Paul Ryan: Immigration Bills Dead, At Least for This Year

by Joel Gehrke

Representative Paul Ryan (R., Wis.,) has given up on passing legislation to overhaul the current immigration system because the border crisis has poisoned the political atmosphere for such an effort, at least for this year.

“It has poisoned it now, that’s for sure,” Ryan told National Review Online, saying he didn’t know if the legislative debate would be feasible next year. “For this session, I believe that’s right.”

Ryan also summarized his view of how to resolve the border crisis. “The ultimate goal ought to be to secure the border, get the resources at the border that you need (and that’s where I think there’s a case for a supplemental; they’re burning through funds). But you’ve got to change the human trafficking law so that we’re not resettling people within the interior of the country, because all that does is create the incentive for more to come,” he said, during an interview after his speech at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies.

It’s not clear if the House will pass a supplemental appropriations bill without border security provisions included in the legislation. “The question is, what all do we put in this, or do we pass a couple measures? And that’s an ongoing debate,” Ryan said.

Ryan also defended his efforts to pass an immigration overhaul, saying that the legislation should secure the border, and having verified that it was secure, change legal immigration programs to meet labor shortages in the United States.

“For the undocumenteds, I’d give a probationary period,” he told a group of Hillsdale College students. “I’d have people earn their way toward just a work permit by putting them on probation. they’d waive their right an appeal. They’d sign an affidavit that they broke the law. They’d pay a fine, do a background check, they’d have to learn civics, learn English — basically assimilate; can’t be on welfare, and have to work, and can’t have a criminal record, of course. They’d have to do that for five years. And until, if and until, the government gets it’s border secure and all these security measures, they can’t get out of probation until the government has done it’s job securing the border. Then, after five years, if they did everything right on their terms of probation, give them a work permit just to be able to work, just like a guest worker program.”

Such a process would not be an “amnesty,” Ryan argued. “That took me, what, 12 sentences? That’s the problem with this stuff,” he told the students. “People say, ‘amnesty!’ No, it’s taking a problem that’s intractable, that’s been around forever, and trying to fix it in a way that as best guarantees as you can that we’re not going to be in the same [situation] ten years from now. And that really means: have employer laws that work; have a border that’s secure; and have a legal immigration system that works well.”

Ryan said that improving a guest worker program would be critical to securing the border, because it would mean that only criminal immigrants were trying to cross illegally. None of this would take place until certain “hard triggers” regarding border security are met.

“It’s not ‘trust, but verify;’ it’s verify, then trust,” he said.