Six House Republicans, some of them hardline conservatives, wrote a letter on Thursday to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) saying they support his work on immigration reform and hope to help him get it done.
"You noted Tuesday in your remarks to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that 'somewhere along the line, Republicans have failed to understand and articulate that immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability,' and that the Republican Party must embrace more legal immigration," they wrote. "We wholeheartedly agree -- and stand alongside you in your efforts. We believe you put it best when you said, 'Immigration reform will not occur until Conservative Republicans ... become part of the solution.'"
None of the congressmen -- Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Trey Radel (R-Fla.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) -- are typically considered likely supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, particularly of the sort Paul proposed. The Kentucky senator said in a speech on Tuesday that he supports allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, work legally, and eventually become citizens, as well as strengthened border security and other enforcement.
A year ago, it's likely that these same conservative lawmakers would have been outraged by any openness to "amnesty" or pathway to citizenship -- although Paul argued his stance shouldn't be described that way -- but they didn't fully rule out such an option in their letter.
Granted, they didn't endorse it either. While acknowledging the need to address the situation of undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, the congressmen wrote that it "may mean providing a legal status, upon certain conditions and that may not include full rights of citizenship, to people who are currently here."
The members listed two other features of immigration reform they found necessary: border enforcement and expanding legal immigration. They specifically voiced support for tying other reforms, such as legalization, to border security, which is one of the proposals from the so-called gang of eight working on immigration reform in the Senate.
A look at some of the members' previous takes on immigration indicates how far they've come. Duncan said in 2011 that inadequately policing the border was like "allowing any kind of vagrant, or animal, or just somebody that's hungry, or somebody that wants to do your dishes for you, to come in" to one's home. He has an A+ rating from NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for less immigration. Mulvaney holds an A and Amash has a C+. Meadows, Massie and Radel, all of whom are new to Congress, have no grades.
Read the full letter:
We write to offer you our support, encouragement and assistance as we work together to identify the principles that must guide our nation’s thinking on immigration reform.
You noted Tuesday in your remarks to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that "somewhere along the line, Republicans have failed to understand and articulate that immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability," and that the Republican Party must embrace more legal immigration. We wholeheartedly agree -- and stand alongside you in your efforts. We believe you put it best when you said, "Immigration reform will not occur until Conservative Republicans ... become part of the solution."
While we recognize that many details and specific proposals will need to be worked out, we want you to know that we support what we see as the three-legged stool of systemic immigration reform:
1) Ensuring the security of our borders, including both our physical borders and the “virtual” border of visa overstays (which account for almost half of our current illegal immigrant population) with such security acting as a pre-requisite or "trigger" for other reforms;
2) Expanding legal immigration, with a special eye toward encouraging highly-skilled workers educated here to remain here, expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to come here, and providing an adequate legal migrant worker system to help serve our agricultural and tourism industries; and
3) Finding a way to reasonably address the reportedly 11 million people who came here knowingly and illegally -- in a way that is best for all Americans. This means protecting the rights of those who are seeking and continue to seek to come here legally. But it also may mean providing a legal status, upon certain conditions and that may not include full rights of citizenship, to people who are currently here.
We believe such an approach would put the broader health of our economy – not entrenched special interests -- at the forefront of this debate. Indeed, it would go great lengths to reinforce the principles we share as Americans, and as sons and daughters of immigrants ourselves.
Immigration has been essential to the advancement of our nation’s well-being -- and we believe you are on the right track both in acknowledging this elemental contribution and safeguarding it in a fair and consistent manner for all of our nation's workers.
Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)
Justin Amash (R-MI)
Thomas Massie (R-KY)
Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
Trey Radel (R-FL)
Mark Meadows (R-NC)