Conservative Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) said Monday that he supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, although at the same event he said they "are draining our coffers."
"Most people come here to work," he said at a town hall meeting, according to the Sawyer County Record. "Most are Hispanics and work hard at tough jobs. We can’t send 11 million people back home. We should put them on a path to citizenship."
Duffy's statement was somewhat surprising coming from a House Republican, given that many of them have said a pathway to citizenship would simply encourage further unauthorized immigration. Congress is currently working on immigration reform in both chambers, although the Senate is moving more quickly.
The bipartisan plan in the Senate, from the so-called gang of eight, would put more money into border security while also offering a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants. A House bipartisan group, which announced last week it had agreed to principles, is expected to create a more arduous pathway.
More consistent with his colleagues was Duffy's insistence that border enforcement come before any legalization of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.
A constituent said in a question that the U.S. "does not take border enforcement seriously," and he worried that many immigrants who come here to work "seem to have no interest in assimilating, adopting the beliefs that the U.S. is built on."
"We're all a country of immigrants," Duffy replied. "I believe it's a valid concern as to where their loyalty is. I believe we have to secure our border; we have to know who’s coming in and out. Nothing will pass the House unless the border is first secured. There should be a legal way for people to come in and out who want to work, when we need those workers. Let’s fix it once and for all."
He later said he agreed when another constituent said the U.S. should support undocumented immigrants by giving them welfare such as food stamps.
Duffy has a B+ rating from NumbersUSA, an organization that supports restricting all immigration -- legal and unauthorized. He said in a questionnaire for the group that he opposes "amnesty" and was rated "leaning yes" for supporting reduction of immigration levels.