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.