The Washington Times - July 23, 2013, 12:27PM

Hours before a House panel on Tuesday was set to look at proposals to help the children of illegal immigrants, a top conservative group has warned that measures to protect these youth could turn into a “backdoor path to amnesty.”

In a blog post, the Heritage Foundation says the immigration panel under the Judiciary Committee should tread warily in discussing plans akin to the blocked Dream Act — a proposal that’s kicked around Congress for more than a decade and would grant legal residency to children who were brought to the United States unwittingly and have demonstrated academic success.

SEE RELATED: Most Americans support House GOP’s piecemeal approach to immigration: poll

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and fellow Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, are working on a bill that is similar to the Dream Act.

Heritage analysts warned that the proposal could encourage illegal immigration through “family-chain migration” and be unfair to millions of would-be immigrants who are waiting to enter the country legally.

“Conservatives should be aware that any legislation passed by the House could become a vehicle for backroom deal-making that ultimately moves the Senate’s amnesty bill to Obama’s desk,” the Heritage posting said. “That includes a version of the DREAM Act being debated today.”

House GOP leaders have signaled they will pursue immigration reform in a piecemeal fashion. Their approach has upset those who say the Senate’s comprehensive bill, with a path to legal status or citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented aliens across the nation, is the only way forward.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows most Americans favor a piecemeal approach, with 53 percent saying they would like to see the Senate plan split into pieces, while 32 percent want an up-or-down vote on the proposal, which passed out of the upper chamber in June on a bipartisan 68-32 vote.