Senator Rand Paul on Chuck Hagel, Immigration Reform and Egypt
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Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was my guest today. Here’s the transcript of our conversation:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky. Thank you, Senator, for coming back. The Chuck Hagel hearing is today. Have you heard enough to make up your mind, yet?
RP: No, I haven’t had a chance to review them. I’ve been busy on the floor. I just came from the floor where I had an amendment to stop sale of F-16s and tanks to Egypt. So that’s sort of occupied most of my day.
HH: All right, then let’s turn to immigration reform. I know you were quoted earlier today saying the United States has got to evolve on this. I’ve been making the argument, we’ve got a million children under the age of 18 who are in the country without papers, Senator, and four and a half million children under the age of 18 who have a parent who’s not here legally. So immigration reform is necessarily education reform. Is there any way to get some school choice for these kids if in fact they’re regularized, so they don’t end up in the worst schools in the United States?
RP: Well, I think school choice should be a big part of our outreach, because the thing is that school choice does appeal to those who are getting short-changed by the public schools. Often, these are people who have come from poverty. Often, these are people who come from various ethnic groups that Republicans haven’t done well with, the Latinos as well as African-Americans. And so I’ve worked hard in the school choice area. We’re going to have a school choice symposium in the next month in Louisville, and we’re going to be airing that movie, Waiting For Superman. Have you seen that movie?
HH: You bet, terrific movie.
RP: Yeah, awesome movie. And so I think school choice is a big issue, and it’s a good way for us to reach out to people who are getting short-changed, and let them know, look, we’d like your kids to be able to go to school with our kids. And that means getting a choice on where you go to school. And if there’s a better school that your parents would like to take you to, by all means, we’re going to let you do it.
HH: Well now, a choice magnet school, Uno Magnet School in Chicago, deals with Mexican kids. And I say Mexican advisedly, not Mexican-American, primarily Mexican kids, almost 90% of them. They do wonder for this community. Isn’t there somewhere to marry immigration reform to choice reform, Senator? It’s coming to the Senate floor. At least we ought to have an amendment to advance the cause of school choice.
RP: Yeah, no, I think that’s a good idea. The problem ends up being, is the Democrats see this as a union issue. And they don’t really, they’re concerned about union and union alone, not really so much about the kids or the school or the quality of the schools. And because it’s a union issue, we can never get education reform up here. That’s really what’s stopping it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, and I think an amendment to immigration on school choice is a great idea. So we will look at that and see if we can come up with something.
HH: Now what about the immigration principles announced by your colleagues, Democrat and Republican, because I don’t think it’s enough to get through. There isn’t really much for conservatives in that bill. That’s why I was hoping that they would add school choice to it. But what did you make of the general announcement of principles?
RP: Well, the thing is I think figuring out how to normalize the 8-11 million people that are here is a good idea, but you can’t do it and have open borders. It’s like Milton Friedman said. You can’t have open borders and a welfare state. We’ve got a welfare state, so we have to have secure borders. So conservatives have always said we are open to immigration reform, myself included. In fact, I’m a proponent of immigration reform. But for me, it’s going to take security at the border. And what I’m going to be proposing is five different reports over a five year period that has to be voted on by Congress, done by an investigator general, with certain criteria they have to look at for border security. But then it’s voted on by Congress. And the normalization of the 11 million continues only if we vote and pass a report that says we’re securing the border.
HH: Now you used the word normalization. I use the word regularization. Do you mean that to include eventually the right to vote?
RP: You know, I think it can. If you’re here for an extended period of time and you work, and you don’t take welfare, you know, if you’re here for ten years and you’re working and not taking welfare, I see no reason why you couldn’t be a citizen. My only objection ever to this in the past has been you can’t do it and have an open border, because then you’ll have another 12 million people here. And so you have to have orderly immigration. For national security, you have to know who comes into your country, and you have to know if they’ve come for a short stay that they’ve left, particularly student visas from the Middle East, I still don’t think are policed well enough. And that’s who attacked us on 9/11. So yeah, there have to be some controls at the border. If those are in place, I think we can figure out a way. And I’ve always been one who says you know what, immigrants are an asset, not a liability. I came from an immigrant family once upon a time. All of us did. And we need to embrace them as people. They’re hard workers, and we need to figure out a way to normalize them. But it does have to be in the context of security at the border.
HH: Yeah, my colleague at the Washington Examiner, Phillip Klein, said one of the problems with regularization is eligibility for Obamacare. It’s already breaking the bank, and it would have an individual subsidy to newly regularized immigrants. Will there be an occasion in the course of considering immigration reform to revisit that individual mandate in the context of at least the recently regularized?
RP: Probably not, because you know, they consider health care is free, and everybody should get it. So see, when we’ve had restrictions in the past, like when you get a green card, for the five years you have a green card waiting to be a citizen, you can’t get welfare. But that doesn’t include education or health, which is the biggest part of welfare that we have in the country, or biggest part of state-subsidized provisions we have in the country. And so when you limit and say no cash payments, that’s helpful, but the thing is that Obamacare is going to bankrupt state governments with or without immigrants. It’s a disaster, and that’s what’s really, you’re going to find the next two or three years, everybody’s going to reassess Obamacare, because when everybody gets a Medicaid card, unlimited, free credit card for health care, it’ll get so overused that state governments are going to go bankrupt.
HH: So back to immigration, then. Are there any must-haves other than border security for Rand Paul in approaching the immigration reform issue?
RP: I think those who, if we’re going to normalize those who are here, one of the things is they can’t go in front of people who are already waiting in line. And what’s confusing about this is there’s a couple of different lines. The outline that I’ve read from the group of 8 sounds like they’re going to immediately go in the green card line at the back of the green card line. However, there’s another line to get into the country, and there’s a lot of people who have been waiting patiently and legally to come into the country. I think they have to be in both of those lines, and not in front of anybody. So there will be some debate when we get to the details on this.
HH: Do you foresee yourself as being in a position, given the appropriate language and amendments, to vote for immigration reform?
RP: I want to be for immigration reform. I am for the general concept of immigration reform. I think I’m somebody who can talk to conservatives and bring conservatives along if it has a secure border requirement. My hope is that if they want conservative Republicans to vote for this, and they want to allow this thing to move forward, that they will talk to conservatives and say what is it will take you to bring you along, and not just shove something through. If they try to shove something through without listening to us, then it’ll end up being a mess.
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HH: Senator, did your amendment on the F-16s pass?
RP: We got 19 votes, all Republicans, no Democrats. And I find it crazy that people who say they support Israel are in favor of sending weapons to a country where the president just called Jews descendants of apes and pigs and bloodsuckers. It’s a really unstable environment over there. It has the danger of descending into chaos, and I think it’s a huge mistake to send them our most modern weaponry. And it just dumbfounds me that other people aren’t quite getting this yet.
HH: In the same region yesterday, Israel bombed a Syrian convoy reputed to have been headed towards Hezbollah with weapons. What do you make of Israel’s right to conduct such attacks?
RP: I think Israel always has the right to defend their country, and I think Israel knows best how to and when to defend their country. So you won’t find me one commenting either way other than to say that it absolutely is Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to defend themselves.
HH: When you say that Egypt might descend into chaos, the reports are very alarming. Have you received any briefings that would lead you to believe that the Morsi government at this point is unstable?
RP: No, other than what I’m reading in the newspaper and seeing on television. But it does concern me. But a lot about if Morsi does stay concerns me as well. You know, he was seen a couple of months ago with a radical sheikh saying death to Israel and to all of her supporters. And Morsi is next to this radical sheikh nodding amen. Also, the fact that he detained 16 Americans last year for trumped-up political crimes, he still has Egyptians in jail for these trumped-up political crimes. There’s a lot to worry about over there. My understanding, and I think that’s why some of the people who opposed me on this amendment, what gets me is they say oh, well, the military is secular, and we’re just sending them to the military. Well, he’s had over a year to replace people in the military. So I don’t think the military is entirely this secular, pro-Western being anymore. I think it’s sort of a mixed bag. And if he’s replaced enough of them, there may not be enough ultimately to create stability in that country. But the bottom line is I don’t see it being good for Israel, I don’t see it being good for us. And when we have limited resources, I just don’t think we should send our most advanced technology to countries that allow mobs to attack our embassy.
HH: Senator Rand Paul, thank you for joining us, I appreciate it very much.
End of interview.