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Rep. Ryan says immigration reform good for local business, schools

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Frank Schultz
July 19, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Paul Ryan says immigration reform will benefit honest employers in Wisconsin's 1st District who are competing with businesses that hire lower-wage workers who are in the country illegally.
Reform also would help curb Wisconsin's heroin epidemic, fueled by Mexican drug cartels that “are getting out of control,” Ryan said.
“We do not have good control of our border, and those drugs are coming into our schools,” Ryan said.
Ryan is such an ardent supporter of reform that Democrats have taken to saying kinds words about the Republican who was Mitt Romney's running mate nine months ago.
Ryan dismisses his role as a savior of a Democratic initiative as media hype and takes President Barack Obama to task, saying any reform laws must be written carefully because the administration can't be trusted.
Ryan spoke about his role in the House immigration debate in a phone interview with The Gazette on Thursday.
What I'm trying to do is to get everybody talking to each other so we can find where that consensus lies,” Ryan said.
Ryan said conservatives who reject immigration reform should consider that the current system is defacto anmesty for some 11 million people who are here illegally.
“We don't know who's coming and going in this country. And we don't know if people are overstaying their visas, and that's a national security problem,” Ryan said. “We also don't have an immigration system wired to help our economy grow.”
The system could be structured to help dairy farmers, tree nurseries and the hospitality industry, which suffer from worker shortages, Ryan said.
To get any consensus, border security is a must, Ryan said.
“There's a lack of trust in the Obama administration in enforcing laws. Perfect evidence is the recent delay of the employer mandate for Obamacare, so we need to make sure we write laws that cannot be dodged, that must be enforced. That means credible border and interior security triggers,” Ryan said. “It means fixing legal immigration so that it works well, and at the end of the day we want to have a better presence on the border but we take pressure off the border because legal immigration works.”
Ryan also wants a system that allows employers to electronically check with government agencies so they know the person applying for a job is not faking his identity.
The current system allows someone to forge documents and steal someone's identity to get a job, Ryan said. An “e-verify system” would allow an employer make sure applicants are who they say they are and are here legally.
Ryan outlined a difficult path to citizenship for those here illegally, starting with a probationary period in which they must pay fines and taxes, work, learn civics and English and be denied welfare for 10 years, “and if you break the terms of that probation, then you can be deported. And when you want to regularize, become legal by getting a visa, you have to get at the back of the line, and you'll get nothing different than any other immigrant can get. That is making people acknowledge that they broke the law, making them pay a consequence for breaking the law and preferencing the legal immigrant who did things right in the first place by putting them in the front of the line.”
Ryan backs a special provision to deal with children brought here illegally.
“These are kids who were brought here when they were 1 or 2 or 3 years old. It's the only country they know, and I think we can and should make an exception for them.”
Ryan said the House would likely take up immigration in September. He said getting a law passed this year is “definitely within the realm of possibility.”
Failure to pass reforms would be a failure for the Republican Party, he said.
But the House Republicans will do it their way, dismissing the bipartisan reform package passed in the Senate, Ryan said.
Ryan said the House version of immigration reform would be in five or six pieces because a comprehensive bill with thousands of pages is one that lawmakers have no time to read.
“A lot of provisions get snuck in the bills that you don't know about until after they've passed,” he said.
At a Republican caucus last week, the consensus was that the immigration system is broken and needs fixing, Ryan said.
“Now, what we--and I in particular--are trying to do is to try to get consensus to try and fix the problem,” he said.


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