WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) clarified his position on immigration reform on Sunday, saying that he continues to support a “pathway to legal status” for undocumented immigrants but not necessarily one that leads to citizenship.
“It starts with border enforcement,” he told CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “It starts with enforcing the rule of law. But you need to have a vibrant, legal immigration system. Legal immigration is America. I think you could have a pathway to legal status. Earn your way to legal status, but not to citizenship.”
Ryan also dismissed the idea of deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country, a proposal that many Republicans, particularly hardline conservatives, have advocated. Real estate mogul Donald Trump has made the call for mass deportation a prominent part of his presidential campaign.
“I can’t imagine how it could happen,” Ryan said.
The newly minted House speaker has generally been a more moderate voice in the Republican Party on the subject of immigration. In 2013 and 2014, the last time Congress tried to pass an immigration reform bill, Ryan urged his colleagues to “offer people a path to earned legalization” and “invite people to come out of the shadows.”
But earlier this month, Ryan declared that he would not take up any immigration reform legislation until after President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017, on the grounds that Obama’s executive actions on immigration have shown him to be "untrustworthy on this issue." Ryan had faced pressure from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members reportedly would not support his speaker candidacy unless he closed the door on immigration reform.
Despite this, Ryan said on Sunday that he remains committed to working with Obama on policy issues. He said that the two men have discussed “things we can get working together on, things that we have to get done by the end of the year,” such as reaching a budget agreement and enacting a new highway bill.
“I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think you can oppose the president on some issue that you fundamentally disagree with, but also work with the other party on issues you do agree with,” he said.
“We talked about having teenage daughters too,” Ryan added with a laugh.
Family life was a key factor in Ryan's initial reluctance to take on the very demanding job of House speaker. On Sunday, he noted again that each weekend he returns home to Janesville, Wisconsin, where he and his wife are raising three children.
“I’m not going to spend my Saturdays and Sundays flying around America fundraising,” he said. "I’m going to spend them here, where I need to be.”
As he did before he became speaker, Ryan sleeps in his Capitol Hill office during the week. Each morning, he said, he showers in the House gym.
“It’s very efficient,” Rya n said. “I work a lot.”
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