Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) addresses a breakfast meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) addresses a breakfast meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is in the spotlight right now, and just about any utterance is viewed in the context of him as a serious contender in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Fix’s Chris Cillizza has declared Paul is “the rabbit” to chase for the GOP presidential nomination. I’ll comment in a future post on how all this talk is more than just premature; it’s silly, pointless and could even be damaging to a politician who is positioning himself for a White House bid.

Anyway, Paul gave a speech today at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Summit, where he laid out his position on immigration reformIn his speech, Paul did not do what the enemies of the Republican Party wanted him to do, which is to stake out a harsh, unrealistic position on immigration. Instead, Paul’s approach gives cover to Republican leaders in Congress and to the states that are honestly trying to work on constructive reform. Paul stated this morning that we need to start the conversation on immigration by “acknowledging we aren’t going to deport 12 million illegal immigrants” and recognizing that we “must also treat those who are already here with understanding and compassion.”

Paul is right. It’s essential that we get to an honest and realistic place on immigration reform, starting with acknowledging the obvious that we are not going to deport 12 million people from the United States. Once we all agree on that, we can begin to explore what to do, given that those people are here and more are on the way.

If Paul were to demagogue on immigration it would set back the cause and diminish the likelihood of meaningful reform. The fact is that Republican leaders are afraid to cross Paul right now, and if he were to declare war on the pragmatists who are trying to craft legislation, everyone would run for the hills, there would be no possibility of reform and this issue would continue to damage Republicans with Hispanic voters.  But now the Republicans in Congress and in the states who are really working on the issue can proceed without the sword of Paul hanging over them.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.