Paul Ryan and illegal immigrants: A history of support

Paul Ryan has a troubling record on immigration. Is this the result of a hardline libertarian philosophy, or simply being an insider for too long? Photo: Associated Press

FLORIDA, August 16, 2012 — Paul Ryan was thrust into the center of public awareness when Mitt Romney chose him as his running mate. We’ve heard a great deal about his views on budget and Medicare, but what do we know about his other policy stances?

While reports about Ryan’s family and upbringing in down home Wisconsin are nice enough, a startling trend has received far less attention. This does not have anything to do with his support of Medicare and Social Security privatization — which seems likely to cost the Republican ticket support among seniors — but something far more perilous.

What could this possibly be? After all, alienating one of the GOP’s most loyal voting blocs has to be as bad as it gets, right?

Almost, though not necessarily. 

It seems that Ryan likes amnesty programs for illegal aliens. This dates back to his time as a staffer for Jack Kemp, the quintessential bleeding heart conservative, and Sam Brownback, who often seems more interested in leading a religious revival rather than actually governing. 

In 1994, Ryan decided to join the fray over California’s Proposition 187. Unlike most Republicans, though, he was firmly on the opposing side. After the referendum found voter approval anyhow, he channeled his activism into a reliable voting record for the interests of mass immigration. In 2002, 2006, and 2009, he supported measures which would have legalized the residency of an incalculable number of illegal aliens. 

Can you imagine how this would have played out in the Great Recession? It’s a frightening thought.

Back in the 1990s, Ryan was a member of what a Wired Magazine reporter called “the pro-immigration mafia.” Aside from campaigning against 187, activities in this group entailed undermining Texas Representative Lamar Smith’s efforts to establish reasonable immigration standards. According to Wired, Ryan was at the helm of an intra-congressional letter writing scheme designed to erode support for the plan. 

“Once people learned what was actually in the bill, we were able to peel them off, one by one,” he boasted.

Nonetheless, Ryan has managed score a few pro-citizen votes. He did not embrace the DREAM Act, stand against border security measures, or favor minimal penalties for being in this country unlawfully.

“Although he has co-sponsored amnesties to give illegal aliens a path to citizenship, I can’t find examples of Ryan making speeches, writing op-eds or otherwise publicly advocating for the amnesty,” NumbersUSA executive director Roy Beck noted. 

There can be no sugarcoating Ryan’s history on the illegal immigration issue. Considering that America is in the midst of a volatile economic climate, there can be little room for his recurring tendency to waffle, if not lurch. Thankfully, Romney has proven himself to be a stalwart opponent of counterproductive immigration policies. With any luck, he should manage to balance out Ryan’s critical weakness in this regard.

We should hope, at least.

In the long term, however, Ryan’s brand of conservatism is more than a bit troubling. By focusing on strongly libertarian economic theories, rather than considering practical realties, it would seem that he is ushering in an era of ivory tower Republicanism. Like so many other things, hardline libertarian philosophy may sound great in theory, but never meets expectations in practice.

Perhaps this is understandable as Ryan has been a public officeholder or political operative for most of his adult life. He is afforded the luxury of crafting daring pieces of legislation without ever having to face the brunt of their consequences. One must remember that for all of his small government rhetoric, he is paid a very comfortable public sector salary, with benefits that the overwhelming majority of Americans can only dream about.

In short, he is in the position to say very impressive things. At the end of the day, though, he has profited handsomely off of the very system that he wishes to downsize. It seems that there is more than a hint of immaturity behind his plans, and this is indicative of a man who — unlike his running mate — has very limited professional experience outside of the political realm. 

If nothing else, Paul Ryan is the textbook definition of a career politician.


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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