For some reason, House Republicans have fastened on eventual citizenship as the key issue. It isn’t. What will matter most to the illegal population is getting legalized. The experience of the 1986 amnesty was that most formerly illegal immigrants didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to become citizens. And it is the legalization itself that will act as a magnet to new illegal immigrants. They will take notice that we eventually welcome anyone who manages to come here to live and work in defiance of our laws.

The principles engage in the usual contortions to deny that the amnesty will be an amnesty. The document avers, “These persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).” This is all boob bait for Bubbas, a repeat of conditions from the 1986 amnesty and the Gang of Eight bill that are inevitably symbolic, because if they were truly strict standards, they would leave a substantial part of the illegal population without an amnesty.