WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday said that America "can't invite the whole world" to enter the country, no matter how much some immigrants may love the U.S.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Paul said that when lawmakers focus only on the reasons immigrants enter the U.S. illegally, it makes "people think, 'Well, because they're doing this for kind reasons,' that the whole world can come to our country."
Paul's comment was in response to a question about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) recent statement that undocumented immigration was "an act of love," and not a felony. Bush's remarks were quickly criticized by conservatives who oppose immigration reform.
Paul was not among those critics, however. "I don't want to say [Bush] is terrible for saying this," Paul told ABC's Jonathan Karl. "If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people. However, we can't invite the whole world."
Paul declined to say outright whether or not he agreed with Bush, only saying that the former governor could have been "more artful, maybe, in the way he presented this."
"When you say they're doing an act of love, and you don't follow it up with 'but we have to control the border,' people think, 'Well, because they're doing this for kind reasons,' that the whole world can come to our country," he said.
Paul's response was notable for how carefully he worked to avoid implying that undocumented immigrants were somehow worse people than those who came to the U.S. legally. Experts believe that there are currently around 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., most of them from Central and South America.
A 2016 presidential hopeful, Paul also said Sunday that Republicans need to change the perception, held by "some people," that the party vilifies immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally.