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Paul Ryan immigration record is disappointing -- but he doesn't seem likely to make Romney worse


The good news about Mitt Romney's pick to be his vice presidential running mate is that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) doesn't seem to have put a lot of thought into immigration policy and doesn't seem to have deep ideological reasons for his poor immigration record during his 14 years in Congress.

Since Ryan is known for his passion and hard work in pressing for his policy goals, a lack of passion on immigration looks to be a good thing, given that I don't like a lot of his immigration positions of the past.

We have reason to hope that he has no passion for the bad immigration actions he has taken in the past and would not be committed to advocating for them if elected Vice President this fall.


Our Grade Card on him finds that about half the effect of his overall immigration actions has been toward protecting American workers and taxpayers from bad immigation policy -- and the other half has been supporting policies that hurt American workers and taxpayers.

Ryan's Career Grade is a C.

Half-Good/Half-Bad -- that's what a C-Grade means in the NumbersUSA Immigration-Reduction Grade Cards.


Nonetheless, Ryan's immigration record is significantly better than that of the Democratic Vice Presidential incumbent Joe Biden. 

While serving in the Senate, Biden earned a Career D-Grade on immigration issues. That means he usually backed higher levels of foreign workers, including protecting the jobs of illegal aliens and the employers who hire them.

Although Vice President Biden generally has supported legislation to help American workers, he has nearly always on immigration issues backed measures that loosen the labor market, drive down the wages of workers and increase the unemployment of American workers, particularly Black and Hispanic Americans.

Biden earned an F-Grade in 5 immigration categories, a D-Grade in 2 categories and one C-Grade and one B-Grade (averaging to an overall D-Grade).


Ryan seems to have rarely spoken about immigration.  And for the most part, he has acted on immigration only when forced to vote, seldom signing on to immigration bills.

I invite NumbersUSA members to submit statements you can find Ryan having made about immigration. I'm not finding much.

Paul Ryan's C-Grade puts him in the worst 10% of all current Republican Members of Congress when it comes to protecting workers and taxpayers from mass immigration and illegal immigration.  (The grade is based on all votes in committees and on the floor of the House, and on co-sponsorships of all bills, that would affect the number of legal and illegal immigrant workers and dependents added to the U.S. each year.)

The Republican with the closest grade to Ryan's is Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat this fall. 

But I am optimistic that he is much different from Rep. Flake who in actions not graded by our system has for years been something of a publicity leader of the George W. Bush philosophies of amnesty for illegal aliens and expansion in green cards for foreign workers.

An example of how different Ryan is from Flake is that although he has co-sponsored amnesties to give illegal aliens a path to citizenship, I can't find examples of Ryan making speeches, writing op-eds or otherwise publicly advocating for the amnesty.


Rep. Ryan's record shows that during most of his time in the House he was more influenced than the average Republican by the mass-immigration desires of 1990s Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and of Pres. Bush 2001-2008.

You can view all of Ryan's immigration actions on this NumbersUSA Scoresheet:


You will find co-sponsorships of various amnesties.

And you will also find a peculiar fondness for increasing the number of unskilled and lower-skilled immigrants. 

I call this peculiar because Ryan is best known for wanting to reduce the size of government.  Low-skilled immigrants place heavy demands for larger government programs and more taxpayer subsidies.  A Heritage Foundation study found the typical household with a low-educated immigrant head used about $20,000 more in taxes than it paid EACH YEAR.  Government statistics this year show that nearly 60% of all immigrant households with children use welfare programs.

However, during this Congress (2011-12), Rep. Ryan appears to have discarded most of his bad habits from the Bush era.

  • Faced with 7 votes on immigration, he has voted to protect American workers and taxpayers in every one.
  • He has not co-sponsored any bills that would reward illegal aliens or increase legal foreign workers.
  • His website takes a fairly strong stand against amnesties.
However, I do not support amnesty for the millions of illegal immigrants already living in the United States. Any reform proposal must require that those who have disregarded the rule of law are not rewarded for their actions. In the end, I hope that with better border security and a more robust and up-to-date employee verification system, we will be able to stem the flow of illegal immigration and restore the rule of law.

-- Paul Ryan website (as of 12AUG2012)

His website expresses some sympathy for the illegal aliens who would benefit from the DREAM Act amnesty but says he opposes the amnesty because it deals with the "symptom" of the problem rather than fixing the problem. He indicates that part of the fix is a reliable workplace verification system.

Nonetheless, his website continues to talk about the need for more guestworkers. This is an incredible blindness to the suffering of 20 million Americans (and their families) who want a full-time job and can't find one.


Today's Washington Post offered the first of what I'm sure will be many in-depth stories about Ryan.  The story was quite positive overall, and gave some key facts about his adulthood which has been spent almost entirely in Washington D.C.

He has cited his Catholic faith and author Ayn Rand as major influences on his conservative thinking.
-- "Ryan's power is built on persuasion," Washington Post, 12AUG2012

Ayn Rand's writing are often cited by libertarian think tank and other leaders as they argue for virtually open borders. 

The Post stated that a big step up the political ladder for the young Paul Ryan in 1993 was a job with Empower America,  "a think tank run by former congressman Jack Kemp" (who was the GOP's Vice Presidential nominee in 1996).

NumbersUSA spent many years trying to limit the damage on immigration policy that Empower America and Jack Kemp consistently caused. They preceded and then reinforced the terrible Bush years of immigration policy.

The Post says that when elected to Congress, Ryan didn't spend a lot of time talking with his colleagues in the House.

Instead, he focused on conservative thinkers outside Congress, such as Paul Gigot, the head of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, and William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.
-- "Ryan's power is built on persuasion," Washington Post, 12AUG2012

Gigot, Kristol and their publications have been at the forefront for many years in the minority part of the conservative movement that constantly pushes for loosening the labor market with more and more foreign workers -- even during a time of high unemployment.


Of the dozen Republicans touted as potential VP picks, probably only two would have been as good or better than Mitt Romney on immigration.

All the rest would have been as bad as -- and most much worse than -- Ryan on immigration.

That simply reflects the fact that at the top of the Republican Party, the benefits of immigration for a relatively small number of Americans are a more important consideration than the costs to millions of American workers and tens of millions of taxpayers.

Fortunately, Gov. Romney has been making very strong promises on immigration for a year now. 

He has made these promises very publicly and repeatedly.  I have a great deal of confidence that he will not feel he can politically backtrack on them.

Gov. Romney has promised:

  • to remove the jobs magnet from illegal immigration,
  • to promote mandatory E-Verify,
  • to eliminate legal immigration categories that don't serve the national interest,
  • to fully implement the border fence and the entry-exit system already passed by Congress.

Although Ryan has not shown much leadership for these, he also hasn't led against them.

And Ryan did step out to help E-Verify at a time he didn't have to in 2008.  He signed the Discharge Petition that barely failed to get enough signatures to force Speaker Nancy Pelosi to let the House vote on the SAVE Act, the bill by Democrat Rep. Heath Shuler to mandate E-Verify for all jobs.

Nonetheless, Romney has shown a weakness for listening to business leaders who claim they may need more foreign workers.  Ryan's voice in the inner circles will only magnify that weakness. 

If Romney and Ryan are elected, we may have our work cut out for us to stop some immigration initiatives to increase foreign workers and hurt American workers.

Of course, we have been fighting that battle for four years against the efforts of Pres. Obama and Vice President Biden, and for eight years against Pres. Bush on the same subject.

We could hope that a Vice President Ryan would start paying more attention to the taxpayer costs of immigration, instead of perhaps bowing to some of the narrower interests of some economic entities that a Congressman always has to consider.

Just as we continue to call on Obama and Biden to put unemployed Americans first in their immigration policies, we will do the same for Romney and Ryan.

And we will continue to watch closely to see who is paying attention.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA 

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