The goal, immigration-reform advocates believe, is to block Obama from easing the flow of deportations—the single most pressing concern for immigration-reform advocates.

For Latinos, there is a bitter irony to the conservative mantra that Obama can’t be trusted to carry out immigration law. They argue Obama has been draconian, not lenient. The numbers bear this out: The Obama administration has deported nearly two million undocumented immigrants—the highest rate of any presidency, and more than George Washington through Bill Clinton combined. “The number one priority of Latinos is to stop the deportations,” says Roberto Lovato, co-founder of the Latino advocacy group Presente.org. “It’s a first and fundamental step. The immigration system is broken because it destroys immigrant families.”

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Getting the details right will be a make-or-break exercise. If Republicans insist on holding legal status for illegal immigrants hostage to unachievable enforcement or border security goals, the deal will (and should) die. The plain fact is that enforcement, in the form of dragnet deportations and border security, as measured by boots on the ground and illegal crossings, have never been tighter. Americans will recognize the distinction between reasonable new safeguards and GOP pretexts that block long-term solutions.

Some Democrats and immigrants’ rights groups will not easily give way on pressing for some eventual pathway to citizenship. They are right that it is anathema to American values to create what would amount to a second-class caste — unable to vote, serve on juries or enjoy the full range of privileges of citizenship. And some Republicans will still scream “amnesty!” at any new legal regime that stops short of deporting millions of undocumented workers and their families, whatever the economic and humanitarian consequences.

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But it’s not at all clear that passing an immigration bill will suddenly lead immigrant voters and their children to flock to the GOP, not least because it is all but guaranteed that Democrats will attack the GOP for not going far enough. If Republicans offer unauthorized immigrants legal status without citizenship, Democrats will accuse them of creating millions of second-class non-citizens. And if, as seems likely, Boehner’s immigration push will lead to a substantial increase in less-skilled immigration, it will divide the right, and for good reason.

If Republicans want to build trust with voters — foreign-born and otherwise — they ought to instead pass a serious jobs bill. In his State of the Union address, President Obama made it clear that he will use raising the federal minimum wage as a wedge issue to put GOP lawmakers on the back foot, and there is at least some reason to believe that he will succeed. A Gallup survey from late last year found that 58 percent of Republicans favored a substantial minimum wage hike, a fact that has greatly complicated conservative efforts to beat back a policy they fear will dampen future job growth. The perfect populist issue has fallen into the president’s lap, and a GOP immigration reform push will do nothing to dull its effectiveness.

***

But it’s also hard for G.O.P. elites to let go of the idea that there’s a simple, one-fell-swoop solution to their electoral difficulties. The entire post-2012 immigration reform push was born out of this hope — that a single policy shift could deliver the Hispanic vote, save the party from its demographic crisis, and (perhaps most important) make other reforms and innovations unnecessary.

This conceit was always a fond delusion, not least because most Hispanics are not single-issue voters, and their leftward tilt has always been related to broader socioeconomic concerns. So with them, as with most Americans, the problem for Republicans in 2008 and 2012 was much bigger than the immigration issue: it was a platform designed for the challenges of 1980, and rhetoric that seemed to write off half the country as layabouts and moochers. And any solution for the party, in 2016 and beyond, would have to offer much more than the same old Reagan-era script with an amnesty stapled at the bottom.

Fortunately for the Republican future, we’re finally beginning to see the right’s politicians reckon with this reality, and throw themselves into the real work of reform. Indeed, this is happening more quickly than I once expected: in just the last week alone, recent Republican forays on tax reform, poverty and prisons have been joined by a plausible health care alternative and baby steps toward a proposal to help the long-term uninsured.

But that, too, is part of what makes the leadership’s immigration fixation so perverse. For the first time since the Bush presidency, high-profile Republicans are showing an interest in policy ideas that are fresh, politically savvy and well suited to the current economic malaise. Which makes it exactly the wrong time for the party to throw itself into a furious debate over an idea that is none of the above.

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MAJOR GARRETT: The principles enumerate a legal status for the 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants here in this country now. What do you mean by that and does that, by definition, mean no citizenship for them ever?

ERIC CANTOR: Major, let me tell you something. I mean, there’s a lot of focus on the immigration issue, but you know in reality, we not only want to help the situation there, a lot of the discussion that we had with our members at the retreat was that we want to help the problems right now job growth and the lack of the job growth. We know that 75 percent of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck. We’ve come up with some real solutions to help America work for those people too. And so I believe that you’re going to see us, in Congress, not only continue this discussion on immigration, but we want to try to get to the heart of the issues that are affecting most Americans.

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Via the Corner.

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Some members of the Republican party, Bobby Jindal said this morning, believe the party should hold off on immigration reform and focus on President Obama’s low approval rating and the Affordable Care Act’s troubles to carry them through the 2014 elections. That doesn’t include the Louisiana governor, who said that he believes in a “high wall and wide gates” approach to immigration policy, with border security and enforcement coming before amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally today — but he believes the GOP should support passing a package of reforms before 2014, just with requirements for border-state governors to verify that the border is secure before the legalization process is complete.