WASHINGTON - Sen. Rand Paul concedes that on immigration, he is stuck between what he says is polarized wording: He won't say the word "citizenship" in describing his pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, and his followers won't stop calling the road to full citizenship "amnesty."
In a phone press conference this afternoon to explain his earlier remarks to reporters, the Kentucky senator - who is clearly testing the presidential campaign waters - said: "I think we're trapped, the immigration debate is trapped by two terms, 'path to citizenship' and 'amnesty' … Can't we have reform and just not call them by names that discourage the progress going further?"
Paul says he is open to putting the 11 million undocumented immigrants to work legally, but doesn't want to use the word citizen. His plan would allow a probationary work period, followed by a green card, and then finally full rights without a return to the immigrant's home country, he said.
"As long as they don't get in a new line, they would just get in the current line," he said. "As long as those here want to work, I'd get them work visas as long as they want to apply, get in the normal … not a new pathway, it's an existing pathway."
Paul says he is still having trouble with the whole concept of rewarding those who came into the country illegally, but concedes the party needs Latino votes.
"We need to show up and ask for their votes - say the Republican Party is not hostile to you as a person," he said.
So it seems the senator is for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, as long as you don't call it that.