Rising GOP Star Rand Paul shocked conservatives last week after revealing a controversial immigration stance in a speech to the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In his remarks, the Kentucky Senator clarified his disdain for deportation and acknowledged that the US is not capable of deporting 12 million people. Both the mainstream media and fellow conservatives chastised his plan, calling it a “Pathway to Citizenship,” even though he carefully avoided that term in his speech.

As the Republican Party looks to gain ground with Hispanic Voters, Paul’s plan was ironically met with contempt from pillars of the GOP Status Quo. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, released an article on the group’s website undermining Senator Paul and using the hash-tag “DontStandWithRand.” The Drudge Report also seemed shocked, releasing a tweet “RAND PAUL ENDORSES PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS.” It seems as if many of the same people who Senator Paul reinvigorated two weeks ago with his courageous filibuster have turned their backs on him overnight. While many conservatives are disappointed with Paul’s surprise this week, I have not joined their ranks. Instead, I see this as a great opportunity for the future of the Republican Party.

As conservatives, we must acknowledge that we are losing the immigration debate. Consequently, this not only dampers our ability to protect the border, but it also helps explain our failure to court Hispanic voters. Senator Paul has recognized this problem, and is attempting to address it: “Immigration Reform will not occur until Conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. I am here today to begin that conversation.”

I admire Rand Paul for his realism; he acknowledges the pitfalls of illegal immigration, but also recognizes the fact that many Right Wing solutions to immigration are impractical and alienating (no pun intended). How can conservatives advocate for small government but simultaneously support the deportation of 12 million people? How would that be financially, politically, and practically feasible? With this view, conservatives will continue to alienate Hispanics and independent voters, lose elections, and allow liberals to frame immigration policy. We need to swallow the bitter pill and adopt a realistic approach to immigration. Senator Paul has done just that.

NewColinSnellIcon (1)Yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio expressed support for Paul’s efforts. Both realize that in order to get the stronger border control we need, Republicans must enter the debate and lead on immigration reform. It is time for young Senators such as Paul and Rubio to take the GOP reigns in the Senate. The old guard has allowed the Democrats to frame the discussion and control the debate. We need the new breed of Republican Senators to take charge, and establish an alliance with Hispanic voters.

In my opinion, conservatives fail with Hispanics not because conservatism fails Hispanics, but because of a failure to properly articulate conservatism. The Republican Party has a lot to offer that Hispanics should find appealing: (The ideas of hard work, family values, and business friendly policies).There is no reason why the GOP should not be in contention for the Latino vote. I see Rand Paul’s speech as the inception of the New Republican Party. I hope to see the “big three” (Paul, Rubio, and Ted Cruz) become the poster boys of Republican success, and make our platforms more marketable to minority voters.

While Paul’s boldness disheartened many conservatives this week, he has entered the national immigration discussion, and by doing so will only garner more credibility for the Republican Party. While Paul’s plan is not entirely consistent with my own immigration views, I realize that it will open new opportunities for Republicans, help us grow our base, attain control of the immigration debate, and set us up for a sweeping victory in 2016.

Colin Snell | College of New Jersey | @SnellColin