Here’s today’s reminder that everyone in the field in 2016 will sound pretty much the same on immigration. Only Jeb, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, will go so far as to frame the issue as one of love and hate, but if you compare the reactions from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and now Rand Paul, you’ll see they’re all pushing the same basic line. On the one hand, we must follow the rule of law; on the other hand, most illegals are good people who face terrible hardship and should, at a minimum, have an easier route to entering the U.S. legally. That is to say, the trick for the next Republican nominee will be to come off as anti-illegal immigration, to please the base, but very pro-illegal immigrant, to reassure Latinos.

And so Jeb’s fulsome musings about “love” are challenged in only the mildest, most respectful terms.

“I think it wasn’t the most artful way of saying something, but I think he was well-intentioned,” Paul said in an interview with RealClearPolitics. “If I were to make the same point, I would say that people who seek the American dream are not bad people, but that doesn’t mean you can invite the whole world to come.”…

“But I think [Jeb’s critics] worried that if love is the criteria, what does that mean?” Paul added. “That everybody who’s got some love for their relatives can come? You know, the whole world loves America, and they can’t all come.”

Paul said that it was important to have a “healthy respect” for immigrants when engaging in the debate over immigration policy.

“They come to this country and they’re not bad people,” he said. “But we have to start with the first part then that the border can’t be open, and everything that’s offered to American citizens can’t just be offered to the world. We have this enormous welfare state that we can’t pay for on our own, so we can’t invite the world to be on it.”

The inherent tension of the anti-illegal immigration/pro-illegal immigrant approach is that the more sympathetic you are to the latter, logically the less firm you’ll be about the former. That’s especially true in Jeb’s case given that he also sees illegal immigration as an economic and social good. Remember last year how he celebrated the fact that immigrants tend to be more fertile? That’s a key part of his approach to entitlements — import enough young workers, especially fertile young workers, and they’ll help pay for the welfare state for decades to come. He made a similar point just yesterday in defending his “act of love” remarks. Youth, vitality — immigration!

“To be young and dynamic again we have to be young and dynamic again,” Bush said, adding that people need to view “immigration reform not as a problem, but as a huge opportunity.”…

“You know, I’ve been saying this for the last three or four years, I said the exact same thing that I’ve said regularly,” he said. “And the simple fact is, there is no conflict between enforcing our laws, believing in the rule of law and having some sensitivity to the immigrant experience, which is part of who we are as a country.”

“It is not an American value to allow people to stay in the shadows,” Bush added, saying he’d just learned of a high school athlete at Miami Beach High School who’s been in the U.S. since he was a young boy but who was told to go back “to his native land…[the message the young man received was] you’re not worthy of being successful in our country.”

Does that sound like a guy who’d take a firm line as president about improving border security as a condition of amnestizing the illegals who are already here? If they’re coming to America out of “love” and they’re bringing youth and dynamism and future entitlement revenue and it’s un-American to leave people “in the shadows,” why would you tighten the border at all? If anything, Jeb should be leading the charge against extra border security. It’s hateful!

Speaking of which, there’s a lot more “love” coming across the Texas border these days than there was a few years ago. Follow the link and scroll down, then have a look at the NYT’s graph. Not only is illegal immigration among Mexicans higher in that area than it’s been in 10 years, illegal immigration among people from countries other than Mexico is nearly off the charts, almost 10 times what it was in 2000. Exit quotation: “Word has gotten out that we’re giving people permission and walking them out the door.”