Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has vowed not to address comprehensive immigration reform until President Barack Obama is out of office, a promise many say Ryan had to make in order to get selected as speaker.
Ryan, who previously spoke in favor of broad changes to immigration law, blamed the decision to delay action on immigration reform on President Barack Obama, writing in USA Today that Obama could not be trusted to uphold the law.
“Passing comprehensive reform during his presidency would merely render it meaningless,” Ryan wrote.
Groups on both sides of the immigration debate say that if he had not made this assurance, Speaker Ryan would still be Representative Ryan.
“I think he very well might have been blocked in this election if he had not made these promises,” Roy Beck — executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that works to reduce immigration levels — told AMI Newswire.
Lynn Tramonte with America’s Voice, which lobbies in favor of immigration reform, told AMI Newswire Ryan “made a pact with the devil” in order to get elected.
“That doesn’t show a lot of courage and conviction,” Tramonte said, "if you know the right policy to carry the country forward and you pledge to abandon it because you want to achieve a status within your party.”
Though Ryan’s concession may have helped in his run for speaker, Tramonte said it may throw a wrench in the GOP’s plan to get a Republican into the Oval Office.
Polling by Latino Decisions suggests a Republican presidential candidate would need between 42 and 47 percent of the Latino vote to be elected in 2016. Prominent Republicans' apparent opposition to rewriting immigration law could make that vote harder to attract.
“Right now, they’re more afraid of Steve King than they are the Latino community that’s about to rise up and vote against them,” Tramonte told AMI Newswire.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a bill this month that would give U.S. Capitol Police the authority to enforce immigration laws against protesters. The “Ending the Sanctuary Capitol Policy Act of 2015” would give Capitol police the right to investigate people believed to be in the country illegally.
Meanwhile, Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) has sought to add nuance to Speaker Ryan’s pledge to pull immigration reform from the conversation.
“He didn’t rule out incremental moves that have to do with securing the boarder, et cetera,” Brat told AMI Newswire. “He said those are still on the table.”
Brat also emphasized that he doesn’t believe Ryan’s promise about immigration reform was a concession, but rather “the best political course” for the country.
“I wouldn’t call it a concession,” Brat said. “Several of us wanted to make sure we got some commitment ahead of time on the issue in general. Different people had different asks of him, so I don’t think there was any concession to any particular group or any particular individual.”
Numbers USA's Beck welcomed Ryan's concession and expressed hope for the new speaker. But he told AMI Newswire Ryan's concession the issue has not gone away.
“What that says is in 2017 he very likely will start pushing for the amnesty he’s always wanted. What it does is buy us a year and a half that we can work on members and hopefully keep him from trying to push something through,” Beck said.
America’s Voice accuses Ryan of using this issue for political gain, saying he’s playing politics with people’s lives.
“These are campaign issues to Paul Ryan and certain Republican presidential candidates, but it’s about basic family unity and the ability to drive your children to school without fear of the police for so many people in this country,” Tramonte said.