Video: Paul Ryan Lays Out GOP Immigration Plan to Illegal Aliens at Townhall: ‘This is the American Ideal’


On Friday, Representative and erstwhile Vice President hopeful Paul Ryan laid out his position on the immigration legislation being developed in the House at a “Hispanic Listening Session” Townhall format. The audience included some illegal aliens, who even addressed Paul Ryan, asking questions, and speaking of their experience.

From the Journal Sentinel:

“A lot of people are saying, just pass the Senate bill,” Ryan said. “That’s not what the House is going to do.

“I think we can make it better.”

“I’m not doing this for politics,” Ryan later said. “I think it’s the right thing to do for the country.”

Ryan said in the House, where the Republicans are in the majority, the intent “is to bring about five or six bills…to fix these problems in our immigration laws one step at a time in a comprehensive way.”

Ryan said negotiations are underway to bring “these various bills to the floor of Congress.”

This was one of the more controversial aspects of the “comprehensive immigration bill” passed in the Democrat controlled Senate. Critics of the bill have charged that with improper enforcement triggers, the Senate bill would grant legalization to those illegally in America, and then citizenship while not making any substantive efforts to keep out new illegal aliens.

It remains to be seen how the bills will balance the different aspects of immigration policy. It’s clear that there will be a legalization provision, but it will take longer than the Senate bill:

Ryan also said, “We’re going to vote on a bill to legalize people who are undocumented.”

Under such a plan, those who are here illegally would have to wait a minimum of 15 years to gain citizenship, two years longer than the Senate version of immigration reform. But they would be eligible to receive a “probationary visa” Ryan said.

“We want to give people an ability to come out of the shadows and get themselves right with the law,” he said.

Ryan went out of his way to tell the crowd how he thought immigrants were important to America, striking a very conciliatory tone. This was in response to Representative King’s controversial statement that for every “Dreamer” that’s, “a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that, they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Paul Ryan rejected the statement vehemently when asked by a questioner:

“Representative King’s remarks, I disagree with, I disavow, and they’re wrong.”

Video of the question and Paul Ryan at ThinkProgress.

He then continued buttering up the illegals after getting someone’s life story:

Gustavo Vargas, 35, a Mexican-born laborer who lives in Racine, told Ryan of his yearning to become an American citizen and of the decision he made back in 2004 to bury his infant son in the United States.

“Listening to him, looking him in the eye, seeing his sincerity, what I get coming to me is, this is the American Dream, this is the American ideal,” Ryan said.

Later, Vargas said he spoke up because he wanted to let the congressman know “how hard it is to be an immigrant and how hard it is to be a father and try to support a family.”

Those who are against the Senate immigration bill would do well to imitate Ryan here – it is proper to feel some sympathy for those who have no recourse than to break the law in order to feed their families. Republicans can be opposed to illegal immigration without having to be insulting about it, which many Hispanics take as a hostility to all immigration.

Ryan seemed to try to compromise between the two positions, as he defended the longer 15-year waiting period to the illegal aliens who were upset at the extensive delay:

“We want to make sure we’re fair to the legal immigrant,” he said. “We want to make sure the law does not reward people for quote, unquote, cutting in line. We want to make sure that that person who came here legally in the first place who waited patiently, that they’re respected by being at the front of the line.”

Ryan added, “So, yes, it may be difficult and it might take 15 years for a person to get right. But I think that’s a pretty good deal given that we have all these undocumented Americans.”

If this is actually a robust waiting period instead of that in the Senate bill, which many critics claim have loopholes allowing too many illegals to skip the wait, some may oppose it based on reasoning that if it’s too difficult, illegals will prefer not to wait.

Again, unless there is real enforcement accompanying this waiting period, any difficulty added will act as a dis-incentive to illegal aliens to apply for legalization. In fact, a large proportion of illegal aliens did the same when Reagan’s expansive amnesty bill passed.

A last thing to consider if the legalization provisions are too soft, a recent poll shows that illegal immigrants favor the Democrat party by an 8-1 margin.

With the concessions to the conservative critics of amnesty, Paul Ryan will have a slightly less difficult time defending the House immigration legislation than Marco Rubio had defending the Senate bill. But the true test will be whether critics will be able to find loopholes in enforcement provisions.