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Sen. Rand Paul said he cannot support a bipartisan Senate immigration overhaul bill in its current form, but he is open to discussions with the bill’s supporters on what it would take to win him over.
“My suggestion to those in the Senate who are in charge of the bill is come to people like me who want to vote for it, but who are not quite there yet and say to us, ‘What would it take to bring you along?’” the Kentucky Republican said after addressing a meeting of two conservative Latino groups.
He cited the way Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, sought to be courted for his support. That resulted in an increased number of visas for high-skilled workers, “which made the bill better,” Paul said after speaking to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.
While Hatch supported the bill coming out of the Judiciary Committee, before he votes for the bill on the floor, he said, he still wants it to include amendments requiring payment of back taxes and mandating that newly legalized immigrants who get green cards wait five years before beginning to access benefits under the new health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).
Paul said he has concerns over caps on visas for agriculture workers. The Senate bill would provide up to 337,000 visas for farm workers over three years, which could be determined by the Agriculture secretary.
“A lot of people come to this country to pick crops and we need them to pick crops,” Paul said. “But if we set a cap that is below what the market asks for, then we will have another generation of people coming in here illegally. So I think what we need to do is make sure that we don’t set the cap such that we don’t have enough workers.”
Paul also wants the bill to specify what the border security plan will do to secure the border. Currently, the bill only charges the Department of Homeland Security with developing and deploying border and fencing plans.
“Instead of saying to the administration, ‘Okay, you guys fix the border’ we should just write it into the legislation and do it,” Paul said.
Paul also plans to offer an amendment that would require making the path to citizenship in the bill conditional on Congress voting on whether the border is secure, requiring completion of a border fence in five years and establishing protections to prevent the federal government from establishing a national identification card system for citizens.