Immigration Could Be Stumbling Block for Paul Ryan If He Runs for Speaker

Erin Kelly, USA Today, October 16, 2015

Paul Ryan’s support for an earned pathway to citizenship for many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants could be a stumbling block if he decides to run for House speaker, political analysts say.

The Republican congressman from Wisconsin has taken a moderate stance on immigration compared to the anti-immigration hardliners that dominate the House GOP caucus. Critics are already urging him to reject a bid for speaker to spare Republicans an internal fight over the divisive issue.

Ryan is reportedly considering a run for speaker after strong pressure from his GOP colleagues, who see him as someone who can unite the fractious caucus.

“It’s kind of an immigration moment of truth for the GOP,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “It comes down to the hardliners versus the rest of the party. Who wins?”

Conservative websites such as Breitbart News and anti-immigration groups are especially critical of Ryan’s decision to appear with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., at the City Club of Chicago in late 2013 to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

The plan they stumped for included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, increased border security, and fast-track legal status for young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally by their parents and attended U.S. colleges or served in the U.S. military. The Senate passed a sweeping immigration overhaul in 2013 that included those principles.

“Most of these Republican members are not really aware of how outspoken Ryan has been on immigration in recent years, especially his participation in the Gutierrez tour,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which wants to decrease immigration to the U.S. “In the past few days, they’ve been made aware of it.”

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Immigration hardliners can take comfort in the reality that lawmakers aren’t going to take up immigration reform in this session of Congress anyway, Pitney said. Ryan is reportedly considering a bid to serve as speaker only until a new Congress convenes in January 2017.

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But there is always the possibility that Ryan could stay on as speaker into the next Congress and push his pro-immigration agenda with the help of a new president, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes legal status for undocumented immigrants.

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