HERSHEY, Penn. — In New Hampshire yesterday, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told a group of supportive Republican legislators that the country needed some immigration fixes. A few hours later, I asked whether, if elected president, Paul would move to overturn the Obama-era executive orders that have essentially legalized millions of immigrants.
"I’ve always been of the opinion that we should do things the proper way," Paul said. "I am in favor of doing immigration reform, but it should be done in the proper fashion." He cited the the need to tighten border security before attempting anything else, but added that "the 11 million, I think, are never going home, don’t need to be sent home, and I would incorporate them into our society by giving them work visas and making them taxpayers."
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the House GOP was voting to defund Obama's immigration orders. Paul didn't necessarily disagree with the House objection—at one point, he quoted Montesquieu's "Spirit of the Laws" to explain why the executive orders couldn't be sustained. But on policy, he was set apart from more than 200 Republicans ready to undo an order that granted legal status to minors brought into the country by their parents. In the summer of last year, in fact, Paul supported exactly that. And now, as a potential presidential candidate, he wasn't leading with it.
In Hershey, as the congressional Republican retreat got underway, the members most keen on talking to reporters were hinting at a new approach. California Representative Jeff Denham did a quick interview with Jose Diaz-Balart, an MSNBC host whose brother Mario is a Republican congressman and supporter of immigration reform. After tearing into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals vote, he stuck around to tell reporters that Republicans had created a working group, connecting reformers with restrictionists, to come up with something to pass.
"We’ve gotta be able to discuss the DREAMers, the 11.5 million that are here today, as well as a Guest Worker program, in the overall discussion of border security,” Denham told reporters, “We’ve had a working group for quite some time on the various pieces of immigration on doing everything from a comprehensive bill to a step-by-step approach, but finding out who in our conference is actually open to debate and discussion."