Paul: Still hope for immigration reform this year

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) thinks there’s still hope for immigration reform this year, but only if Democrats are willing to negotiate.

“People have to acknowledge that the Democrats, if they want it passed, have to make more of a compromise,” he said in a talk to students at Harvard's Institute of Politics on Friday.

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Paul envisions that compromise as some sort of legal status — “status and a place for people here so that they can come out of the shadows, let them begin paying taxes, let them not be locked up and having them run from the authorities,” he said. But he said that status would not include the voting rights “that everybody wants.”

He said voting rights could come “someday,” but at this point in the debate the only reform he thinks could pass is a more stripped-down bill.

The Senate did pass a comprehensive reform bill last June with strong bipartisan support, but Paul voted against that bill — because, he said on Friday, it “doesn’t do enough.” He said the caps on different kinds of workers were too low to effectively deal with the problem.

“We can’t have a limit so small that it doesn’t encompass what the demand is,” Paul said.

Hopes for final passage of a reform package this year have faltered in the House, where Republican leaders have said they have no plans to bring up the Senate bill for a vote, and no alternative comprehensive reform package has emerged. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) seemed to confirm the slim chance for reform this year during a speech Thursday in his home district where he mocked fellow Republicans for refusing to tackle the issue.

"Here's the attitude: 'Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,' " he told a meeting of the Middletown Rotary Club.

But Paul charged that the failure to move forward with reform lies partly with Democrats, some of whom he said are content to “keep beating up the Republicans on this” because it’s helping the party win the Hispanic vote.

“And then there are some responsible people on both sides who want to pass something,” he added.

The Kentucky senator concluded: “I still think something could pass this year. Some of it more than anything is attitude, that we treat people with dignity and respect and that we acknowledge that we were all immigrants at one point in time, that immigrants are an asset.”