Rand Paul backs new path to legalization for illegal immigrants

by Rosalind S. Helderman and Sean Sullivan, Washington Post  |  published on March 21, 2013

rand paul

Sen. Rand Paul, one of the most conservative members of his chamber and a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, on Tuesday endorsed a new path to legalization for the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

Nothing in his vision would preclude eventual citizenship for the immigrants, but Paul (Ky.) never mentioned that term outright — sparking a day of debate that highlighted continuing confusion among Republicans, who are anxious for an immigration position that might appeal to a growing bloc of Hispanic voters. In the search for that position, however, some in the GOP fear alienating their conservative base, many of whom think full citizenship would amount to an amnesty for lawbreakers that would encourage more illegal immigration.

The debate over whether Paul did or did not embrace a “path to citizenship” was reminiscent of a similar controversy this month when former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), who had previously favored a citizenship route, appeared to back off the position in an interview promoting his new book on the topic.

“I think there has to be some difference between people who come here legally and illegally,” he said in an interview.

Later, though, Bush suggested he wasn’t foreclosing on the idea.

After Paul’s speech, he was mobbed by reporters on Capitol Hill demanding to know whether he had intended to back citizenship.

“I didn’t use the word ‘citizenship’ at all this morning,” he said in one conversation.

In another, however, he endorsed the key minimum features that most advocates agree constitute a path to citizenship.

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