WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave a full-throated endorsement on Tuesday for comprehensive immigration reform that would allow undocumented immigrants to become citizens but not expand the employment verification system, putting him at odds with members of his party.
"Immigration reform will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution," Paul said in a speech at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Summit. "That's why I am here today to begin that conversation and be part of the solution. I think the conversation needs to start by acknowledging we aren't going to deport 12 million illegal immigrants. If you wish to work, if you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you."
Paul has previously voiced support for immigration reform, but not in a speech so public as this one. He penned an op-ed in the Washington Times on Feb. 8 that laid out broad strokes of his preferred plan for immigration reform, which would "ensure border security" and then allow 2 million undocumented immigrants per year to "normalize" their status, work legally and pay taxes. Undocumented young people who entered the United States as children -- often called "Dreamers" -- should be legalized first, he wrote.
It's a fairly standard view for immigration reform supporters: more border security is needed, legalization can happen but undocumented people must get to the "back of the line" behind those currently wanting to enter the country legally. But Paul differs from many Republicans, and some Democrats, on employment verification. Paul singled out E-Verify, an already-existing federal effort to check employment status. It's considered necessary by many to ensure businesses aren't hiring workers they shouldn't, but it's also criticized as cumbersome for employers and too likely to give false positives that would keep citizens and legal immigrant workers from being hired.
"My plan will not, though -- and this is where I disagree with some in the bipartisan group -- impose a national ID card," he said. "It will also not have mandatory E-Verify. I don't mind if there's E-Verify, maybe related to the tax code somehow, but I don't like the idea of making every business owner a policeman."
The Senate "gang of eight" working on comprehensive immigration reform will likely seek to expand E-Verify, which currently is not mandatory, the Associated Press reported last week.
Paul did not specifically endorse the plan being crafted by the "gang of eight" -- which includes fellow potential 2016 contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- but he told the Associated Press that he could lend his support in the future, and would introduce his own amendments if it went to the floor.
He wrote in his Washington Times op-ed that he differs from the "gang of eight" on whether there should be heavy fines and back taxes, since many undocumented immigrants may not have the money to pay them. "I would be willing to forego the fines and back taxes in exchange for a longer and significant time period before these folks are eligible to enter into the green card line," he wrote.
He sketched out a similar plan on Tuesday, saying the inspector general should first verify the border is secure after one year, then after approval by Congress probationary work visas could be given to undocumented immigrants. Then Congress would review the security of the border each year for five years, he said. Paul did not specifically use the word "citizenship," but voiced support for the concept of a pathway to it.
"Conservatives, myself included, are wary of amnesty. In fact, if you read the news already I think I'm already being accused of it and I hadn't given my speech yet," he said. "Amnesty is kind of -- who wants to make the definition? But I say what we have now is de facto amnesty. The solution doesn't have to be amnesty or deportation."
Although his libertarian leanings make his support for immigration reform somewhat less surprising than many Republicans, he has also pushed for hardline policies. In June 2010, Paul said there should be an underground electric border fence to keep out illegal entrants. He also introduced a resolution in January 2011 with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) -- who opposes immigration reform plans -- that would end the right to citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants. Paul did not mention either of those issues in his Tuesday speech.
Now, though, it's more politically tenable to tout support for reform, and it could be a good move for a potential 2016 presidential bid. The Republican National Committee endorsed comprehensive immigration reform on Monday, saying it would be good for the party moving forward, and more GOP members have voiced support.
Paul said supporting immigration reform was necessary to help the party.
"My hope is that today we begin a dialogue between the GOP and Latinos," he said. "A dialogue that shows that the GOP sees all immigrants as assets and that Latinos can come to see the GOP as the party of opportunity, the party of the American Dream -- El partido del sueño Americano."
UPDATE: 12:25 p.m. -- Paul's office disputed the interpretation of his remarks, saying in a statement to The Washington Post that the Associated Press, which reported that he supported a pathway to citizenship, was inaccurate.
The Post reports further complaints from the Paul team about that analysis:
One Paul adviser told Post Politics that the path to citizenship Paul is pushing doesn’t make it any easier to attain citizenship than current law allows.
"They would get into the back of the line and get no special privileges to do so," said the adviser, who wasn't authorized to comment publicly. "What his plan is extending to them is a quicker path to normalization, not citizenship, and being able to stay, work and pay taxes legally."
Paul's office did not respond to requests for clarification.
The Naturalization Act of 1790
The Naturalization Act of 1790 was our country's first set of laws dealing with citizenship. Applicants had to be "<a href="http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=226 " target="_hplink">a free white person</a>" of "good moral character." This excluded indentured servants and slaves. Good moral character was substantiated by establishing residence for at least one year in the state from where he was applying, and at least two years of residence in the country. The Naturalization Act of 1795 would extend that requirement to five years, and is still standard today.
The Fourteenth Amendment, 1868
A Reconstruction Amendment that was added to the U.S. Constitution following the Civil War, the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes for the first time that children born on U.S. soil would be conferred U.S. citizenship regardless of their parent's citizenship status, race, or place of birth. Last year, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced the <a href="http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr140 " target="_hplink">Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011</a> to Congress, and challenged this. The bill would require that at least one parent be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for a child to be granted citizenship. According to the <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h140/text " target="_hplink">bill's text</a>, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and "clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth." Prior to this, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/26/nathan-deal-georgia-lawma_n_207485.html " target="_hplink">introduced</a> a similar <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1868/show" target="_hplink">bill</a> in 2009.
The Naturalization Act of 1870
The Naturalization Act of 1870<a href="http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/pages/chronology.htm " target="_hplink"> explicitly extended</a> naturalization laws to "aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent." This meant that for the first time, African-American children would be conferred citizenship upon birth. Asian immigrants and other people of color are excluded per the Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795.
The Page Act of 1875
Named after Republican Representative Horace F. Page, this is the first U.S. federal immigration law to explicitly prohibit the immigration of a particular group: persons of Asian descent. Primarily meant to limit Chinese immigrant labor and prostitution, the Page Act prohibited the immigration of: (1) contracted labor from "China, Japan, or any Oriental country" that was not "free and voluntary," (2) Chinese prostitution and (3) criminals and women who would engage in prostitution. Ultimately, the <a href="http://www.uchastings.edu/racism-race/pageact.html " target="_hplink">Page Act</a> severely <a href="http://immigration-online.org/228-page-act-united-states-1875.html " target="_hplink">restricted</a> the immigration of Asian women. Only 136 of the the nearly 40,000 Chinese immigrants who arrived in the months before the bill's enforcement were women. And, it would pave the way for the Chinese Exclusion Act. In this picture, Michael Lin, chair of the 1882 Project, a coalition of rights groups seeking a statement of regret over that year's Chinese Exclusion Act, speaks on May 26, 2011 in Washington, DC, at the US House of Representatives in front of a reproduction of a 19th-century sign that aimed at rousing up sentiment against Chinese Americans. Lawmakers introduced a bill that would offer an official statement of regret for the act, which banned further immigration of Chinese to the United States and ended citizenship rights for ethnic Chinese. (AFP PHOTO/SHAUN TANDON).
The Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882
Signed by President Chester A. Arthur, the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/seven/chinxact.htm " target="_hplink">Chinese Exclusion Act</a> was the first federal immigration law to prohibit immigration on the basis of race. The bill barred all Chinese laborers, skilled and unskilled, from immigrating to the U.S. for ten years. It was made permanent by 1903, and was not lifted until the 1943 Magnuson Act. The 1898 Supreme Court <a href="http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html " target="_hplink">decision</a> in <em>United States v. Wong Kim Ark</em> finally extended naturalization laws to persons of Chinese descent by ruling that anyone born in the United States was indeed a U.S. citizen. This editorial cartoon from 1882 shows a Chinese man being excluded from entry to the "Golden Gate of Liberty." The sign next to the iron door reads, "Notice--Communist, Nihilist, Socialist, Fenian & Hoodlum welcome. But no admittance to Chinamen." At the bottom, the caption reads, "THE ONLY ONE BARRED OUT. Enlightened American Statesman--'We must draw the line <em>somewhere</em>, you know.'" (Image Source: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 54 (1882 April 1), p. 96. [Public domain], via <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_only_one_barred_out_cph.3b48680.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a>).
The Naturalization Act of 1906
The Naturalization Act of 1906 further <a href="http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/eastern_southern_immigration.html" target="_hplink">defined</a> the naturalization process: the ability to speak English was made a <a href="http://www.enotes.com/topic/Naturalization_Act_of_1906" target="_hplink">requisite</a> for immigrants to adjust their status.
The Immigration Act of 1924
U.S. President Coolidge signed this U.S. federal <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/ImmigrationAct " target="_hplink">bill</a> into law. It capped the number of immigrants who could be admitted entry to the U.S. and barred immigration of persons who were not eligible for naturalization. And, as the Naturalization Act of 1790 required, an immigrant had to be white in order to naturalize. The quotas varied by country. Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmarines/6306315902/" target="_hplink">NYCMarines</a>.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (The McCarran-Walter Act)
The <a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:zwaVG82lZisJ:www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/polsciwb/brianl/docs/1952McCarranWaltersAct.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjEwx76FIBTixZAfyncZz-1CSuSeciv5qB6vvWTrUfW58XRpXq8zkpnI57XSuuG5Bu-WSySGbEhxYvZxP7y6qDQuOsDhgDa6qUqUaJ8F4imTzKJsVtppHc_-eew2dK6vGhoIUZs&sig=AHIEtbTNQ5GFiNMVS-xyThq8VVSj_gG9KA " target="_hplink">McCarran-Walter Act</a> kept up the controversial Immigration Act of 1924, but <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/ImmigrationAct" target="_hplink">formally</a> ended Asian exclusion.
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/USimmigration/1965_immigration_and_nationality_act.html" target="_hplink">abolished</a> the quota system that favored immigration from Europe and limited immigration from Asia and South America.
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996
The 1996 <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/PUBLAW/HTML/PUBLAW/0-0-0-10948.html " target="_hplink">Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act</a> (IIRIRA) is a piece of legislation that <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1996_illegal_immigration_reform_and_immigrant_responsibility_act.html " target="_hplink">defined</a> an array of issues to do with legal and illegal immigration -- from outlining how border patrol agents should administer visa processing, to the minutiae of how to handle deportation proceedings -- IIRIRA established enforcement and patrolling practices.