Sen. Rand Paul urged fellow Republicans on Tuesday to embrace a comprehensive overhaul of immigration policy and unveiled some elements he would like to see in a bill, including a path to citizenship and a requirement for Congress to vote each year on whether the border is sufficiently secure.
“Republicans have been losing both the respect and votes of a group of people who already identify with our belief in family, faith, and conservative values,” the Kentuckian said in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Hispanics should be a natural and sizable part of the Republican base.”
While he did not specify it in his speech, on his way out of the venue Paul said he did not oppose offering illegal immigrants the option of earning citizenship after a probationary period. That proposal is similar to a plan being developed by a bipartisan group of eight senators, of which Paul is not a member.
“You have an option to get in the line, and you get a work visa if you want to work,” Paul said when asked if he supports a path to citizenship.
Paul rejected the idea of deporting undocumented immigrants or immediately giving them citizenship. Instead, he argued for a probationary status.
“The solution doesn’t have to be amnesty or deportation — a middle ground might be called probation where those who came illegally become legal through a probationary period,” Paul said.
Paul did note that the path to citizenship or legalization would be contingent on Congress voting and passing a report certifying that the border is secure.
Indeed, ensuring the border is secure is the cornerstone of Paul’s proposal, and he said it is the major difference he has with the emerging bill from the “gang of eight.”
“The first part of my plan — border security — must be certified by Border Patrol and an Investigator General and then voted on by Congress to ensure it has been accomplished,” Paul said. “This is what I call Trust but Verify.”
The Kentucky senator believes the notion of increasingly securing the border will help win over conservatives. He also said that sets the stage for assimilating the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.
“With this in place, I believe conservatives will accept what needs to come next, an issue that must be addressed: what becomes of the 12 million undocumented workers in the United States?”
He added, “You have to pass [the certification each year] in order for immigration reform to go forward. If the border report doesn’t pass, it would stop where you are” in the process.
Paul said he hopes to attach his proposal to the gang of eight’s immigration bill. The group hopes to unveil its bill around the middle of April.
“I am going to try to amend their package, and I would likely vote for it” if successful, Paul said.
He said that his staff has been in communications with the gang staff, but its not yet called “the gang of eight plus one,” he joked.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the members of the group of eight, praised Paul’s remarks.
“The consensus continues to grow in favor of immigration reform that contains a path to citizenship. While there are certainly differences between our emerging product and Senator Paul’s outline, there is also a lot of common ground. In the coming months, Congress has a unique opportunity to make America a fairer and economically stronger place. We must come together to seize this opportunity.”