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Senator Rand Paul On Immigration And Marriage

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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HH: So pleased to welcome back Senator Rand Paul. Senator, I know it wasn’t your fault, but you stood me up because of that filibuster thing last week.

RP: I had forgotten about that. I think we had a whole busy day that day, and we really literally walked in that morning and saying you know, I’ve been wanting to talk about this, maybe I’ll do it if they let me have the floor. And we really had not had a lot of conscious forethought, because I wore the worst shoes I’ve got in my closet, and my feet were killing me after about four or five hours.

HH: Well, I salute you. We might disagree on a few things, but I love that, and I thought it was an excellent argument to have. And when Senator Durbin would not agree to your resolution, I just couldn’t believe that. So well done. Now you do have a very excellent understanding of the executive power, and of the Constitution, and I’m a law professor and I teach doctors, occasionally, so I find it unusual that you do. But I’ve got a tough question for you, Senator. Given that understanding, if you were the president of the United States, would you instruct your solicitor general to file a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8? It’s two separate questions, really.

RP: You know, I think the states do have the right to make decisions on marriage. Marriage has always been sort of at the state level. And the confusion on DOMA is, though, that it defends the states’ rights, but then it also has a federal definition. So it does federalize at least part of the definition. Then, there’s the confusion over what’s federal and what’s state anymore, because the federal’s gotten involved in so many state affairs. But my state has a constitutional amendment defending or calling for traditional marriage, and I think Kentucky should have the right to do that, because marriage has always been at the state level. So what that means exactly with the defense of DOMA, I think they may split the issue somewhat. I think there’s a possibility that they uphold the state right to it, but they do say something about a federal definition. I’m not sure exactly what comes of it, nor am I sure that I’m the expert as far as the law on that goes, either.

HH: But it goes back to what the President did, because you know, it’s going to be down to Justice Kennedy and what he decides on this. But the President directed the solicitor general not to defend DOMA. Would you, given a federally passed statute signed by your predecessor in office…

RP: No, no. I think he should have defended DOMA. I mean, I don’t think the President gets to pick and choose on which laws that are passed that he should defend. I think that should be the obligation of the solicitor general.

HH: Thank you. Now I want to move to your immigration speech today, because rarely does a speech confound everyone.

RP: (laughing)

HH: I’m reading now from MSNBC. AP said you called for a path to citizenship, the Huffington Post says you called for a path to citizenship, the Washington Post says I didn’t back a faster path to citizenship. NPR reaffirmed, Rand Paul affirms support for a path to citizenship. What did you do?

RP: Well, the interesting thing is, Hugh, I think I’m to the left and to the right of everyone out there on this issue now. So no, we never mentioned citizenship in the speech, interestingly, and so people get kind of carried away with some things. What I did say, and what I’ll continue to say, is that if you want to work, and you’re here, documented or undocumented, I think we should find a place for you. We’re not going to put you on the federal welfare dole or anything like that, but if you want to work, we find a place for you. Initially, that probably means getting work visas for everybody, and that will take a little time. What I’ve offered that is distinctly different than the bipartisan plan, though, is that I have a plan I call trust but verify, which means we’ve always been promised border security at a later date. I ensure that you get border security while you’re doing the reforms. Every year, there’s a report by the investigator general and the Border Patrol saying the border is secure and becoming increasingly secure. But that report has to come back and be voted on by Congress in order to keep processing and putting out the work visas for those who are here. And that puts Congress in the middle of this, instead of saying to the President, oh, just put a rubber stamp on it, the border is secure. I don’t trust this administration, nor a Republican administration, to make a good judgment without Congress watching them.

HH: Now Senator Paul, I support what I call regularization in a fairly rapid fashion of the 11-15 million who are here illegally, except for those who are threats and criminals, and things like that. And it’s a large number. But I do not support citizenship, which means voting. The bipartisan plan says, allegedly, according to the New York Times on Sunday, ten years of work status, three years of green card, you get to become a citizen. Do you foresee supporting any act that produces the right to vote for those who entered the country illegally without returning to their home country first?

RP: See, what our idea is, it’s a little bit different. It’s sort of in between those. Some people say you’ve got to go back to your country of origin. Some say you can stay here, and we’re going to give you a time period, and then you become a citizen. What I’m saying is we give you a work visa, we don’t make you go home, but you get in the normal line to come into this country. So if you’re in Mexico City right now today, and you want to be an American citizen, there is a path to citizenship for a person living in Mexico City. I’d give you equal status to that person who wants to right now sign up. But all the people in front of you in line would still be in front of you. So you get the same as an immigrant. It would sort of be like internal immigration. You’re here already, but you get to get in the line, but it’s not the same as going home. And I think it is a step forward towards us telling Latinos we’re not going to deport you, because I think saying we have to deport you to become, if you want to come back and be part of our country, is not a tenable position.

HH: Now Senator Paul, I’m surprised by that because of your reverence to the Constitution. And if you are a law breaker, I don’t mind providing you with the ability to normalize your life and to work hard, and you’re a great citizen, your kids are born on United States soil, they’re citizens. But the idea that you would be on equal footing with anyone else from Mexico who did not break our law, or any other country of origin, whether it’s Canada or Great Britain, that surprised me, because citizenship is fundamentally premised on the obedience to the law.

RP: But the interesting thing is you’re not providing any kind of new pathway. You’re getting in a line that already exists. All you’re doing is saying you don’t have to go home, because right now, if we go by your logic, you would let them break the law and still get in line. The only difference is you’re telling them they have to go home to get in line.

HH: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I’m saying that…

RP: But they still broke the law, and you’re still letting them break the law and get in the line. And so my proposal is not that much different, really, from what you’re saying, because they have broken the law, but they’re not getting in any kind of front of the line. They’re not getting in the green card line. They’re getting in the line to enter this country. The only difference is we wouldn’t be forcing them to go home. I think we do need to step more forward, and it’s an issue that I’m willing to come to more of a compromise on, because I think it’s a fair position, and I think it’s also something that will help us to grow as a bigger national party, and that I think we do need to grow if we want to win again.

HH: Well, I’m with you on that, but I just, I have trouble saying that citizenship ought to be, the right to vote ought to be extended to someone who broke the law to enter the country. But let me ask you this. Given your proposal was adopted, and you had border security being certified, what’s the fastest do you understand someone in this country could get to the voting booth?

RP: You know, I don’t know the answer to that, and I’ve asked my staff, we’ve been looking for that, because I think it’s an approximate. And it may be, and here’s the problem with my proposal, if you really want to look at it. I think if you get in the line to come from Mexico, and you want to be a citizen and you’re in Mexico City right now, you may not become a citizen in your lifetime. I think it’s very, very hard to get in, because the numbers are such that the line’s pretty long. I think there might be several million people in the line right now. So it doesn’t really end the problem. In fact…

HH: That’s very candid. That’s very candid.

RP: Yeah, the very biggest part of our problem, though, is not any of this. The illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, are coming because the work visa program doesn’t work, so we gave 65,000 agricultural work visas last year, but a million people came in to pick crops. I think most people want to allow people to come in and work in our agricultural enterprises, but we have to have a work visa program where they all get work visas so we know who they are for national security purposes and other purposes, so we control our border. If you did that, you wouldn’t have, see, that’s the thing you have to fix, or in another ten years, even if you normalize the 11 or 12 million that are here, ten years later, you’ve got the same problem again unless you fix the immigration system where we have a better work program.

HH: I agree with 95% of that. I just don’t see pretending like they’d ever get to vote when we know they wouldn’t. But Senator Paul, keep pushing it, and I’ll look forward to having you back when you don’t schedule another filibuster.

End of interview.

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