One of Paul Ryan's last acts as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee was to tweet out a blog on his committee page that highlighted “[t]he American idea: the notion that the condition of your birth doesn’t determine the outcome of your life.” One of his very first moves as House speaker was to take immigration reform off the agenda during the remaining months of President Obama’s term. Ryan appears not only to be contradicting himself through these acts, but also ignoring the extent to which where you are born determines your outcome in life. If the newly minted speaker really cared about the American idea, he would be ensuring that equality of opportunity didn’t stop at the water’s edge.
In Ryan’s defense, the Ways and Means blog adds that the committee’s view of the American idea is that every American should have an equal chance at independence and success. But from the very beginning, the “idea of America” has been linked to providing opportunity to disadvantaged individuals not just at home but also abroad—through expanded immigration to the United States.
The Declaration of Independence attacked King George III on the grounds that “he has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.”