That pessimism is natural; the House is the place where ideas go to die. But it needn’t happen this time. If President Obama and Congressional leaders play their cards right, as they are doing so far, immigration reform — real immigration reform — can clear Congress this year.

Selling the measure to the Republican House will require close attention to substance, marketing and legislative tactics.

For starters, advocates won’t be using the word “amnesty.” Personally I think it’s a fine word, which has traditionally meant an act of forgiveness for the sake of social harmony. But in the meanspirited Republican/Fox News lexicon, “amnesty” has come to mean coddling criminals. So we will all talk of “a path to citizenship.” …

This time around, Democrats should be at least as ardent about enforcement as they are about legalization of the undocumented. That is essential to winning Republican votes, but it is also the way to avoid a future cycle of anti-immigrant populism. …

The real weakness is internal enforcement. There is an electronic system to verify that businesses hire only workers who are legally entitled to be here, but 90 percent of employers don’t use it. Both Obama and the Senate “Gang of Eight” call for more rigorous checks on employment, including a forgery-proof, theft-proof identification system, which is overdue.