I interviewed Senator Rand Paul on Tuesday’s show about DOMA and about immigration reform.
The key exchange came on the “path to citizenship” Senator Paul supports:
HH: 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.
This is not the senator’s fault. He is among the most available of elected officials, and he is very, very candid. Under his approach it seems very likely that, as he said, the illegal aliens in the U.S. would have to get in the line that already exists around the world in their various countries and that if you were a Mexican living in the U.S. illegally, then “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.”
Which is why proponents of rapid regularization of status for the vast majority of those living illegally in the United States –which includes both Senator Paul and me and most Democrats– should oppose any “oath to citizenship” that doesn’t involve physical return to the country of origin and instead focus on the legalization of those in the country.” I think there is a a large majority in favor of such rapid regularization for most of the people, but opposition to citizenship for those who entered as adults except for those who have served in the military is strong and will likely kill any bill that seeks to provide citizenship and the vote to individuals who entered the country illegally.
Republican office holders will face some furious blowback from a small number of voices for anything suggesting regularization, and that blowback will grow if the border security isn’t real and if citizenship is widely available under the plan. The opportunity to get immigration reform is here, but it can be gone in a moment if overreaching marks the proposals.