Paul Ryan’s Defense of Amnesty


Yesterday, Tea Party Patriots highlighted the fiscally moderate record of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). This came to the surface in light of the Congressman’s support for amnesty in recent weeks. Here is just one example of what the Congressman has said:

I will debate anybody who tries to suggest that these ideas that are moving through Congress are amnesty. They’re not. Amnesty is wiping the slate clean and not paying any penalty for having done something wrong.

This week, Congressman Ryan entered a new stage of attempting to bridge the gap between fiscally conservative Republicans and those that are more establishment-oriented on immigration. Tea Party Patriots believes Congressman Ryan’s efforts will do a great deal of harm to the nation’s already tottering fiscal situation.

According to Ryan spokesperson Kevin Seifert, the Congressman is not engaging in talks over amnesty, nor is he attempting to bring the Senate bill to the House. “Congressman Ryan has said that the House will work its will on this issue. It will not take up the Senate proposal. With respect to the Senate bill, Congressman Ryan said the following to National Review”:

 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.

This is one of the key disagreements between Tea Party Patriots and Congressman Ryan – while he has faith in “triggers,” we do not. As Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) noted on Sunday, this Administration is clearly willing to ignore inconvenient parts of Obamacare. Why would it (or another administration) not do the same with the immigration triggers?

Furthermore, any version of the House trying to “work its will” is likely to be undone in a conference committee. The House GOP has a poor record of holding strong to any real reforms – the debt ceiling is but one recent example – when vying against the Senate’s big government crowd. Why would this negotiating situation be any different?

When it comes to the impact of any form of amnesty – what some call an “earned path to citizenship” –  on Social Security, the impacts are crippling. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) official assessment of the Senate bill hides this fact by lumping low-income illegal immigrants with high-income legal immigrants. The SSA estimate shows a modestly positive impact on the soon-to-be-extinct Social Security Trust Fund from the entire Senate bill. While some pretend this is a windfall to the program, Seifert e-mailed that Congressman Ryan does not believe “immigration reform would obviate the need to save and strengthen” Social Security and Medicare.

Seifert also stated that Congressman Ryan “opposes amnesty. He is pushing for immigration reform because, as both parties acknowledge, we need to fix our broken immigration system. He outlined the principles that should guide reform at an event in Chicago in April.”

The event in question is one at which Congressman Ryan stood with amnesty supporter Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to talk about immigration reform. According to Politico:

Ryan ticked off five benchmarks as part of an eventual bill: securing the borders, creating immigration laws that can be enforced, a “workable guest worker system,” a pathway to “earned legalization” that encourages undocumented immigrants to “come out of the shadows” and an expedited legalization process for children who were born in the U.S.

That mix of issues could satiate the GOP base’s desire for more stringent border enforcement, while meeting Democrats in the middle on a comprehensive immigration package. Ryan supports a pathway to citizenship, but at the same time argues that the “first order of business is to secure the border and have necessary triggers that border security metrics are being met before we proceed with the rest of immigration reform.” It’s a sign that the borders will have to be secure before the pathway to citizenship begins.

Again, the Congressman is far too reliant on triggers – rather than actual implementation – for border security to be in place before “earned legalization” takes place. Furthermore, his comments in the speech assume a certain level of economic growth that will take place with his version of immigration reform. According to Robert Rector, Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan’s, comments neglected to consider that the economic growth will largely benefit immigrants, not America as a whole.

Over the last several years, Congressman Ryan has become the face of fiscal conservatism in the GOP, even though his credentials in that area are more wishful thinking than reality. If he wants to keep his position as a public figure of the conservative vanguard, dressing Amnesty up in triggers and methodology is a poor choice.