On Tuesday, Kentucky senator Rand Paul delivered a speech in favor of legalizing the status of illegal immigrants and opening up a path to citizenship for them. Immigration hawks were not pleased. "He just pissed away the [presidential] nomination quite honestly," said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. "That's what he did today."
Paul had previously supported the idea of immigration reform, but the speech removed any possibility that he might move right and challenge the establishment on the issue. Amnesty opponents were left feeling glum about their prospects for a presidential candidate. "I'm honestly looking for someone I can support in 2016," Krikorian told me over the phone.
According to New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, Paul's speech meant that opponents of comprehensive immigration reform won't have a top-tier presidential candidate in 2016. "All of the major 2016 figures — Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker — support comprehensive reform," wrote Chait. "Whichever candidate eventually emerges to speak for the anti-reform base — and one will; the lure of a mass followership and free time on Fox News is too great to pass up — will probably be a Herman Cain–esque huckster running a protest race rather than a serious candidacy."
But one serious potential presidential candidate was overlooked: Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.
"He doesn't seem to have talked about it much," Krikorian told me. "I haven't heard him say anything about it other than just talk about his own family experience." Jindal hasn't spoken a lot about the issue, but in his 2010 book, Leadership and Crisis, Jindal criticized those who "think we should open up our borders and grant amnesty to millions of illegals who broke the law when they crossed the border." Jindal did not mention any policies to accommodate the illegal immigrants already living in the United States. He wrote that we should simply secure the border and "enforce our existing immigration laws."
"Former Senator Fred Thompson said it well when he noted that we should be a nation of high fences and wide gates," wrote Jindal. "In other words, we need to find a controlled way to continue welcoming immigrants. That approach would require three main things: first, ensure that our borders are secure—not talk about it or study it, just do it; second, enforce our existing immigration laws; and third, refocus our legal immigration policy to encourage high-skilled immigrants who embrace American values. I also think we need to continue to be a place where refugees fleeing persecution, such as those escaping Communist Cuba, can find safe harbor and a new home."
Of course, Jindal wrote those words in 2010. What does he think now about a "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants in the country or at least legalizing their status? Jindal's spokesman has not yet replied to an inquiry from THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
Immigration hawks are eagerly awaiting an answer.