WASHINGTON - Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) appeared at a forum on immigration reform Wednesday morning. Not much new is being said at many of these types of events right now, but there was one moment where Ryan did something a little different.
As he ticked off the reasons why he supports the effort to pass a bill, he pulled out his iPhone, and showed it to co-panelist Doug Holtz-Eakin and moderator John Harwood, of CNBC.
"I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine," Ryan said. "And this is a poster, I have it on my iPhone here, that was put on the ships by the Irish government for the Irish immigrants coming over in the 1850s. It says, 'Advice to Irish immigrants.'"
Ryan then read the 128-word message in full (you can see the image of what he was reading from below, provided by his office).
In the United States, labor is there the first condition of life, and industry is the lot of all men. Wealth is not idolized, but there is no degradation connected with labour; on the contrary, it is honorable, and held in general estimation. In the remote parts of America, an industrious youth may follow any occupation without being looked down upon or sustain loss of character, and he may rationally expect to raise himself in the world by his labor. In America, a man's success must altogether rest with himself. It will depend on his industry, sobriety, diligence and virtue; and if he do not succeed, in nine cases out of ten, the cause of the failure is to be found in the deficiencies of his own character.
After Ryan finished reading, he said that the poster's message demonstrated, essentially, the spirit that was drawing new immigrants to the U.S. today.
"This is the American idea. That's the melting pot. That's what people came then and now for. This is something that is in absolute keeping of our principles of our party and our country, and that's why people like me are supporting immigration reform," Ryan said.
This is a central tension in the debate among conservatives about immigration reform. Groups like The Heritage Foundation have released studies estimating that giving undocumented immigrants permanent legal status and ultimately citizenship will lead to increased strain on welfare and social services, based on the idea that many immigrants will not work but instead rely on government benefits.
Ryan's point in reading the poster was to argue that most immigrants are here to work.
Here is the image Ryan was looking at as he read. The 2012 vice presidential nominee read from a print version of this poster during an April 22 speech in Chicago.