As the political battle in Congress over the border crisis comes to a head this week, you can already see the contours of the immigration issue developing for the 2016 presidential election.

In a smart move, Hillary Clinton firmed up her position on the crisis in an interview that aired over the weekend — in a manner that, intentionally or not, sharpened the contrast with the position of most Republicans.

Speaking to Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, Clinton came out against any changes to the 2008 trafficking law, which Republicans are seeking to expedite deportations of arriving minors as a condition for supporting any money to address the debacle.

“I don’t agree that we should change the law,” Clinton told Ramos. She added that she wanted a more strenuous effort to distinguish between “migrant” children and “refugees,” to ensure that those who genuinely qualify for humanitarian relief in the U.S. obtain it. “I’m advocating an appropriate procedure, well funded by the Congress, which they are resisting doing, so that we can make individual decisions,” Clinton said. “We should be setting up a system in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, to screen kids over there, before they get in the hands of coyotes.”

In opposing changes to the 2008 law, Clinton has placed herself a bit to the left of even Obama, who initially signaled openness to such changes before backtracking after Congressional Dems objected. And Clinton is also clarifying her previous suggestion that the kids should be “sent back.”

“Like Pelosi and Reid, she’s realized that the tough line of President Obama – change the law, send ‘em back – is not the position of most Democratic voters and lawmakers,” immigration advocate Frank Sharry tells me.  “She’s repositioned herself. Smart.”

This comes as Republicans increasingly acknowledge the border debacle is putting them at risk. This week we’ll find out if House Republicans can pass their own border response, which includes changes to the 2008 law that Dems worry could gut protections for kids. Politico reports that conservatives are balking at passing anything at all, causing some Republicans to worry about the political ramifications of going home for August without having offered any response to the crisis.

It is possible House Republicans will end up passing something, and it is true Senate Dems face their own internal struggles, as some won’t support funding without changes to the 2008 law. But even if a deal is reached, in which Dems do give in and support changes, they may push to water them down so they aren’t as much of a threat to arriving kids’ legal rights. The big story will be that, after refusing to act to legalize the 11 million, Republicans will have shown that the only immigration-related thing they are willing to vote on is speeding up deportations. Meanwhile, Dems — who passed bipartisan immigration reform through the Senate — will have pushed for more protections for the kids. Even Republicans recognize the long term dangers here:

“I think that whatever progress the party may have made in the last 18 months has basically been unwound in the last two weeks,” said Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. “How can Hispanics [in the U.S.] not hear the message that ‘They don’t really like us’?”

It could get worse. As I’ve noted, the current crisis is a warm up for the battle to come over Obama’s executive action to ease deportations, and all of it could have ramifications for 2016 as Republicans move ever to the right, insisting more and more people get deported. It’s good to see some Republicans recognize this, too.

* FOX PANEL TRASHES GOP OVER IMMIGRATION: Related to the above: Fox News panel yesterday beat up on the Republican Party over its response to the border crisis, arguing, in effect, that it reveals the GOP to be the party of maximum deportations. As Fox’s Kirsten Powers aptly put it, in a reference to the GOP push for expedited deportations:

“This is the only thing they really have been willing to do at this point, is just to say, ‘We’ll pass the bill to deport children, but we won’t talk about any sort of broader comprehensive immigration issue.’”

The border crisis has pushed the reality of the GOP position on immigration out into the open, and recognition of their actual position is sinking in with more people.

* IMMIGRATION CRISIS POPS UP IN GOP AD: Scott Brown and his pickup truck are up with a new ad in New Hampshire ripping “the pro-amnesty policies of President Obama and Senator Shaheen” for causing the current border crisis, concluding it’s time “we tell people who are here illegally that we enforce the law.” One wonders if the former (Massachusetts) Senator wants all the DREAMers deported, or whether he even knows what he means when he says, “enforce the law.”

Brown is trailing Shaheen by eight points, which perhaps helps explain the new ad. It’ll be interesting to see whether other GOP candidates follow suit or whether they avoid this topic.

* WHERE’S THAT GOP WAVE? A CNN poll released over the weekend finds that Dems lead by four points in the generic ballot match-up, 48-44. The real spread is probably much closer to even, as the polling average putting Dems up one suggests — and that won’t be enough, given the Dems’ midterm dropoff problem, and given that Dems are defending so many red-state Senate seats.

Still, polls like the CNN one should make us wonder when we are going to see signs of that GOP wave. At this point in the 2010 cycle, Republicans had opened up a three point lead.

* AN ENORMOUS DELUGE OF OUTSIDE SPENDING: Ashley Parker reports that spending by outside groups on the Senate and House races is demolishing all previous records:

In the Senate races alone, the number of political television spots from outside groups is nearly six times as much as it was at the same point in the 2010 cycle. In fact, more political ads from outside groups have already aired during the relatively slow summer period of the 2014 Senate contests — roughly 150,000 spots through mid-July — than ran throughout the entire 2010 Senate elections.

The Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity leads all others at $44 million spent so far. While it’s true Dem groups have also spent big, it’s noteworthy that embattled Dem incumbents seem to have largely survived the onslaught, because now the individual Dem campaigns can begin marshaling their cash advantages.

* PAUL RYAN’S OLD POVERTY IDEAS, REPACKAGED: E.J. Dionne has a good column noting that Paul Ryan’s big move on poverty last week centered on an old idea, bloc-granting anti-poverty spending to the states, that was repackaged in new-sounding language about state innovation, flexibility, and experimentation:

Ryan might reply: You just don’t trust the states! And my answer would be: You’re absolutely right, there are some states I don’t trust to stand up for their poor people. I’d point specifically to the 24 states that are depriving roughly 5 million Americans of health insurance because they refuse to participate in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

* AND TIME TO END CORPORATE ‘ARTFUL DODGING’: Paul Krugman knocks down all the arguments against ending so-called “corporate inversions,” and calls for reform. These corporations aren’t moving jobs or business overseas; they’re simply declaring their U.S. operations are owned by a subsidiary abroad to reduce tax rates:

Does this mean President Obama is wrong to describe companies engaging in inversion as “corporate deserters”? Not really — they’re shirking their civic duty, and it doesn’t matter whether they literally move abroad or not. But apologists for inversion, who tend to claim that high taxes are driving businesses out of America, are indeed talking nonsense. These businesses aren’t moving production or jobs overseas — and they’re still earning their profits right here in the U.S.A. All they’re doing is dodging taxes on those profits….none of this has anything to do with investment and job creation. If and when Walgreen changes its “citizenship,” it will get to keep more of its profits — but it will have no incentive to invest those extra profits in its U.S. operations.

Needless to say, there’s no chance this Congress will act to close this loophole, because #Obummer hates job-creators, no matter how popular the policy would probably be.

What else?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.