With the worst economy since the 1930s, it’s obvious that the pro-amnesty groups aren’t going to get “comprehensive immigration reform” (amnesty for illegal aliens) this year. So in lieu of an amnesty, the White House is giving them a front-page New York Times story about amnesty (see story).

Administration officials immediately began throwing cold water on expectations that a legalization bill would happen this year.  Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said of the president "I don’t think that he expects that it’ll be done this year” (see story), while White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said “the president has consistently said that he wants to start the discussion later this year because our immigration system is broken ... but the economy comes first." (see story)

All this comes in the wake of Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel’s statement  last year that pro-amnesty groups could expect legislation only in the second term of a Democratic administration. (see story)

So, what’s likely to actually happen on immigration? There will be a lot of fuss and bother in Congress, with bills dropped and hearings held, but the real action will be in the administration. Despite itself, the Obama Administration will pursue a slightly different version of the “attrition through enforcement”  policy regarding illegal immigration that was started at the tail end of the Bush Administration (see story). There will be fewer raids on worksites employing illegals; but at the same time, the E-Verify system, a free, online system which enables employers to check the legal status of new hires, will continue its rapid expansion, making it increasingly difficult for illegals to get work. The White House will highlight “smart” enforcement like E-Verify, contrasting it with the raids and other supposedly brutish tactics by the troglodytes of the Bush White House. But the result will be the same – more incremental steps toward truly turning off the magnet of jobs for illegal immigrants, so fewer come and more of those already here deport themselves.