GOP slowly shifting away from immigration hardline

Even the House is reportedly "very close" to an immigration deal that includes a pathway to citizenship

Topics: Rand Paul, Immigration Reform, Republicans, House Republicans, John Boehner,

As Republicans try to court the ever-growing Hispanic demographic and make up for losses in 2012, opposition to immigration reform is slowly crumbling away. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., an early potential contender for president in 2016, was the latest on Tuesday to imply his openness to a pathway to citizenship, saying in a speech that if undocumented immigrants want to work in this country, “then we will find a place for you.”

The New York Times reports:

[The] new political landscape in Washington contrasts sharply with just a few years ago, when most Republicans derided the idea of legalized status for illegal immigrants as a form of amnesty that would simply encourage more people to cross the border illegally.

The overall shift in sentiment means that four months after Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, made “self-deportation” the party’s official position on immigration — and lost decisively to President Obama, especially among Hispanic voters — top party strategists and lawmakers of all ideological stripes are racing to change course.

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“I think they’ve found themselves on the road to Damascus, or they understand that this issue is very, very important,” Sen. John McCain, who is a member of the “Gang of Eight” senators that is working on immigration reform, told the Times.

“I just think the 2012 election was a bit of a wake-up call,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, also in the “Gang of Eight.”

But what about the House? Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday that the House is “very close” to a bipartisan deal on immigration reform, and that it includes a pathway to citizenship.

Without indicating whether or not he’d support it, House Speaker John Boehner also said on Tuesday that the House plan “is frankly a pretty responsible solution.” His spokesman Michael Steel sort of elaborated, saying Boehner  ”has not embraced any one solution, but believes it is important for our members to continue to work and make progress on this issue.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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