It's an essential point that needs to be identified and decisively refuted, over and over and over... The point? Citizenship is of little or no concern to most illegal aliens—they just want to be relieved of the worry that they might be deported to their dysfunctional countries of origin.
So the alarmingly frequent suggestions that we "let them stay but not open a path to citizenship" reveal the failure to grasp that such proposals concede the whole enchilada, so to speak.
A recent example of this glaring non-comprehension is a blog posted at Hot Air  by AllahPundit (Raul Labrador to Democrats: House GOP won't vote for a path to citizenship for illegals , February 7, 2013). The writer first quotes Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID, Puerto-Rico born and, in his pre-legislative career, an immigration attorney ):
The people that came here illegally knowingly — I don’t think they should have a path to citizenship. If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship.
"Normalize your status." That's amnesty! But, cluelessly, AllaPundit chimes in, "So far, so good," and then goes on to both qualify and enlarge upon his (her?) befuddlement.
Well, the antidotes to this nation-threatening nonsense are clear and punchy statements of the real picture, such as Brenda Walker's.
The work permit is the amnesty.
And Lawrence Auster's.
Amnesty does not mean giving citizenship to illegals, it means legalizing illegals.
(Both of those were covered here .)
And Roy Beck's.
It's a "path to welfare, chain migration and U.S. jobs."
(See here .)
Now, commenter "MVSteve" at a clear-seeing article (Amnesty: An Electoral Disaster , National Review Online, February 6, 2013) by VDARE.com friend John O'Sullivan has produced another useful variation on this theme:
Waiving deportation is amnesty.
That sentence is the explanatory highlight of a two-paragraph passage within MVSteve's overall excellent comment, so here's that passage:
First, let’s make ourselves heard in opposition to all this talk by Republicans in the House about legalization-without-citizenship. “Legalization” means that deportation is waived. Waiving deportation is amnesty. There is either deportation (and the threat thereof) or amnesty. One or the other. There is no middle ground.
And it’s just a fact that a real deportation and threatened deportation disincentive is essential to any effective national policy of regulating immigration. A deportation policy that comes and goes with the political winds, on the other hand, can only undermine the regulation of immigration.
While I'm at it, here's another memorable sentence, this one by an anonymous source, that's close to the topic here and that overlaps nicely with Roy Beck's version above:
It's not about "yearning to breathe free," it's about "yearning to eat for free."
So please pick your favorite bon mot among the five above and repeat it frequently, or use them in rotation. But in any event, use them.