Paul on the fence over immigration bill
Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday he's not ready to vote on the immigration reform package as it now stands in the Senate, adding the measure needs tougher provisions on border security in order to have a chance in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
On a personal note, the senator also said he's come to realize there's an important distinction between the terms "illegal" and "undocumented" when referring to immigrants.
The Republican senator from Kentucky, who's considering a potential 2016 presidential bid, argued the House and Senate are "still pretty far apart" on the issue but that he could help bring the two chambers together. He plans to offer amendments that will make the package more appealing to those on the other side of Capitol Hill.
"If you want this to happen, you've got to bridge the Senate and the House," he said Wednesday at a Washington forum organized by Hispanic Christian leaders. "I'm sort of in between where the Senate and House is, but not yet ready to vote for the Senate bill unless they're willing to listen to people who say let's make the border secure."
The Senate bill, crafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators, creates a 13-year path to citizenship for most of America's 11 million undocumented immigrants. While it includes language for tighter border security, some conservatives say enforcement must be a prerequisite before any of the other bill's provisions can set in. Other House Republicans take issue with the bill's pathway to citizenship.
On Tuesday the Senate voted to begin debate on the bill. While Paul voted to move forward with the process, 15 Republicans wanted to stall the measure.
Paul's set of amendments, which he wants to file next week, would grant work visas for undocumented immigrants already in the country. A bipartisan group would determine how many visas are issued.
His legislation would also build 100 miles of fence every year until Congress decides the border is secure.
Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the Republican members on the "Gang of Eight," agrees that the bill needs tougher measures for border security and has threatened to remove support from his own bill if the Senate doesn't approve those changes.
Rubio and Paul were both part of a group of senators that met with House members last week on Capitol Hill to discuss the issue.
An amendment filed Tuesday night by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, however, could threaten to sink the bill. His proposal calls for the government to recognize same-sex marriages between a U.S. citizen and an undocumented immigrant. The amendment, if it's brought to the Senate floor, could see big pushback from Republicans.
"I haven't really thought through it," Paul told reporters Wednesday when asked about the amendment. "I think sometimes these cultural issues divide us more than bring us together so I think there's some danger that if we get involved in issues that really divide us, it doesn't help to pass the bill."
Talking about his own personal stance on the issue, Paul said he has "come to really feel" that there is a distinction between the terms "undocumented" and "illegal" immigrant, the latter of which has become a somewhat loaded term in the immigration battle.
"Many of them came to work and have regular visas and then wanted a better-paying job. Is that a crime to want a better paying job? So I think the words are important," he said. "A lot of the problem when people became undocumented was from the government, not from the fault of the people."
The conference Wednesday was organized by the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
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