On Monday, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) appeared jointly with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) at the City Club of Chicago as part of a bipartisan effort to promote immigration reform.
The event sparked controversy when Ryan, pressed to address the impact of the Boston Marathon terror attack on the debate, said that the event ought to encourage the U.S. “to fix and modernize our immigration system.” Sympathetic critics charged that Ryan had waded into a “Boston-immigration reform non-sequitur.”
I spoke Tuesday with Rep. Ryan about the Chicago event, and about his views on immigration reform in general. He stressed that whatever the details of the Senate bill introduced by the “Gang of Eight,” the House would develop its own immigration reform legislation through “a good, painstaking effort to get it right.”
Breitbart News: Why appear with Rep. Gutierrez, who has some very radical views on immigration?
Rep. Ryan: We’ve been friends for many years. We have very different views on politics and philosophy, but Luis has shown great willingness to compromise and accommodate our concerns and our views on how best to do immigration reform. And when you have a Democrat who is willing to compromise to get a good agreement, to get good reform, who is willing to accommodate our demands on law enforcement and border security, then it’s worth working together.
Breitbart News: Your counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), has raised questions about trillions in entitlement spending on newly legalized immigrants.
Rep. Ryan: I’m spending my time focusing on helping the House develop our legislation. The Senate bill delays any benefits to illegal immigrants, includes deferral of benefits to the probationary immigrant population, and further clarifies the prevention of government benefits from accruing to permanent residents and non-citizens and so forth. And so I think it’s a view that does not take into account the full picture, which includes economic growth and labor force participation. Immigration actually contributes to faster economic growth, and that helps us with revenue and deficits. We as conservatives believe in reality-based scoring, and that a change in the law can change economic growth. And so we can write legislation to deny benefits to certain people to contain costs–which we will do–but another way to deal with deficits is to grow the economy. And immigration reform, structured rightly, based on skills–which is what this does–will help us grow the economy and help rescue our finances.
Breitbart News: What are your thoughts about the Senate bill?
Rep Ryan: I want to focus on the process in the House. We haven’t begun it yet, so I am staying away from the Senate bill except to say that I commend their efforts, and it is a good step in the right direction. I’m not getting into the substance of what they did right or wrong. The principle of having security first with triggers and enforceable, objective metrics is the right way to go, and the Senate bill works to achieve that, I believe.
Breitbart News: Are you worried that the legislative process is moving too quickly?
Rep. Ryan: No. I don’t worry about moving too quickly, because this has been a very methodical process to begin with. You just have to give these things a normal time to progress at a good pace.
Breitbart News: Do you think the Senate has scheduled enough hearings?
Rep. Ryan: I can’t speak to what [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman] Pat Leahy’s doing. I’m not that focused on the hearings. Over in the House, Rep. Bob Goodtlatte (R-VA) has laid out a very thorough agenda for getting immigration reform right. That’s why Goodlatte and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), together with both Republicans and Democrats, are painstakingly going through the details and going through negotiations. In the House, I see a good, painstaking effort to get it right. I’m not worried about whether they are going too fast in the Senate–I’m worried about whether we get it right. We won’t let it get ramrodded through.
Breitbart News: Does the Boston terror attack change anything?
Rep. Ryan: I don’t think so. If anything, it shows that we need to modernize our immigration laws. We don’t know who is overstaying their visa, we don’t know who is coming into the country, we don’t have firm control of our borders, and we need to modernize our laws. We have a clunky, 20th-century system that does not recognize the problem of undocumented people in the country. We need to modernize our system for the 21st century so that we can further our national security and have an immigration system that helps us grow our economy. We want to do it right, so we need long-term, enduring reforms so that we do not do the job halfway as in the previous two rounds of reform, in 1986 and 1996. Neither fixed the problem–they just created more problems. We can solve the problems by modernizing, using current technology, bringing the border under control, understanding who’s coming and going, and getting the workers we need to grow our economy.
Breitbart News: What do you make of the conservative response to the Senate bill so far?
Rep. Ryan: I don’t think it’s a unified response. I think there have been different views. We’re the party who believes in the rule of law and economic growth. We’re the party that believes in upward mobility and opportunity. And so we’re the party who believes in a functional immigration system, and the principles we’re talking about are important principles, and if they are embodied in immigration reform it will be successful in a long-term, enduring way.
Breitbart News: Do you trust the Democrats to make a commitment to border security?
Rep. Ryan: We’re trying to negotiate. Now is not the time to question the other side’s motives.