June 11th, 2014
01:45 PM ET
9 years ago

Rand Paul on immigration: GOP trapped in word 'amnesty'

(CNN) – Immigration may not have been "the paramount issue" in Eric Cantor's crushing primary loss, Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday.

The Kentucky Republican, on a conference call with reporters, added that he's still in favor of immigration reform and partly blamed Republican gridlock over the issue to a misunderstanding over the word "amnesty."

"We've been somewhat trapped by rhetoric and words, and amnesty's a word that has kind of trapped us," he said, adding that some people think it means giving undocumented immigrants a right to vote, while others say it means allowing them to obtain legal status without a penalty.

Others, he added, think it simply means not deporting those who came to the United States illegally.

"We're trapped in a word that means different things to different people," he said.

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His comments came in a conference call hosted by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and Michael Bloomberg's Partnership for a New American Economy. Norquist and Bloomberg are both in favor of immigration reform.

The call was already scheduled for Wednesday morning before House Majority Leader Cantor was defeated by Dave Brat, a little-known candidate with grassroots support, in the GOP primary for Virginia's 7th Congressional District. Brat heavily campaigned on a platform against immigration reform, an issue in which Cantor was trying to make some progress.

Cantor challenger, Dave Brat, 'shocked' as results rolled in

But Paul and Norquist pointed to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's primary victory in South Carolina. Graham was one of the co-sponsors of the comprehensive immigration packaged that was passed by the Senate last year.

Paul argued that the different outcomes in the two elections indicates that immigration reform wasn't "the paramount issue" that brought down Cantor.

"It's a mistake to try to paint it and decide that one issue decided this," he said.

Jack Trammell is the Democrat who no longer has to face Eric Cantor

For his part, Paul said "I am still for it."

"I say everywhere I go I am for immigration reform," he added.

Paul, however, didn't vote for the bipartisan Senate bill last year, saying the measure's border security provisions didn't go far enough, and the bill was too limiting in the number of workers it would allow to come in to the country.

Last year he introduced an amendment that would give Congress oversight over border security and would require certain security standards be met before addressing legalization or citizenship. The amendment didn't pass.

"I've always said that I'm for it. I just want to be part of the process. I don't feel like anybody really wanted my vote because they never considered any of my suggestions," he said.

The Democratic National Committee pushed back, arguing in an email blast that by voting against the Senate bill yet stating he's pro-reform, "Rand Paul talks out of both sides of his mouth on immigration."

The senator, who's seriously weighing a presidential bid, said those who backed the bill need to recognize that there's not enough support in the GOP-controlled House to pass it.

"If you want immigration reform, there has to be openness to compromise," he said, adding that there's also a group "entrenched" on the other side who won't vote for any reform measures.

He also weighed in on the recent influx of young people from Central America who've been crossing the border and turning themselves in to U.S. Border Control agents. U.S. law prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from immediately deporting the children if they are not from Canada or Mexico.

Paul speculated that some immigrants are coming to join the military.

"This is a complicated part of immigration reform. Do I have sympathy if you served in our military and we ought to find a place for you in our country? Absolutely," he said. "But do I want to send a signal to everybody in Mexico that if you come and join our military, you get to be a citizen? That's a bad signal."

"None of this is really easy," he added.

Filed under: 2014 • Eric Cantor • Immigration • Rand Paul
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    This TEAPARTY CLOWN is going down in November . These GOP teaparty idiots like to CALL the November election FOR THEMSELVES BEFORE we EVEN VOTE, guess what, all you GOP OBSTRUCTIONEST MORONS are GOING DOWN JUST LIKE HIM!!!!!!!!

    June 11, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. smith

    @Donna-Alot of liberals(not all) will play the race card on this issue and others because this become the new norm for them. Agree with us or we will call you a bigot or a racist. Its pretty much political extortion.

    June 11, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  3. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Denise says:
    June 11, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm
    Since when are GOP women better looking than liberal ones? Take a look at some of the broads living in lowest income per capita red states, tea party convention sites. They’re all missing teeth and their height and hip size are the same as in 5 feet long and 5 feet wide.

    ☺️☺️☺️ I have so been enjoying your comments!!!

    June 11, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. centaur927

    Sounds like Rand is trying to walk a tightrope with the TP on one side and the establishment on the other.

    June 11, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. American citizen USA

    Dear Mr. Rand Paul,
    NO AMNESTY!! This family understands what your "rhetoric" is. We don't want it. We will fight tooth and nail to keep ILLEGAL ALIENS from ANY sort of "AMNESTY". I'm not just talking ILLEGAL ALIENS coming from Mexico,look at the Asain invasion.

    June 11, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "The entire thrust of administration policy has been to end or curtail deportations of young people."

    Oh clearly...and the evidence of this is that Obama has consistently set records for he number of deportations each year, increased the number of criminals deported by 71% and increased the number of deported people actually "charged" (such that if they get caught here again within 5 years they are subject to prosecution and even jail time) by 90%.

    You know what REALLY funny? A study just proved that Faux News viewers are actually more uninformed and misinformed about immigration and our systems than anyone else in the country...by a LARGE margin. Faux News is noting more than an audio-visual dose of stupid.

    June 11, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. sonny chapman

    What happened to the Missing Jet ?

    June 11, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Welcome to the Obama-Democrat immigration/country invasion nightmare. When can we ship 20,000 of them to NYC for you to pay for and care for?"

    Doesn't matter where you put them...the blue states like NY are already paying for the red states in the form of red states receiving more federal aid than they pay in taxes, so whether they're in NY or SC, it's us blue states paying for it....and glad to do it in the case of these poor children.

    And BTW, your ridiculous fear and demonization of unaccompanied 5 and 6 year-olds makes you look like nothing more than a miserable, screeching harpy. It does nothing to help your position and just translates to very loudly yelling "I am a complete nutcase who pays no attention to any of the facts and simply runs on ideology and delusion" on the street corner.

    June 11, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Robert Walters

    I am all for reform; if they put all of the people who have put in 'Legally' in front of them. Another words bring all of them here now, absolutely no waiting for any of them.

    June 11, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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