Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky made a bold move today at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - endorsing a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Here are the facts you need to know about this significant policy move:
1. Rand Paul is a Member of the Tea Party
Alas, a Libertarian streak in Paul's Constitutional Republicanism. The fact that Rand, a conservative Tea Party member, has spoken out about a pathway to citizenship is a good sign that staunch conservatism is in no way incompatible with a pro-immigration policy outlook. Paul defended his newly articulated stance by referring to the Republican Party's values of "freedom" and "family."
2. He Did Not Use the Word "Citizenship" in His Speech
In his 18 minute speech, Rand never used the word citizenship but emphasized the need for border security. Paul specifically talked about extending visas for high tech workers, discussed "special entrepreneurial visas" and implied that, in order to obtain the support of conservatives, undocumented immigrant's path to citizenship was contingent to securing America's borders.
In order to bring conservatives to this cause, however, those who work for reform must understand that a real solution must ensure that our borders are secure...We also must treat those who are already here with understanding and compassion, without also unduly rewarding them for coming illegally.
3.He is a Potential Presidential Candidate in 2016
Paul seems to be following in the footsteps of his father, retired Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a three-time presidential candidate. Many are looking at this endorsement as a strategic move for the potential Republican presidential nominee as immigration proves to be key when ensuring the vote of the growing Latino population. Latino voters are paying particularly close attention to the current immigration debate. A new poll of 800 Latino registered voters nationwide, reveals that 58 percent of Latino now rate immigration reform as the most important issue they want Congress and the President to address, up from 35% who rated immigration reform as the top concern in the November 2012 election poll.
4. He Acknowledged That Government Should Not Deport
“Let’s start that conversation by acknowledging we aren't going to deport” said the potential presidential candidate to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Paul stated that it is important to bring undocumented workers "out of the shadows" and into becoming "taxpaying members of society."
5. Congress is Reaching an Agreement for Immigration Legislation
Paul's speech comes as an eight-person bipartisan group of senators are nearing agreement on a sweeping legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. Members of the Senate’s "gang of eight" say they are on track to reach a deal on immigration reform by the end of March, despite skepticism among outside groups. The arrangement aims to secure the border, improve legal immigration and boost workplace enforcement, as well as create a pathway to citizenship.
Having said that, Paul's plan for reform departs from the Senate gang of eight’s plan by opposing the expansion of E-Verify — a verification system used by employers to check the legal status of workers. That would be “forcing businesses to become policemen,” said the Senator.