Posted on March 19, 2013

Sen. Rand Paul: Illegal Immigrants Should Be Allowed to Obtain Legal Status

Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post, March 19, 2013

The dramatic shift in the Republican Party on immigration continued Tuesday, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a conservative tea party icon and possible 2016 presidential contender, endorsed an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws that would allow the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to obtain legalized status.

“Immigration will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. That’s why I’m here today: to begin that conversation and become part of the solution,” he said in a breakfast speech Tuesday morning before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington.


He made his comments a day after the Republican National Committee released a somber autopsy of the GOP’s November election losses. It called for the party to embrace and champion an overhaul of the immigration system as its only hope to appeal to a growing bloc of Hispanic voters.


The Kentucky senator outlined a path to legalization that would be more demanding than the principles advanced by a bipartisan group of senators who aim to introduce legislation in April. {snip}

Paul also called for expanding legal immigration — not a universally held position in the Republican Party. {snip}

Paul said he sought to turn illegal immigrants into taxpayers, which could ultimately lead to their becoming citizens. Despite early reports that he would endorse a pathway to citizenship in the speech, however, he did not specifically address the citizenship issue.


Paul said he would want Congress to be involved in certifying that border security has improved sufficiently to open the legalization path, a requirement that many immigrant advocates are sure to oppose as unnecessarily injecting politics into the process.


He suggested that within two years, illegal immigrants should be able to seek temporary worker visas that would allow them to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

Many news outlets, including The Washington Post, had reported that Paul would back a “path to citizenship” in his speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Those reports started circulating Monday evening, when the Associated Press obtained an advance copy of Paul’s remarks.

“The AP story was wrong, which spurred a lot of erroneous reports,” Paul’s office said in a statement. “He does not mention ‘path to citizenship’ in his speech at all.”

One Paul adviser told The Post that the path Paul is endorsing does not make it any easier to attain citizenship than current law allows.

“They would get into the back of the line and get no special privileges to do so,” said the adviser, who was not authorized to comment publicly. “What his plan is extending to them is a quicker path to normalization, not citizenship, and being able to stay, work and pay taxes legally.”

Later Tuesday, Paul attempted to clarify his position on the citizenship question. “I didn’t use the word citizenship at all this morning,” he said. “Basically what I want to do is to expand the worker visa program, have border security and then as far as how people become citizens, there already is a process for how people become citizens. The main difference is I wouldn’t have people be forced to go home. You’d just get in line. But you get in the same line everyone is in.”