Rand Paul Sees the Light on Immigration Just in Time for 2016

Paul will endorse a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants Tuesday, and to measure how much and how quickly Republicans have changed on the issue, just look at what he used to say. Then just look at the voters Republicans are infuriating while they win over new ones.

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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will endorse a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants Tuesday, and to measure how much and how quickly Republicans have changed on the issue, we can look at Paul's own website. "If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you," Paul will say, sounding very welcoming. The immigration page on his Senate website, unchanged in a year, according to the Internet Archive, sounds a lot less welcoming: "I realize that subsidizing something creates more of it, and do not think the taxpayer should be forced to pay for welfare, medical care and other expenses for illegal immigrants. Once the subsidies for illegal immigration are removed, the problem will likely become far less common." Once we start turning away undocumented workers at hospitals, Paul's official (if now old) position seems to say, those moochers will go home! In 2011, Paul proposed amending the Fourteenth Amendment so American-born children of illegal immigrants would not automatically get citizenship. In fairness, the Bill of Rights he loves so much is only the first 10 amendments. Update: Paul did not explicitly back a faster path to citizenship, but the Associated Press stands by its story, saying the speech text included it and that Paul told reporters afterward he supported it.

Since Paul's immigration page was created, Paul has come to see his own family in the stories of illegal immigrants. The Associated Press reports he will mention his grandparents were immigrants in a speech at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and he'll drop some Spanish slang he learned growing up in Texas. "Immigration reform will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. I am here today to begin that conversation," Paul says. That might have something to do with the fact that he's already started his 2016 conversation. His immigration proposal includes:

  • No mass deportations.
  • More border security. Paul's old position and his new one aren't entirely contradictory. Both demand greater border security, though his current website calls for a border fence and floats the idea of building military bases along the border.
  • Temporary work visas in the second year of his plan. Workers with these visas would go to the back of "the line" for citizenship.
  • More visas for high-tech workers.
  • No crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is proposing employers universally use e-Verify to check new hires' immigration status.

While Republicans try to win a new set of voters, they're infuriating some of their current voters. At last week's CPAC, Donald Trump and Ann Coulter both railed against a path to citizenship, saying illegal immigrants will automatically vote for Democrats. Rush Limbaugh says the same thing:

Republicans are making a move here trying to agree with immigration reform. And his point is, whatever number it is, they're gonna vote Democrat. And it's silly, even if you get one million of 'em, big whoop. What are you doing to the other members of your base that you're ticking off in the process? But this is what happens when a party gets shellacked. They lose confidence.

Look, the thing about this that amazes me, who is telling us that we need to moderate our position on immigration? Who's telling us this? The Democrats. The people that beat us.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.