The strongest sign yet that what emerges from the House will in fact include a path to citizenship — not for everyone, maybe, but certainly for DREAMers.

After dodging the issue for months, House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday took a position on citizenship for undocumented immigrants, saying Congress must deal with the children of those who are in the United States illegally.

“This is about basic fairness. These children were brought here on no accord of their own. And frankly, they are in a very difficult position. And I think many of our members believe that this issue needs to be addressed,” Boehner said at the weekly press conference with House GOP leaders…

On Wednesday Cantor emphasized that this was one area where both political parties should work together to provide some certainty for children.

“The history of our country is one that has moved away from holding kids liable for the deeds, misdeeds, commitment of crimes by parents. These are, in many instances, kids without a country if we don’t allow them to become full citizens of our country,” Cantor told reporters Wednesday.

It’s not just Boehner and Cantor. Darrell Issa and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte have also sounded warm to the idea of a limited DREAM-type amnesty for children recently. Like I said last week, if it’s a choice between a full path to citizenship for DREAMers versus legalization for all illegals without any new special path to citizenship, I’ll take door number one. Read Mickey Kaus to see why door number two, i.e. legalizing illegals right away without any preset procedure for green cards, would be an utter messaging and policy disaster for the GOP. You’ll get no goodwill from Latinos for it; Democrats screeching about “second-class status” will see to that. And you’ll get no real leverage on border security from it if the initial legalization happens before the border is secured, which Democrats will absolutely insist on in one form or another. Case in point: The new “Gang of Seven” bill in the House wants “legalization first” for illegals, but proposes letting that legal status be rescinded if the feds can’t get E-Verify up and running in five years. Show of hands: Who thinks Democrats would happily acquiesce in letting illegals be re-illegalized five years from now because security measures are lagging? It’s a scam and a nonstarter.

If the House somehow convinced the Senate and Obama to accept a “legalization without citizenship” plan now, the Dems will simply browbeat the GOP into creating a citizenship path for illegals sometime in the next year or two, which means the House bill in due time will end up looking a lot like the Senate bill — a full amnesty in due course with no real guarantees of stronger border enforcement. If the name of the game here is building goodwill with Latinos, better to give sympathetic DREAMers a path to citizenship and leave the fate of everyone else to be determined later, when Republicans control Congress and can use that leverage to force real border guarantees in exchange for wider legalization. If Chuck Schumer thinks that’s not good enough, that’s fine. Let him and the Democrats in the Senate kill the House’s DREAM proposal.

For a sneak preview of the Democratic “second-class status” attack on Republicans, skip to 4:25 here and watch The One make the case to Telemundo Denver. If the House passes legalization without citizenship instead of DREAM, Schumer won’t be nearly this soft-spoken in pushing this talking point in 2014 and 2015.