Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been billed as the most promising advocate for immigration reform in the House, which is weighing the comprehensive bill passed by the Senate in June. But on Thursday, Ryan seemed to back away from the bill’s cornerstone, the 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
On KFYR 550 AM in Bismark, ND, Ryan claimed that these immigrants are more interested in finding jobs than becoming citizens. “We don’t want to push people into citizenship,” Ryan said. “Most people just want to have a legal status so they can work to provide for their families.”
Many House Republicans staunchly oppose the path to citizenship and refuse to support any bill that provides “amnesty.” At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he will only bring the vote to the floor if a majority of Republicans support it.
Ryan has worked hard to sell immigration reform to his peers, even invoking his own Irish immigrant lineage.
The congressman debunked his own claim that undocumented immigrants might be “pushed” into citizenship a few weeks ago, when he stressed how arduous the process would be: “At the end of the day, if everybody else in line who came here legally and did everything right is through the system and a person then, after an exhaustive period, after a probationary period, after a green card, not consuming any government benefits, wants to get in line like everybody else for citizenship, we should allow that person to do that. That’s earning the right to become a citizen.”
Nor is it true that undocumented immigrants are indifferent to becoming citizens. While legal access to jobs will certainly transform lives, most undocumented families feel deeply connected to the U.S. and dream of achieving citizenship. In fact, almost 90 percent of undocumented immigrants said they would apply for citizenship if allowed. The vast majority have family members who are U.S. citizens. Moreover, citizenship opens up more job opportunities and wage gains. Granting citizenship would also boost the economy; immigrants would pay more in state and local taxes if they became citizens.
Just 13 percent of Americans think the path to citizenship should be stripped from the Senate’s immigration bill. Polls have found repeatedly that most Americans support a path to citizenship, with a smaller majority supporting a much faster 5-year timeline instead of the Senate’s 13-year plan.
A Ryan spokesperson told Rebecca Berg of the Washington Examiner, “Ryan simply said we don’t need a special pathway to citizenship to fix our immigration system.”