Thursday, March 21, 2013

What Exactly Is Rand Paul's Position on Immigration Reform?


Behold the junior senator and Tea Party hero from Kentucky, best known for citing the U.S. Constitution, Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

On Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul threw his support behind legalizing the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., signaling his determination to expand his following beyond the tea party movement as he positions himself for a 2016 presidential campaign. Just two years ago, Paul was pushing to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

Paul's first major speech on the topic came the same day the Iowa Republican Party announced he would headline their annual fundraiser -- a coveted stage for auditioning presidential candidates -- and one day after a Republican National Committee report embraced immigration reform as a way to boost the party's appeal with Hispanic voters. Paul's speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington was striking not for its policy details -- in fact, they were quite fuzzy -- but for the obvious charm offensive it represented toward the fastest growing part of the electorate.

"I think his goal is to appeal to a broader audience," said Sal Russo, a chief adviser to the Tea Party Express and a longtime Republican strategist. "Immigration is not a defining Tea Party issue like spending and debt, and there is a wide spectrum of viewpoints on it. I think it's a political winner."

Paul is not fluent in Spanish but he slipped into the language several times during his speech, drawing applause from the Hispanic audience for his above-average pronunciation. The senator from Bowling Green, Kentucky, also reminded the audience that he grew up alongside many Hispanics in Texas.

"Immigration reform will not occur until conservative Republicans like myself become part of the solution," he said. "That is why I'm here today, to begin that conversation."

Though Paul disagrees with some key provisions of the immigration-reform plan backed by a bipartisan group in the Senate, the partial endorsement from a Tea Party conservative was enthusiastically praised by some of those senators as well as immigration advocates.

"He killed it," Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Reform, said of the speech. "The more people like Senator Paul are engaged in the debate, the more the conversation moves forward. He has credibility with Tea Party conservatives like no one else."

"The more people like Senator Paul are engaged in the debate, the more the conversation moves forward. He has credibility with Tea Party conservatives like no one else."

Paul's speech was also noteworthy for its departure from his libertarian father's legacy. Former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas took a hard-line stance against illegal immigration, demanding tighter border security; banning illegal immigrants from public schools, hospitals, and social services; and calling for an end to birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants. Last month, he called the bipartisan plan in the Senate a "bad deal." So by veering from that script, the younger Paul signaled his hope to be taken more seriously than his father, a twice-failed presidential candidate who was frequently marginalized as a fringe ideologue. (The younger Paul said Tuesday after the speech that he would rethink his opposition to birthright citizenship if immigration laws were overhauled.)

Paul's stock has been rising in recent days. He captured national attention and his colleague's praise with a 13-hour talking filibuster and won the straw poll at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference. But his lack of experience on the national stage was apparent Tuesday as his speech created widespread confusion over whether or not he backed allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship.

Though Paul did not use the words "pathway to citizenship" he didn't rule it out in his speech, either. He backed allowing undocumented workers to live and work in the U.S. permanently without requiring them to return to their home country, but he said, "We also must treat those who are here with understanding and compassion without also unduly rewarding them for coming illegally .... My plan will not grant amnesty or move anyone to the front of the line." Media outlets from the Associated Press to The Huffington Post initially reported that Paul did back a pathway to citizenship. Even Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and chairman of the Senate immigration subcommittee, was under that impression. "The consensus continues to grow in favor of immigration reform that contains a path to citizenship," he said in a written statement.

Paul's office objected to the early reports and arranged an afternoon conference call. Unfortunately, Paul didn't completely clarify his position during the call, complaining that the debate was trapped in murky and polarizing phrases and words like "pathway to citizenship" and "amnesty."

"Those who are here, if they want to work, let's find a place for them," Paul said. "If they want to become citizens, I'm open to debate as to what we do to move forward."

Paul sought to frame his speech in broad strokes and avoid the weeds of policy details, adding, "I'm a conservative Republican who says we need to move forward on the issue of immigration reform. That's a big step forward."

So does Paul back the bipartisan Senate outline and President Obama's proposal, which would allow illegal immigrants to eventually earn citizenship? Still unclear.


Ridiculous! British Coalition's blast after Labour figures put migrant wave of Romanians and Bulgarians at just 12,700

The number of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants expected when the UK opens its doors next January was put at just 12,700, according to long-hidden figures.  The total, compiled under the Labour government, was  immediately rejected as ‘ridiculous’ by senior Coalition figures.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the estimates, revealed yesterday after months of cover-up by ministers, were drawn up by Labour after comparing the two countries to Poland, which has sent around one million people to the UK.

The document predicts just 4,613 Bulgarians, out of a population of 7.5million, will come to Britain every year, along with 8,156 Romanians – a tiny fraction of its 21.4million inhabitants.

Addressing Westminster journalists, Mr Pickles said he had ‘no confidence’ in the figures and that was why ministers chose not to publicise them, though he said they were slipped out on a Whitehall website in 2011.

The total of 12,769 is very  similar to the 13,000 Labour ministers claimed would come to the UK in 2004, when immigration restrictions were lifted on Poland and nine other Eastern European countries.

In the event, more than a million people have flocked to Britain from Poland alone over the last nine years.

Mr Pickles revealed that the research existed in a television interview in January, but immigration minister Mark Harper refused to release the study, saying it would not be ‘helpful’.

Yesterday Mr Pickles said: ‘These are calculations. I don’t have any confidence in them whatsoever.’

He added that he doesn’t know how many immigrants will come to the UK in January but hopes it will be lower than in 2004, when many other EU countries refused to lift restrictions at the same time as Britain.

He said: ‘Last time, we, Ireland and Sweden opened up our boundaries, when France and Germany and Spain didn’t  open up their boundaries, so a  disproportionately large number of Poles came to the UK.

‘This time everyone is opening up at the same time. If you combine Romania and Bulgaria they don’t even meet the level of the Polish population.’

He added: ‘Bulgarians and Romanians have a link with Spain and with France.’

The campaign group Migration Watch UK has estimated up to 75,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could enter the UK a year.

Commenting on the figures, chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘We regard the estimate as much too low and agree with Mr Pickles that it is not a sufficient basis for policy.  ‘For a start it ignores the two million Romanians in Spain and Italy, many of whom are now unemployed and might move to Northern Europe.’

Mr Pickles added: ‘No matter how many fancy calculations you can make, I don’t know. The truth is nobody really knows.

‘All the government can do is be careful about pull factors that might range from the health service to housing and benefits to try to ensure there isn’t an extra attraction to come here.’

Ministers are making plans to require new immigrants to register to use public services or claim benefits. The Government is also considering sending home those who fail to find work.

Minister for local government Brandon Lewis denied there had been a cover-up.  He said: ‘We have been open and transparent in publishing research....  ‘This analysis was produced by the last administration, and should be treated with extreme caution given how unreliable their statistics have been historically.’


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