As the 2016 presidential field begins to take shape, Latinos should keep their eye on Kentucky senator, and presumptive presidential hopeful, Rand Paul.
Through his first two and a half years in the Senate, Senator Paul has been championing policies that directly benefit the Latino community. While the rest of the Republican Party continues to mull over their November loss and unsuccessful attempt at Hispanic outreach, Senator Paul has taken principled stands on issues such as immigration and primary education.
He is doing what so many other Republicans should be doing — advocating policies that will create more opportunities for the Latino community and ultimately benefit our nation.
- Michelle Fields
Unlike many of his Republican colleagues, Paul supports reform that allows undocumented immigrants to come out from the shadows and become taxpaying members of society. His immigration plan primarily involves securing the border coupled with an immediate expansion of the work visa program. The plan would cover two million undocumented immigrants per year, starting with the Dream Act Kids. Affected immigrants would receive temporary visas, but would still have to wait in line just like everyone else for permanent citizenship.
Unlike the Gang of Eight’s plan, Paul’s plan does not force undocumented immigrants to pay unreasonably harsh penalties in order to get probationary legal status. Most undocumented immigrants work low-wage jobs in America and cannot afford to pay back years of taxes. Such a harsh penalty would just convince undocumented immigrants to remain illegal, which would undermine the entire point of immigration reform.
Paul also supports legislation that will repeal mandatory minimum sentencing for federal drug offenses. The law, as it currently exists, disproportionately affects the Latino community and too often leads to prison sentences that are unfit for the offender. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, Hispanics account for 44 percent of drug offenders who get a mandatory minimum penalty. The policy has sent countless Latinos into our bloated prison system for nonviolent offenses, yet has done little to reduce crime in our country.
Mandatory minimum sentencing not only hurts the Latino community, but also affects every American taxpayer because they are the ones who have to pick up the tab for outrageously lengthy minimum sentences.
Paul has teamed up with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013. The plan dismantles the one-size-fits-all approach to drug offenders and offers judges some leeway to give out sentences below the minimum. Further, it helps alleviate our dangerously overcrowded prison system.
School choice is another area where Paul’s advocacy should find a sounding board among the Hispanic community. Latinos currently make up the largest minority group in America’s schools. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, one in four public elementary school students are Latino. Unfortunately, they are also more likely to attend our country’s worst performing schools and drop out.
Right now, Latinos who live in neighborhoods without good public schools have difficulty accessing quality education. Part of our country’s economic health must rely on the success of our nation’s fastest growing minority group.
Paul has been a vocal advocate for school choice, calling it the “civil rights issue of our day.” School choice would give parents and children the power to choose their education based on their needs and interests, not their home address. For these reasons, Paul introduced legislation in the Senate that would allow $14 billion to go to low-income students. The students could use the funds as either a scholarship or voucher as well as give them school choice.
As the battle for 2016 begins, Latinos have many reasons to stand with Rand. He is doing what so many other Republicans should be doing — advocating policies that will create more opportunities for the Latino community and ultimately benefit our nation.
Michelle Fields is a correspondent for Next Generation.TV where she co-hosts an online daily news show with former Congressman Allen West. Fields appears regularly on both Fox News and Fox Business programs.