Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said in a controversial quip on Thursday during an interview on KFYR 550 AM in Bismarck, ND, that he and the Republican advocates of immigration reform are being careful not to push undocumented immigrants into the citizenship process.
“We don’t want to push people into citizenship,” Ryan said. “Most people just want legal status so they can work to provide for their families.”
Ryan has proven to be one of the House’s most outspoken advocates of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes a 13-year path for citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The bill has been met largely with opposition from the GOP delegates, many of whom are against any bill that may provide “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants. Ryan has sought to bridge the gap between liberal supporters of the bill and the conservative opposition, even citing his own Irish heritage as an argument for the bill. Last month, Ryan stressed in an interview that the citizenship path laid out by the bill is not the “amnesty” so many conservatives want to avoid.
“At the end of the day, if everybody else in line who came here legally and did everything right is through the system and a person then, after an exhaustive period, after a probationary period, after a green card, not consuming any government benefits, wants to get in line like everybody else for citizenship, we should allow that person to do that,” he said in a June interview. “That’s earning the right to become a citizen.”
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The comment in Thursday’s radio interview seemingly debunked his remarks last month as well as the platform he has embraced in regards to immigration reform, as it seemed to suggest Ryan’s belief that undocumented immigrants would not seek citizenship if allowed to work legally within the United States. However, a spokesperson for Ryan, Kevin Seifert, later clarified Ryan’s intended meaning.
“Ryan simply said we don’t need a special pathway to citizenship to fix our immigration system,” Seifert explained.