Senator Rand Paul clarified today that he was not opposed to an eventual pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“The immigration debate has been trapped and it’s been polarized by two terms: ‘path to citizenship’ and ‘amnesty,’” Paul told reporters in a conference call this afternoon. “So everybody who doesn’t want anything to move forward calls every proposal that somebody else wants ‘pathway to citizenship’ or ‘you’re granting amnesty.’ Can’t we have reform and just not call them by names that discourage the progress from going forward?”
“What I would say,” he added, “is that we’re not granting amnesty, but we’re saying if you want to work, we find a work visa for you.”
On citizenship, Paul continued, “I’m not granting any new pathway or any new line. The only thing I am saying that may be different than what we have now is that I don’t think you should have to go back to Mexico and apply.”
Paul was uneasy with the idea of harsh financial penalties for illegal immigrants. “If you had to pay back all your back payroll taxes and you’ve been working here for ten years, that would be thousands and thousands of dollars . . . so to get your work visa, I wouldn’t have any kind of big penalty like that,” he remarked. “If you’re going to get in the other line for citizenship, if they’re going to make it real easy, like you get right into the green-card line, then maybe you have to have pay penalties.”
Instead, Paul would prefer that penalty “be just the slowness to the process, not the money, because I think it would be prohibitive for a lot of people to come up with a large fine.”
What distinguishes his plan from the bipartisan plan being floated in the Senate, Paul says, is his ‘Trust but Verify’ border-security component. That, he speculated, “would allow many conservatives who have been skeptical of the process to come forward and say ‘you know what, if they are going to secure the border, I will vote for some kind of process to normalize those who are here.’”