Yesterday in a speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington.the Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul said that he supported changes to current immigration status that would grant the undocumented access to legalization. He did not endorse what most advocates are asking for, comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the approximately eleven million undocumented currently in the United States.
According to the Washington Post, Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees, said, “Immigration will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. That’s why I’m here today. To begin, that conversation and become part of the solution.”
In the speech Paul added his own principles to the growing list of proposals making their way through the beltway. These principles include ideas already thrown around including the U.S. Mexico border being deemed sufficiently secure, via more border patrol and tech tools like drones, before a path to legalization is established , foregoing fines and back tax repayment in favor of longer waiting periods for legalization, getting to the back of the legalization line and temporary worker visas, prioritizing DREAMers.
Is this just another case of the GOP tailoring its message to a Latino audience and telling them what they want to hear in an effort to gain support? Paul even used Spanish at some points during his speech. It’s no secret that there has been a lot of love lost between the Republican Party and Latino voters in large part due to it’s largely anti-immigrant stance. Paul clearly understands this and wants to rectify that. “Republicans need to become parents of a new future with Latino voters or we will need to resign ourselves to being a permanent minority status,” he said. Some suspect Paul is trying to garner Latino voter support looking ahead to the 2016 presidential election. Last weekend Paul won a straw poll as the favored presidential candidate of attendees of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
“Republicans have been losing both the respect and votes of a group of people who already identify with many of our beliefs in family, faith, and conservative values. Hispanics should be a natural and sizable part of the Republican base,” Paul is quoted as saying. “But they have steadily drifted away from the GOP in each election. I think this says more about Republicans than it does about Hispanics.”
Democrat Congressman Luis Gutierrez from Illinois said he welcomed Paul’s statements on immigration and hoped that more Republicans would express their positions so that the issue can move forward.
Paul may be taking a page from an up and coming Latino GOP darling that has been meeting with Gutierrez. No, not Florida Senator Marco Rubio, but Idaho Representative Raúl Labrador. Last week, Puerto Rican Labrador stepped up at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on the issue of immigration reform, reinforcing the border security and enforcement first strategy but also arguing that the GOP needs to take the reigns of tailoring comprehensive immigration reform if the GOP wants to get back into the White House. But it bears noting that Labrador does not include the much touted “pathway to citizenship.” Instead he is promoting an in-between status that does not even include accessing green cards.
The real proof regarding the sincerity of the GOP in terms of building a relationship with Latino voters will be seen if and when a comprehensive immigration reform bill hits the congressional floor, what that bill looks like and how Republicans vote. However, none of the proposals presented, regardless of being led by the right or left move away from categorizing immigrants as either “good” or “bad” and all still base a path to any sort of status on beefed up border security and enforcement.