The Corner

Paul Ryan Immigration Q&A

Over on the home page, I take a close look at the immigration state of play in the House, finding that the much-heralded Senate bill is dead on arrival in the lower chamber. In interviews with over 25 House Republicans, none expressed support for the Senate bill as is.

That doesn’t mean immigration per se is dead. The House is going to try to pass its own piece-by-piece bills, and many Republicans are eager to go to conference committee with the Senate on the issue. The so-called “Hastert rule” will keep any House bill on the topic well to the right of the Gang of Eight’s legislation.

For the story, I spoke with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who has recently emerged as a key figure in the debate. Ryan will play a Marco Rubio-like role in the House, using his sterling conservative credentials to help move forward legislation that many conservatives oppose.

Ryan has come close to outright endorsing the work of a secretive bipartisan “gang” in the House that has yet to release its bill, but in the interview, he downplayed his role in the group’s negotiations. Full Q&A after the jump. 

Why are you more optimistic about the House passing immigration than other people who are following the issue closely?

Well, I don’t know. I can’t compare myself to others who are watching it. I just think, there are a lot of things we agree on. We agree on the need to fix the border, we agree on E-Verify, we agree on STEM visas, we agree on ag visas. So, right there are lots of things I think we could pass.

In the Senate, I think there are a lot of flaws in that bill but they’re moving closer to the House position on things like the border. So, what I see coming is a process that’s going to be far more methodical, it’s going to have the right kind of border triggers and E-Verify triggers, so I see the House doing a better job of getting this right and hopefully coming out with something better at the end of the day.

I was told you’ve been meeting individually with members about the House bipartisan gang’s bill.

I’ve met with them [the gang].

You’ve not been selling or explaining their bill to other people?

Nah, let me think, not really. No, I haven’t seen all their language. I’ve talked to, I don’t know if I, I don’t think it’d be accurate to say I’m meeting, going methodically through one-by-one. I’ve met with a few members outside of that group who’ve asked to talk about immigration. But, no, I’m not, I’m pretty busy doing budget stuff.

I guess the question is, would it be fair to call you a member of the gang at this point?

No, it’s not fair to call me a member of their gang. I’ve not been to one of their meetings, and I haven’t been negotiating their legislation. So, no.

Do you support what they’ve put together?

I haven’t seen it yet.

You haven’t?

No, not all of it, no. I’ve seen some of it, but no. I support the fact that they’re working together. I support the fact that they’re trying to get to a good agreement. But I’m not in there negotiating and so you can’t say I’m part of the seven. I’m literally not in the room with them, I’ve never once been to their meetings. But I’m supportive of the fact that they’re trying to put together an agreement. I think that’s a good idea.

In your mind, does enforcement have to come before the initial legalization for there to be a bill here?

Well, I like the process they’re describing which is, the person goes on probation, it’s a probationary visa. A non-immigrant work visa. And the border triggers have to be satisfied. The E-Verify triggers have to be satisfied before they can get out of probation. I think that’s the smart way to do it. And I think that makes a lot of sense.

And the future flow, I know you guys don’t agree with, but I think the future flow is really important. I think you have to have a legal immigration system that’s designed for the economy, for jobs and growth. And I think having a good future flow policy will help guarantee that we don’t have this problem ten years down the road.

Do you ever worry you’re undercutting House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte . . .

Not in the least.

. . . He’s got his piecemeal process . . .

I don’t support one big bill coming to the floor.

Isn’t that what the House gang is planning?

I think we should break it up. I’ve always said that to the House gang, too. I think the House gang, they’re going to put together a framework, they’re going to put together policies, but I think it’s smarter to have each piece considered in incremental pieces as we come to the floor instead of one big bill.

Do you know when the first immigration bill is likely to hit the House floor?

I don’t know. We’re going to have a conference July 10 to discuss that.

What are your thoughts on Corker-Hoeven?

They’re moving closer to the House position. I haven’t read the full thing so I really don’t know how – it’s a pretty big amendment. I’ve been more focused on what we’re doing over here in the House. But I think it’s good that they’re moving closer to our position, which is, we have to have actual border enforcement.

To me, you can’t leave it up to subjective judgment of the executive branch, you have to have actual metrics that constitute what we believe defines border enforcement and those metrics have to be put in triggers and you also have to have E-Verify triggers. That’s the kind of language that the gang of seven have been negotiating successfully. That’s the kind of language that we’re talking about over here in the House. That’s the kind of language that people like Goodlatte agree with. So that’s where I see common ground and I see the House making a big improvement on this thing.

Is it important to you that the final bill, after the conference committee, receive the support of the majority of the Republican conference?

Yes, yes, it is.

So, Hastert rule?

Yes, yes, absolutely.

Do you think Rubio struck a relatively good deal given the leverage that he had?

I’m not, look, I’m not going to try and undercut those guys, but we’re going to do it differently over here in the House. And we’re going to go do our own bill. We’re not going to bring their bill up.

Are there any questions about immigration I should be asking you?

I don’t know [laughs], reporters always ask me this question. Only to say that I guess, what is it that I think we should do? As conservatives, we have to look at the world as it is, not as we want it to be. And the world as it is is an absolutely dysfunctional immigration system where we essentially reward people who break the rules and penalize people who follow the rules.

We don’t have operational control of our border. We don’t know if people who overstay their visas stay or leave the country. And we don’t have a legal immigration system that works for our economy. All of those things need to be fixed – I have long believed that. And I think we need to go through a process in the House to make sure we get it right. And we shouldn’t come out of conference until we have a bill that satisfies these principles from our perspective in the House.