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Chronicling Rand Paul's shifts on immigration reform

On Monday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., joined a band of Republican lawmakers arguing to “press pause” on immigration reform after last week’s Boston bombings.

“Until we can fully understand the systematic failures that enabled two individuals to immigrate to the United States from an area known for being hotbed of Islamic extremism, we should not proceed,” Paul said in a statement on his website. (The bombing suspects came to the United States as children and teenagers after their parents gained asylum, and they lived in the country as legal immigrants.)

Paul also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, requesting a hearing dedicated to the national security aspect of immigration reform before any comprehensive effort moves forward. “The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system,” he said. “If we don't use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs.”

This was the latest change for Paul -- a potential presidential candidate in 2016 -- on the issue of immigration. He has moved from opponent of birthright citizenship (that is, granting citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants born in the U.S.), to supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, to one who believes the Boston bombings should slow down the legislation.

Here’s a look back at Paul in his own words on immigration: 

Jan. 2011: Paul issues a press release after co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.


Citizenship is a privilege, and only those who respect our immigration laws should be allowed to enjoy its benefits.”  

Feb. 8, 2013:  Paul pens an op-ed for the Washington Times, in which he says that he supports immigration reform. But he adds that, under his plan, Congress would vote annually for five years on whether border security has progressed – and only after that period would undocumented immigrants in the country receive green cards. He does, however, also reference them becoming citizens.

“Gradually, the undocumented persons would immigrate to the United States, internal immigration as they would not be asked to return home. These immigrants would not be given special privileges except that they would not have to leave the country…. I share the goal of a working immigration system, and a new approach to allowing those here in our country who want to work and stay out of trouble to stay here. Would I hope that when they become citizens, these new immigrants will remember Republicans who made this happen? Yes.” 

March 19, 2013: Paul delivers a speech on immigration reform at the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Based on his remarks, journalists begin to write that he supports a “pathway to citizenship.”

“Let’s start that conversation by acknowledging we aren’t going to deport 12 million illegal immigrants. If you wish to work, if you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you.”

March 19, 2013: Paul holds a conference call to clarify reporting that he supports a “pathway to citizenship,” per the Huffington Post.

“Those who are here, if they want to work, let's find a place for them. If they want to become citizens, I'm open to debate as to what we do to move forward."  

April 17, 2013: Paul speaks at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, refraining from endorsing the Gang of Eight legislation on immigration reform.

“Generally, I am for immigration reform. It’s not that I’m going to be for anything with no rules, though.”