Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was dismissive on Thursday of conservative critics such as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, saying their arguments against immigration reform were misguided.
"I've got a news flash for those who want to call people names on amnesty: what we have now is de facto amnesty," he said in an appearance on Fox News. "We have 11 million people here. They've been here, some of them, for a decade or more. No one is telling them to go home, no one's sending them home."
Paul delivered a speech on Tuesday in support of immigration reform to legalize undocumented immigrants already in the United States and later allow them to become citizens. He disputed reports that it was an endorsement of a pathway to citizenship, but also said he would not support a policy that banned naturalization for undocumented immigrants.
For one, he argued, it would be good politically. Republicans have increasingly struggled with Latino voters, who support a path to citizenship by large margins. A majority of Americans -- 63 percent -- as a whole also support a pathway, according to a poll released on Thursday by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Paul said other Republicans are wrong when they say pushing for reform will hurt the GOP.
"Here's another news flash," he said. "We haven't been too competitive in the last two national elections."
The Republican National Committee announced its support on Monday for immigration reform -- although without going into specifics -- based in part on what it considered an electoral need.
According to Coulter and Limbaugh, though, such a move would doom the party.
Fox played a clip of Coulter saying Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would create more Democratic voters.
"If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election," Coulter insisted at the conference.
Fox News also referenced Limbaugh, a conservative radio host who has likewise argued that Latinos will never vote Republican in large numbers, regardless of immigration support.
That's not backed up in polling: A survey released Monday by Latino Decisions found that 32 percent of Latino voters said they would be more likely to vote Republican if the GOP helped to pass immigration reform.
Anyway, it would be worth a shot, Paul said in a Fox News appearance on Wednesday.
"The ideas I'm talking about could help Republicans grow in areas like California, New England, Illinois -- states who have given up on Republicans," he said. "So we do have to think about new ideas if we're going to be competitive as a national party."