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Sen. Rand Paul Backs Pathway to Legal Status

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky)

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky)

As the winter of dueling immigration reform proposals comes to a close, presumptive 2016 Presidential candidate and Senator Rand Paul weighed in with the most palatable plan to date for conservatives opposing amnesty. His speech Tuesday before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce outlined a vision for immigration reform to compete with Sen. Rubio’s unveiled in January. The Associated Press, Time/Newsweek, and ABC News gushed over Paul’s proposal, while many conservatives remained skeptical. How could a plan that is acceptable to the mainstream media possibly appeal to conservatives? The answer lies not in Sen. Paul’s words, but rather the one word he did not utter a single time in his speech – “citizenship.”

Paul’s plan, unlike Rubio’s, is not a path to citizenship for the approximately 12 million illegals residing in the U.S. It is a path to permanent legal residence, which would come at least 11 to 17 years after the southern border is secured. A Paul adviser clarified that the plan extends a “path to normalization, not citizenship,” an important distinction to conservatives who worry about rewarding law breakers and creating millions of new Democratic voters.

First, Paul would immediately increase the amount of visas given to legal immigrants and prioritize visas for those with advanced degrees. These provisions do not affect illegals currently in the U.S.

Second, border security, including drones, satellite, and physical barriers, vigilant deportation of criminal aliens and increased patrols would begin immediately and be assessed at the end of one year by Border Patrol and an investigator general from the General Accountability Office. Congress would be required to vote to confirm the border is secure each year for five years to ensure conditions do not re-deteriorate.

Third, if and when Congress first confirms the security of the border, non-criminal illegal immigrants may apply for a probationary temporary work visa. These will gradually be issued at a rate of about 2 million per year, beginning with skilled workers and children brought here as minors. The temporary visa would not put illegals ahead of anyone already waiting to enter the country or receive permanent legal status.

Paul’s plan differs from Rubio’s in three important aspects: (1) Rubio would grant probationary legal status immediately to illegals, whereas Paul would grant such status gradually over a period of more than six years; (2) Rubio would condition permanent, but not probationary, legal status on securing the border, while Paul would condition even probationary legal status on securing the border and cease the issuance of visas if border security subsequently deteriorates; and (3) Rubio would provide a path to citizenship, whereas Paul would not. The strength of Paul’s plan lies in the fact that it is a viable option for those seeking a path to normalization for illegals, while at the same time it appeals to conservatives in ways Rubio’s plan does not.

Paul’s plan is not perfect. It leaves many questions unanswered and does not include the implementation of enforcement mechanisms such as E-Verify and the denial of federal benefits to future illegals, which conservatives should demand as a part of any package. However, Paul’s plan provides the strongest enforcement trigger for border security to date and does not provide a path to citizenship for illegals that could arguably amount to amnesty. It is a step in the right direction, a step ahead of Rubio, and one conservatives may be able to get behind.

Matt Rinaldi is from Irving, Texas and is an attorney, grassroots conservative activist, and was a 2012 candidate for Texas House.

Comments (4)

  1. DukeMachado DukeMachado

    Matt, I have several questions. First, is the 11-17 years his proposed time frame to secure the border? Second, what will we be doing with the illegal immigrants living in America during those 17 years? And third, is it acceptable to wait up to 17 years to begin addressing the illegal immigrants living here now?

  2. Matt Rinaldi Matt Rinaldi

    Paul’s plan begins granting probationary status as soon as the border is secure. The 11-17 year period is the proposed timeframe to PERMANENT legal status (under Rubio’s plan, the timeframe is 10 years or more). It is computed by assuming a 10 year wait for a green card after probationary legal status is given under his plan. The soonest this could happen is 1 year after passage, if Congress cretified the border is secure. Since it would happen at a rate of 2 million per year, and there is estimated to be 12 million illegals currently in the U.S., the soonest this process would complete is 6 years after the first permanent visa is given under this plan. Hence, the 11-17 years. Of course, it could be longer. In the meantime, under Paul’s plan, illegals would have probationary legal status as long as the border is first secured, which would not be entitled to the federal and state benefits that would come from permanent legal status. Since there is currently a 10 year wait to permanent legal status in legal channels, to allow this status sooner would be to reward lawbreaking. Even the temporary legal status is arguably a reward to those breaking the law. But Rand’s approach is certainly better than Rubio’s, which does not first require the border be secure.

    • DukeMachado DukeMachado

      So how long do we think it’s going to take to properly secure the border, per Paul’s criteria? I guess I can look up his Border Security plans…see what he says about that. But, if I understand correctly, no temporary status will be granted until after the border is secure…right?

  3. Raul Jimenez

    First I think they have to erase the Term permanent residency and instead make only a provisional legal status renewable every 2 years and renew it only for two consecutive periods, after that if they do not want or do not have the capacity to improve on to the assimilation in this society do not give not more time to stay, if there is any Improvement or real interest on the country her self, give another 2 Year period and after that a real Test and very complex examination of the individual before he becomes a Citizen, they also need to change the sponsorship program and make the actual Laws more effective

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