Something that has already been forgotten is that back in November, Republican elites started down the road to "immigration reform" largely assuming that they wouldn't have to grant the vote to illegal aliens.
But that left them with two obvious rhetorical problems:
First, since what they were for is amnesty but they can't admit that it's amnesty because Republican voters are against amnesty, that left them with nothing to call it. The Democrats immediately jumped in with their own helpful suggestion as to what to call the heart of the Schumer-Rubio bill: "a path to citizenship." But, of course, "a path to citizenship" is not what Republicans wanted.
Second, "a path to citizenship" just sounds nice. Naive American voters tend to think of citizenship as entailing responsibilities as well as privileges, even though that's increasingly less true in the real world.
Now, it should have been obvious to the GOP strategists that they were walking into this trap — because it happened before. During Bush Push #2 in 2004, Karl Rove took citizenship off the table to placate Republican Congressmen, and immediately got rhetorically hammered by Democrats. As I wrote in VDARE.com on February 1, 2004:
For example, immigrants who become citizens vote for Democrats by landslide margins, so Congressional Republicans don't want more immigrants. KRAP, therefore, denies citizenship to guest workers, leaving them a disenfranchised caste of unassimilated gastarbeiters.
But Bush's new Machiavellianism automatically cedes the rhetorical high ground to the Democrats, who are already pushing for "earned legalization" (i.e., giving illegals the vote). Bush is left contradictorily sputtering about how wonderful immigrants are and how we don't want them to become our fellow citizens.
Rove has spent three years telling the press what a brilliant political ploy amnesty would be, so his initial spin was: what a cynical political ploy!
On May 9, 2004, I noted in VDARE.com:
And, as I forecast, the Democrats have duly offered to not only give all illegal aliens amnesty, but also to put them on the road to citizenship…and, thus, to being good little Democrats.
The whole thing offers the Dems some slam-dunk soundbites. For example, Rep. Bob Menendez, one of the bill's sponsors, said Bush's proposal "is a pathway to deportation. This is a pathway to the American dream."