EAST LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Displaying his willingness to say what audiences don’t always want to hear, Rep. Ron Paul on Wednesday told a largely Hispanic crowd that he opposes the DREAM Act legislation aimed at helping children of illegal immigrants.
The legislation, which has stalled in Congress but passed in several states – including Paul’s home state of Texas -- offers in-state college tuition to undocumented students who attend high schools for at least three years and apply to become U.S. citizens. It also provides a path to citizenship for those who serve in the military.
But Paul told a town hall at an event sponsored by the group Hispanics in Politics that he objects on economic grounds. “I can’t endorse [it] because there is a lot of money involved,” the Republican presidential candidate said. “And you know there are a lot of subsidies in there between the billions of dollars.”
At the same time, Paul said he believes that Hispanics have been unfairly scapegoated. He said Americans historically have been more accepting of outsiders during prosperous times, but not when the economy sours.
"I believe Hispanics have been used as scapegoats, to say, they're the problem instead of being a symptom maybe of a problem with the welfare state," Paul told the group. "In Nazi Germany they had to have scapegoats to blame and they turned on the Jews.”
He also said he doesn’t subscribe to the commonly held Republican belief that border security must be made much more stringent. “As one who believes in individual liberty, the American spirit and the American dream, the one thing that I have resisted and condemned and think it is not the American way – I just do not believe that barbed-wired fences and guns on our border will solve any of our problems,“ he said.
And Paul said he doesn’t like the idea of deporting illegal immigrants to their home countries, as other GOP candidates have suggested. He said he would give “serious consideration” to such a move for those who have been found to break the law.
But he added, “I think 99 percent or a high percentage of people who come here, come here because they believe in the American dream.… And also I believe most immigrants come here with a very healthy work ethic.”
Paul sought to tailor his message to Nevada's battered economy by emphasizing his support of massive spending and tax cuts. Noting that the federal government controls about 85 percent of the state's land, he said he would eliminate the "unconstitutional" Interior Department and dramatically reduce federal land held in the state.
Paul, who has made withdrawing U.S. troops overseas a cornerstone of his campaign, was asked about Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's statement that the U.S.-led NATO coalition would wind down its combat mission in Afghanistan next year.
"It's a great idea; I'll believe it when I see it," Paul said as the crowd cheered.