Republican presidential contender Ron Paul told an influential group of Hispanics on Wednesday that he favors an easier path for legal immigration to the United States.
"I just do not believe barbed wire fences and guns on our borders will solve any of our problems," the Texas congressman told a group of about 100 people Wednesday morning.
Paul, in town ahead of Saturday's Republican caucus, was the only Republican candidate to accept an invitation to speak before the Las Vegas group Hispanics in Politics. Paul, the candidate who has most actively reached out to Hispanic voters, finished second in Nevada to current Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in 2008. Romney is expected to finish first again, but Paul has made it clear he intends to do well here.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, plans to reach out to several dozen invited Hispanic business leaders on Thursday at Mundo Restaurant in Las Vegas, his campaign confirmed.
Paul spoke in detail about immigration policy, saying he favored legal immigration, though he did not like a lot about so-called amnesty programs that would allow people who have been in this country illegally to gain citizenship. He said that would be rewarding lawbreakers.
He said there is too much emotion involved in the immigration issue, comparing how some people blame the illegal immigration problem for the nation's economic problems with how the Nazis used Jews as scapegoats in the buildup to World War II.
He also said the nation "overreacted" to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as far as immigration goes, and that there is too much red tape for immigrants and others to contend with. He does not favor issuing national identification cards, either, he said.
"I don't want to live in a country where we have to have our papers" to conduct ordinary business, he said.
Simply deporting immigrants who are not here legally is no solution, Paul said. He said he has seen families separated by such actions, and that it is not good policy to send someone to their country of origin if they have been here most of their lives. It would also be a logistical nightmare to deport all illegal immigrants, he said.
"That makes no sense at all to do that," Paul told the crowd.
He said the nation should instead make it easier for people to immigrate here legally. Most immigrants, he said, come here because they believe in the American dream.
He said everybody wants the same thing, no matter what group they belong to: freedom.
"That should bring us all together," he said.
Paul, who spoke for about a half hour Wednesday and answered a few questions afterward, has focused on gaining supporters among diverse groups: Hispanics, veterans, young voters and Mormons, who have previously backed their fellow church-goer Romney.
Michael G. McDonald, 53, said he was supporting Paul because he was the only candidate in either party who is honest about revamping the country's monetary policy.
"He's the only alternative we have," said McDonald, who attended Wednesday's event and plans to participate in Saturday's caucuses.
He said that if Paul does not gain the Republican nomination, he will vote the way he has been voting for a decade: For "none of these candidates," an option unique to Nevadans.
Edwin Aguilar, 22, attended the event, too. He said he is not yet a citizen, so he cannot vote. But he said he is here legally from El Salvador, and he wants to spread the word about Paul.
"I believe Ron Paul's message is universal," Aguilar said. "It appeals to anybody from any background. Peace, liberty, freedom."
Paul emphasizes returning the country's currency to the gold standard, dramatically reducing government spending and regulations, and emphasizing individual rights over government policy. He tends to appeal to libertarian-minded Nevadans.
Marlene Simpson, 50, said she would support Paul in Saturday's caucus. She likes that he wants to focus on domestic policy, rather than the goings on around the world.
Paul, as he often does, railed against the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, particularly the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act.
He said that if elected, he would immediately bring the troops home.
"We've spent too much time meddling in the affairs of other nations," he said. "I think we ought to stop all that."
Review-Journal reporter Laura Myers contributed to this report. Contact reporter Richard Lake at email@example.com or 702-383-0307.