U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is endorsing a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s approximately 11 million illegal immigrants, a move that could help bolster support among conservative lawmakers who largely label any citizenship proposals as “amnesty.”
Paul urged the GOP to abandon the “stale and moss-covered” Republican Party on Tuesday morning in a speech delivered to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It was a significant move for Paul, a favorite among tea party Republicans, who are often hostile to the idea of aiding undocumented workers.
“If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you,” Paul said in his speech, a copy of which was obtained in advance by The Associated Press. “Immigration reform will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. I am here today to begin that conversation.”
However, Paul emphasized that Congress must take steps to strengthen security at the nation’s borders before opening citizenship. Paul said he envisions granting undocumented immigrants temporary work visas – the number of permits would be determined by a bipartisan panel – and then those immigrants would be placed on a waiting list for citizenship.
Paul said he would also call for more visas to attract high-skilled workers from foreign countries, as well as propose a special visa for individuals starting businesses in the U.S.
In contrast to plans proposed by Democrats and Republicans alike, Paul said he would not attempt to crack down on employers by expanding working verification systems, saying he believed that would be tantamount to “forcing businesses to become policeman.”
A bipartisan Senate group in January, known as the “Gang of Eight,” unveiled a framework for an immigration reform bill that emphasizes both border security and a path to citizenship. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another tea party favorite, has attempted to rally Republican support for the measure.
Republicans have, so far, refused to include protections for same-sex couples in any new package of immigration laws.
The GOP has placed a renewed focus on immigration reform and Hispanic outreach following the 2012 election. President Barack Obama received a lion's share of support from Hispanic voters in November, which has been at least partially attributable to many GOP lawmakers' disdainful remarks about undocumented workers (i.e. Mitt Romney suggesting they “self- deport”).
Paul’s support for immigration reform come a day after the Republican National Committee released a report saying the party must become more inclusive of women, minorities and the poor in order to remain competitive in future national elections.