Rand Paul On Immigration: 7 Quotes That Explain The Senator's 'Evolving' Position

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Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Maryland February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Rand Paul is announced his presidential campaign today and formally entered the Republican primary. In his opening stump speech, Paul mentioned a lot of issues, like taxes, Cold War politics, and Washington difuctions. He was mum on immigration. Few things about Rand Paul’s politics have been predictable, but critics argue that he’s been plain inconsistent. Immigration is a case in point. Below, we’ve included some of his more extreme or flip-flopping ideas. But here’s what’s been consistent: Rand Paul believes that American should liberally harvest of immigrants’ labor, but be stingy in conferring them rights.

Citizenship By Birth

“I'm not opposed to letting people work and labor in our country, but we shouldn't provide an easy route to citizenship. We're the only country I know of where a person can come in illegally and that baby becomes a citizen and I think that should stop also.” -- Rand Paul, in an Interview with Russia Today May 2010

In a move that many saw as extremely anti-immigrant, Paul proposed overturning the 14th amendment to bar second-generation immigrants from automatically being eligible for citizenship. In Paul’s ideal world, no children of undocumented immigrants could be citizens, let alone those  who were born abroad but brought to the U.S. by their parents. (Paul later reversed his position, as you’ll see below.) There are actually over 30 countries that confer citizen jus soli -- by right of birth on a nation’s soil, including countries like Canada, Brazil, and Pakistan. Countries that don’t have jus soli provisions run into controversial problems that discriminate against residents, even those that have never seen another country.

Self-Styled “Libertarian.”

“I worry that the Senate is working to consider a series of little-noticed provisions in comprehensive immigration reform that may provide a pathway to a national ID card for all individuals present in the United States – citizens and noncitizens,” -- Rand Paul, in an op-ed, May 2013

Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform have often introduced measures to increase enforcement of existing laws. Converging with libertarian organizations like the A.C.L.U., Paul has opposed compromises on immigration that would subject citizens to new requirements or responsibilities. For example, he opposed provisions that would create work-specific ID cards. He also opposed the  E-Verify program that would require employers to check immigration status before hiring.

Flip-Flops?

“Rand Paul’s position on immigration is that he has no position. He’ll just go with whatever the Republican consensus is at any given moment and try to make it his own.” --Slate’s Simon Maloy, in a column, August 2014

Paul backed bipartisan immigration reform in 2013. In order to do so, he reversed his initial position on DREAMers, which he had called “amnesty,” in the past. When the bill started to fail, he pulled a Marco Rubio and decried comprehensive immigration reform as hopeless, and renewed calls to build a fence in order to “secure the border first.” The same has happened with issues tangential to immigration, like proposals to make English an official language.

"Republicans who criticize the use of two languages, I think, make a great mistake." -- Rand Paul, in front of a mainly Hispanic audience, March 2013

Paul tried to woo Latinos with a well-executed speech at a 2013 Hispanic Small Business summit, where he said many things to counteract the stereotype that Republicans are anti-immigrant or somehow against Latino culture. He talked about how his German ancestors worshipped in German and spoke the language at home. Yet on his official website, Paul supports making English the official language of the United States.

“I support local solutions to illegal immigration as protected by the 10th amendment. I support making English the official language of all documents and contracts..” -- Rand Paul’s Official website, March 2015

It’s unclear what “official language” could actually mean. English is already used in most documents and contracts. An  English-language-only law could bar other languages from being used in, say, driver’s license exams and legal contracts. It doesn’t have much to do with the 10th Amendment, which reinforces the idea that states have rights to do what isn’t explicitly granted to the federal government. For someone who is pro-immigration, that means the right to make laws establishing sanctuary cities, or impeding with Federal agents’ ability to enforce immigration law. For those looking to root out immigrants, it has emboldened anti-immigrant laws, such as those targeting undocumented renters in Alabama, or the ability of police to check immigration status based on “reasonable suspicion,” as was attempted with Arizona’s SB 1070.

Opposed Mass Deportation

"The 11 million, I think, are never going home, don’t need to be sent home, and I would incorporate them into our society by giving them work visas and making them taxpayers." -- Rand Paul, quoted in Bloomberg, January 2015.

At one point, Paul supported comprehensive immigration reform. While he never wanted to call it “amnesty,” he agreed that undocumented immigrants should receive legal status. In his plan, some would get on a pathway to citizenship, after years of naturalization “probation.  

“              .”-- Rand Paul, saying onothing about immigration at CPAC in February 2015

As the primary debate heats up, Paul has largely avoided the immigration issue. He didn’t talk about the issue at CPAC. He didn’t mention in his campaign teaser video. It’s best for him if he discusses the issue as little as possible. He won’t win over Latinos on immigration, as Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio have a chance of doing. He also doesn’t have a hardliner record for opposing immigration reform, as Ted Cruz and other do. With extreme (and interesting) ideas on a lot of issues, Paul is already a reach candidate, and his immigration record doesn’t help.

What do you think?