Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned Republicans Tuesday that they wouldn't have much of a chance with Latino voters until they could "get beyond" focusing on deportations and address immigration reform.
"We gotta get beyond deportation to get to the rest of the issues," he said at an event with conservatives, according to Politico.
Republicans have been critical of President Barack Obama's deportation record, sometimes calling the status quo "de facto amnesty" despite record removal numbers over recent years. That fixation on deportation of undocumented immigrants, and whether Obama can be trusted to enforce the law when they argue he currently refuses to do so, has become increasingly important as the House of Representatives stalls on immigration reform.
Paul has long urged Republicans to work on immigration reform, although he opposed the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate last year. At one point, he even expressed openness to allowing undocumented immigrants eventually to become citizens -- although he didn't want to use the words "pathway to citizenship."
He said during his remarks Tuesday that the issue could be addressed this year if Democrats and Republicans were able to "meet in the middle." He said one area of agreement could be on worker visas.
The GOP has struggled with Latino voters in recent years, which has been partially attributed to the party's rhetoric and policies on immigration. Paul said that might continue if they can't get past the issue.
“The bottom line is, the Hispanic community, the Latino community is not going to hear us until we get beyond that issue,” he said. "They’re not going to care whether we go to the same church or have the same values or believe in the same kind of future of our country until we get beyond that. Showing up helps, but you got to show up and you got to say something, and it has to be different from what we’ve been saying."