"It’s not a question of 'if' we fix our broken immigration laws," Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan said on Wednesday, but "a question of 'when.'" And the answer to "when" is: No time terribly soon, if his other troubles are a guide.
Ryan made the comments at a breakfast hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Politico reports. "[W]e understand the value of immigration," he then told the assembled audience. Republicans "have ideas on how to make this go forward and make it work so that we do have the rule of law so that we do have reform, so that we’re not in the same position 15 years down the road."
What those ideas are have been a closely-held secret for some time. Earlier this year, House Republicans gathered to agree on a set of principles that would guide their immigration push. It seemed like the party was ready to introduce actual policy proposals (although not those passed by the Senate in 2013). Then the far-right caucus started pulling the emergency brake. First, any reforms were pushed until after primaries; then they appeared to be tabled completely. What Ryan offered, then, was exactly what had been delivered for well over 15 years: somedays.
Of course, Ryan's had a bad week. After he made comments that conflated the inner city with "generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work," Ryan quickly had to step away from allegations that his comments were racially motivated. Among those leveling the charge were California Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland. "My colleague Congressman Ryan's comments about 'inner city' poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated," she said in an email earlier this month. Last night, Ryan appeared on Fox News to explain to Bill O'Reilly that Lee was wrong. "She knows that I don’t have a racist bone in my body," Ryan said. Not a great lead-in to his immigration comments, to be sure.
Not exactly helping the case was one-time Republican guru Karl Rove. Shortly after Ryan's remarks, Rove tweeted a link to a story from the libertarian site Reason.com arguing that "Hispanics Don't Hate Republicans." The argument was that a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute put a negative spin on what was actually good news.
"[L]ess than half of Hispanic respondents had a negative reaction to the Republican Party," Emily Ekins wrote at the site. "Even one of the responses PRRI coded as negative — that Republicans are 'rich' — isn’t necessarily a bad thing since Hispanics lead the way in faith in the American Dream and the bootstrapping work ethic it entails." Hispanic voters immediately thinking "rich" when someone says "Republican" is good news, according to Ekins. Lower in the piece, she listed the reactions Hispanic voters offered. 15 percent said "Rich/Corporate," which is a liiiiittle different than "rich." (Ekins added a parenthetical to that entry: "(is this necessarily bad?)")
Number two on the list? "Anti-immigrant/Racist/Intolerant." The Republicans have ideas on that, I hear.