Rand Paul to endorse path to citizenship for illegal immigrants

Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) is endorsing a path to citizenship for the nation’s illegal immigrants, a move that could bolster support for the proposal among conservative lawmakers.

Paul will announce his support during an address to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, The Associated Press first reported. 

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“If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you,” Paul will say, according to his prepared remarks, the AP reports.

“Immigration reform will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. I am here today to begin that conversation,” Paul adds.

The Kentucky senator will call though for Congress to first take steps to strengthen the nation’s border security before opening citizenship. Immigrants already in the country would also need to fulfill several conditions before they can begin taking steps toward legal residency.

Paul’s stance could help bolster support among conservative lawmakers, many of whom have resisted citizenship proposals as “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. 

A bipartisan Senate group in January unveiled a framework to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, which would include tougher border security and a citizenship pathway. The Senate’s Gang of Eight will continue negotiations on the final details of the plan, but says it's on track to reach an accord by April.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Tea Party favorite and member of the Senate immigration working group, has sought to rally conservative support for the measure, efforts which could be boosted by Paul.

In an interview with the AP, Paul said he was unsure if he would back the bipartisan framework or seek to amend with his own proposals.

In his speech, Paul shares some details of his immigration ideas. His plan would call for the Border Patrol and an inspector general to certify efforts to increase border security before other reforms could take effect.

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Paul envisions granting illegal immigrants temporary work visas, with the number of permits to be determined by a bipartisan panel. Those immigrants would then be placed in line to gain citizenship, but behind those who entered the country legally. He will also call for visas to attract more high-skilled workers and propose a special visa for those starting businesses. 

Paul’s new stance comes as a number of high-profile Republicans have pushed for immigration reform after President Obama’s dominating support among Hispanic voters in the 2012 election.

On Monday, the Republican National Committee unveiled a report calling for the party to make “drastic changes” to remain competitive in future elections, endorsing comprehensive immigration reform alongside enhanced minority outreach.

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