Since day one of this process, the big gripe of immigration hawks is that the border needs to be secured before any form of legalization takes place, not just citizenship. Realistically, once some sort of legal status has been granted, it’ll never be revoked; the politics of doing so will simply be too hard, especially as we get closer to 2016. Grant probationary legal status to illegals today and you will, assuredly, end up placing them on a citizenship track sooner or later due to political pressure. That being so, the only leverage amnesty opponents have is to withhold legalization entirely until meaningful security improvements have been made. This was, if you remember, the core problem with Rubio’s Gang of Eight bill in the Senate: Schumer et al. kept talking about using border security as a trigger for citizenship down the road, but citizenship was never the key concern. Initial legalization is. And the Gang, including Rubio, never backed off their plan to grant that legalization right away, before the border was secure.

So now here come amnesty fans, frustrated at the lack of progress in the House, with a steal of a deal for hawks: Instead of insisting on a path to citizenship, they’re going to be sports and insist only on … initial legalization instead. Second look at amnesty?

Frustrated by inaction in the House, advocates of a broad overhaul of immigration law are considering whether to compromise on a core demand—that the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants be offered a pathway to citizenship…

Under this idea, people here illegally would be allowed to live and work in the U.S., and could then apply for green cards, which are hard to obtain but serve as a prelude to citizenship. The bill passed by the Senate this year would make most of the 11 million people here illegally eligible for green cards—or legal permanent residency—after a set period of time, which automatically gives someone the chance to apply for citizenship.

“How many of the 11 million would take this deal rather than nothing?” asked Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a business group that backs an immigration overhaul. At a forum last week, she challenged Republicans to offer this deal and Democrats to accept it.

“How will Democrats who reject this deal explain themselves to Latino voters?” she asked.

In other words, amnesty fans aren’t even giving up on a path to citizenship. They’re giving up on the idea of a new (or “special”) path to citizenship created by Congress to specifically facilitate the new amnesty. Illegals, under the “compromise” proposal, would still be eligible for citizenship via existing channels. And guess what? Very conveniently, House Republicans have been sour on a special path to citizenship for ages. Essentially, reform advocates are offering to make a tangential concession on something that had zero hope of passing the House in the first place in exchange for Republicans meeting their core demand. The only sucker big enough to accept a deal that bad is Barack Obama if it was being pitched by Vladimir Putin.

Or have I spoken too soon?

[Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob] Goodlatte, whose committee oversees immigration legislation, has said he is open to granting legal status to otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants. He and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are reportedly working on a bill that would grant such status to young people who were brought to the country illegally by their parents.

However, Goodlatte has said he does not support a “special path” that would give immigrants who broke the law to enter the country preferential treatment over other foreigners in pursuing citizenship. Once granted legal status, those immigrants could apply for citizenship through existing channels, Goodlatte has said.

“A lot comes down to nuance,” said an aide to another GOP House member, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk on the record. “A ‘special pathway’ is a term a lot of Republicans don’t like.”

“A lot comes down to nuance.” Is that how they’re eventually going to pitch the big legalization sellout to grassroots conservatives, as a “nuanced” victory because the final bill omitted a path to citizenship that amnesty fans didn’t much care about anyway? If this is what’s coming in the House, we desperately need big-name amnesty opponents in Congress to raise the alarm about the legalization/citizenship bait-and-switch. Unfortunately, there may not be any big-name opponents left.

The only saving grace of the “compromise” plan is that, under current law, the feds give out relatively few green cards each year, which means the number of newly legalized illegals who end up getting one (and then applying for citizenship) should be comparatively small — unless Congress also changes the law to make green cards much more freely available. I wonder if that’ll be the next big legislative push by immigration advocates once the legalization bill passes. Exit quotation: “Frank Sharry, who leads the advocacy group America’s Voice and supports a broad overhaul of immigration laws, said he could support legislation with that sort of structure if Congress made more green cards available.”