GOP ALREADY REJECTING NEXT PUSH ON DREAM ACT…. Shortly before departing for his holiday break, President Obama held a press conference reflecting on the lame-duck session, and spoke at some length about the “disappointment” of the DREAM Act vote.

The president called the status “heartbreaking,” adding, “That can’t be who we are, to have kids — our kids, classmates of our children — who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn’t break a law — they were kids.” He went on to vow to “engage” Republican opponents who, Obama suspects, “in their heart of hearts, know it’s the right thing to do.”

Right or wrong, it’s probably best to keep expectations very low.

Congressional Republicans are pronouncing President Obama’s proposal that the next Congress overhaul the country’s immigration laws as dead before arrival. […]

Congressional Republicans said in interviews Thursday that their concerns about the [DREAM Act] measure remain strong, and both House and Senate GOP leaders said they would fight any attempt to legalize any of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country before the administration secured the nation’s southern border with Mexico.

“It is pointless to talk about any new immigration bills that grant amnesty until we secure the border, since such bills will only encourage more illegal immigration,” incoming House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) said in a statement.

Remember, we’re talking about a DREAM Act proposal that was written in large part by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), championed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) — all conservative Republicans — and it’s still condemned as a non-started and “amnesty” by far-right congressional Republicans.

As for the “secure the border first” rhetoric, it’s occasionally worth reemphasizing how misguided this talk is.

This Arizona Republic piece that ran over the summer continues to resonate, offering a serious, sober look at the political dispute when politicians say they want to “secure the border first,” and then talk about immigration reform.”

Anyone with a minimal knowledge or understanding about the nearly 2,000-mile swath of land between Mexico and the United States realizes that requiring a secure border establishes an impossible standard. […]

Here is another way to consider the problem: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a leader in the anti-immigration movement and acclaimed as America’s toughest sheriff, cannot secure his own jails. Every year, despite armed guards, electronic locks and video monitors, inmates smuggle drugs in from the outside and sometimes even escape.

No one would blame Arpaio. All penal institutions, regardless of security measures, have breaches. Yet imagine if America adopted a position that no new laws could be passed regarding prison reform “until the nation’s jails are secure.”

Tom Barry, director of the Transborder Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., said the demand for a completely secure border is a ploy by those opposed to immigration reform to prevent new policies.

“No matter how much enforcement you have, there will always be people coming through,” he said. “Since that is true, opponents to immigration reform will always be able to say the border is still not secure … and therefore we cannot pass immigration reform.”

When the president was speaking on the subject, and noted that many Republicans probably want to support measures like the DREAM Act, but don’t because they’re afraid of political blowback, “that may mean that we’ve got to change the politics.”

It would be a change for the better.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.