Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in an interview published Thursday that he supports legislation ending the president's program to defer deportation for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Speaking to Breitbart News during a medical mission in Guatemala, Paul lent his backing to House Republican efforts to address the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will occasionally talk a good game about expanding the Republican Party, creating a more inclusive approach to conservative politics, and reaching out beyond the GOP's far-right, homogeneous base. But when it comes to immigration, when push comes to shove, the differences between Paul, Steve King, and Ted Cruz no longer exist. Sam Stein reported this morning:
The Kentucky Republican specifically said, "I'm supportive of the House bill and I think it will go a long way to fixing the problem." After complaining about the Senate Democratic leadership ignoring the House plan, Paul added, "I think there's a very good chance the House bill could pass in the Senate, but it won't ever pass if it doesn't ever see the light of day."
It's worth clarifying that there are actually two House bills, not one, which were packaged together, but the senator's office later clarified that Paul supports both.
And this, in turn, puts Paul squarely in the middle of what Greg Sargent calls the party of "maximum deportations."
It's been a few weeks, but let's not forget that House Republicans ignored their own leaders and rejected their own party's border bill. Left with no choice, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told far-right extremists they could craft their own legislation.
The result was ridiculous. Right-wing lawmakers largely ignored the humanitarian crisis the bill was originally intended to address, and instead targeted President Obama's DACA policy. The top Republican goal became the deportation of Dream Act kids. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the Republican Party's policy could effectively be described in three words: "Deport 'em all."
The proposals were, by any fair measure, a joke that included far-right provisions that GOP leaders had themselves rejected a few days prior. No one, including proponents, expected the House package to actually go anywhere legislatively -- it wasn't even the point. And yet, here's Rand Paul throwing his enthusiastic support to this right-wing nonsense.
I know, I know, I probably shouldn't be surprised. Paul is preparing for a national campaign, so it stands to reason he's looking for new and creative ways to pander to extremists, principles be damned.
But this latest posture will permanently ruin the senator's relationship with much of the Latino community. By endorsing the reactionary House package, Paul isn't just focusing on migrant children who recently fled Central America; he's specifically endorsing a plan that targets Dream Act kids for deportation. We're talking about youngsters who've been here for years and who see the United States as the only home they've ever known.
The Kentucky Republican likes to occasionally reverse course and pretend he never held his previous positions, but some positions are impossible to walk back.
All of this, by the way, comes against the backdrop of Rand Paul's trip to Guatemala, where he's done some eye exams for children, As Ed O'Keefe reported yesterday, it's a "stage-managed political voyage" in which the senator brought along three television cameras, three photographers, six reporters, a political aide, two press secretaries, and far-right activist David Bossie, perhaps best known for his role as the founder of Citizens United.
As for the larger political context, Paul is likely filming these eye exams to show off a compassionate side, but choreographed medicine is no substitute for a policy agenda.
As we've discussed several times before, after the 2012 elections, the party endorsed an "autopsy" commissioned by the Republican National Committee that said the party had to take a more constructive approach to immigration or pay the penalty of a massive demographic shift.
Confronted with the possibility of becoming the most aggressively anti-immigration party Americans have seen in generations, leading Republicans, including Rand Paul, have embraced the label with shocking enthusiasm.