WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) addresses a breakfast meeting of the 2013 Annual Legislative Summit of U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) March 19, 2013 at Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. Paul spoke on immigration and he announced his endorsement for a pathway for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States to become citizens. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)2013 Getty Images
Washington – Republican Sen. Rand Paul told the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. Tuesday morning that he wants to be part of the solution that breaks the gridlock in the nation's capitol over the thorny immigration dilemma.
"I think the conversation needs to start by acknowledging that we aren’t going to deport 12 million illegal immigrants,” Paul said. "If you wish to live and work in American, then we will find a place for you.”
The conservative Tea Party favorite with a libertarian streak is seriously considering a 2016 presidential run and has cast himself as gridlock breaker, scolding harsh partisan rhetoric on both sides of the political aisle.
"Immigration has become a stalemate where both sides are imprisoned by their own rhetoric or attached to sacred cows that prevent the possibility of a balanced solution,” Paul said.
Paul's plan differs from one advanced by a bipartisan group of eight Senators, the so-called "Gang of Eight," including potential 2016 White House rival Marco Rubio, the popular Hispanic U.S. senator from Florida.
Both plans require border security certification by U.S. Border Patrol and an Investigator General before other reforms are implemented. Paul’s plan, however, requires additional certification.
"Some may object to this but, if we don’t, I don’t think we’ll ever get conservatives on board,” he said. “We need to get everybody on board that this is good for the country.”
Once border security is verified, Paul's plan would start granting up to two million temporary work visas a year for undocumented immigrants who work and pay taxes.
Paul's plan would start with DREAM Act kids, children brought here illegally as minors. He also would immediately expand the visa programs for immigrants with advanced degrees.
For years, critics have argued that granting legal status to undocumented immigrants amounts to amnesty.
But a growing cadre of conservatives, Rand being the latest, are embracing the concept of conditional amnesty.
“What we have now is de facto amnesty,” he said. “The solution doesn’t have to be amnesty or deportation. Maybe there’s a middle ground we call probation, where those who came illegally who did break the law have a period they have to go through called a probationary period.”
Paul's plan rejects the Rubio/bipartisan ‘Gang of 8’ proposal that calls for a nationwide employer verification system.
“I will not impose a national ID card and it will also not have mandatory E-verify,” he said.
Paul and Rubio are not only offering voters different visions and approaches to immigration reform, both are angling for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race – and are choosing to do so by highlighting contrasts on some of the most controversial issues facing the country.