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New National Discussion on Immigration
When a spokesman for the Tea Party expresses support for welcoming newcomers in his response to the State of the Union, you know there’s a new national discussion going on about immigration reform.
President Obama, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) all said they supported immigration reform that includes being more welcoming to immigrants.
During his State of the Union address Tuesday, the president said, “Leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities, they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now's the time to do it.”
That was expected. Obama has been a long-time supporter of reform since his days as a senator. But both the official Republican response to the address and the Tea Party rebuttal included new rhetoric on immigration.
“We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally,” Rubio said. “But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.”
This statement reflects the reform principles drafted by the “Group of 8” senators – a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that would grant a path to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants only when the U.S.-Mexico border is deemed fully secure. This is likely to be a point of contention in the months ahead. Still, when a rising star of the Republican Party supports reform and legalization, it signals a major change in the national immigration discourse.
Perhaps most surprising was Paul’s response. Most of Obama’s speech came in for unrelenting criticism, but Paul made an exception on immigration. In fact, his statement on immigration was perhaps stronger than both Obama’s and Rubio’s:
“We [the Tea Party] are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future,” Paul said. “We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities.”
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