LAS VEGAS — Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul outlined his views on immigration Wednesday, saying he favors a compassionate policy that doesn't rely on "barbed-wire fences and guns on our border."
Paul spoke to several dozen people organized by Hispanics in Politics, Nevada's oldest Hispanic community group. The Texas congressman has scheduled several days of campaigning in Nevada before the state's caucuses Saturday.
Paul went into much greater detail on immigration policy than he has at most of his campaign stops. He typically steers clear of discussing rights for specific groups of people, insisting that his libertarian-leaning views apply to everyone as individuals.
But in Nevada, which is 26 percent Hispanic, Paul outlined an immigration policy far outside the Republican mainstream.
Paul blasted politicians who blame immigrants for causing the country's economic problems. He compared the situation to Nazi Germany's targeting of Jews in the 1930s.
"When things go badly, individuals look for scapegoats," Paul said. "Hispanics, the immigrants who have come in, are being used as scapegoats."
Paul said he doesn't support illegal immigration and said people who break the law should be punished. But he said he opposes any effort to round people up and ship them away.
"If an individual is found to be breaking the law, serious consideration should be given for them to return. But I would think 99 percent of people who come here come because they believe in the American dream," Paul said to applause.
Paul decried a punitive border policy, which said offended his belief in individual liberty.
"The one thing I have resisted and condemned: I do not believe that barbed-wire fences and guns on our border will solve any of our problems," he said.
Paul also said he was against laws that require immigrants to carry proof of legal status. He says he doesn't want to live in a country where people are required to carry identity papers.
"You say, `Well, this is only for illegals.' That's a bunch of baloney," Paul said. "How do you sort out illegals from legals? Unless you put papers and identification on everybody."
Hispanics in Nevada have favored Democrats over Republicans in recent election years – a full 74 percent of Hispanics supported President Barack Obama in 2008 over GOP rival John McCain.
But Fernando Cortes, Paul's director of Hispanic outreach in Nevada, said many Hispanic voters had shown interest in Paul's message.
"They're always pandered to by the left and ignored by the right," Cortes said of Hispanic voters. "They're very motivated by the wanting of freedom back and a sound economy."