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Sen. Rand Paul Takes Turn On Immigration Reform - Work Visas

Richard Morgan

As the Republican Party continues to grapple with finding a solution to its Latino voter problem, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has dramatically softened his stance on immigration reform.

Paul told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that there could be a place in America for undocumented workers.

At first there was some confusion about what Paul said to the Hispanic Chamber. It was reported that the he had jumped the Tea Party ship and was endorsing comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship.

However, later on CNN Paul said that wasn’t what he said.

"As far as pathways, what we say to those who are here, those who have been working, those who may not be documented, we say, 'If you want to work, if you want to stay in America – we’ll find a place for you.' As far as citizenship that’s sort of a different story – what we’re talking about is work visas," Paul said.

Nevertheless, even without a special path to citizenship, Paul is showing movement on the immigration issue in that he’s calling for an end to deportations.

He also supports allowing the now undocumented to get in line for citizenship without having to return to their nation of origin. But according to Bob Dane of the Federation for Immigration Reform, that is still amnesty.

"Amnesty by definition is a reward for law breaking and that’s exactly what 11 million illegal aliens have done. And even if it’s just a work permit, that is providing the very thing that illegal aliens ultimately want - the chance to stay in the country and the chance to work," Dane said.

Rudy Lopez of Fair Immigration Reform Movement, which supports comprehensive immigration reform, said Paul pulling away from a true pathway to citizenship solution is disappointing, but the softening from his not-too-long-ago hardline on the issue is a welcomed development.

"What we’re hearing from Rand Paul. What we’re hearing from Marco Rubio. What we’re hearing from other conservative voices – are beginning to think about common sense approaching to an important problem and I feel good about the progress we’re making," Lopez said.

Paul won the weekend CPAC straw poll for possible presidential candidates, but after this pivot on immigration many conservatives are wondering if he still would have won that contest.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi