Paul Ryan continues to roll out his “Vision for a Confident America.” We discussed earlier the section outlining how the GOP leadership plans to alleviate poverty, though what that plan is or how they would implement it is unclear. We noted the lack of any mention of immigration in Ryan’s discussion of U.S. labor markets or the declining fortunes of America’s middle class. Given his long held contention that high levels of immigration were necessary to keep the U.S. economy afloat, it is telling that Ryan’s new position is to now ignore immigration when talking about his economic agenda as House Speaker.
Ryan does discuss immigration in the national security section of the GOP task force report. Unfortunately, he presents no substantive solutions to pressing national security vulnerabilities. The talking points on this front are that we need to secure the border and keep terrorists out of the United States. This is the equivalent of saying he wants to improve public education and bring down health care costs. No politician comes against such things. The real test is whether or not elected officials are able to achieve those objectives.
Ryan has had ample opportunity to lead the way on implementing safeguards to shore up America’s borders and to prevent terrorists from exploiting our lax immigration policies, even before he became House Speaker. He could have vigorously pushed for the full implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, made in 2004, five years after Ryan was elected to Congress.
One of those recommendations was the completion of an entry-exit visa tracking system to make sure that the DHS can identify and better locate visa overstayers. This has been required by law since 1996, yet Ryan continues to allow the executive branch to delay its implementation.
Ryan could have brought forward a bill that would have achieved genuine border security and held President Obama to account for his failure to carry out his constitutionally required duty to uphold immigration laws as written by Congress. Expressing opposition to the President’s disregard for Congress is not the same as acting within his capacity as arguably the most powerful member of Congress to prevent executive branch abuses. While claiming the President was acting above the law, in his first major act as Speaker, Ryan gave the President a budget that funded the illegal DACA amnesty.
Ryan could have ensured that there were adequate vetting procedures in place before also funding an expansion Syrian refugee resettlement. Instead he fully funded the program despite the official testimony from the FBI director that Syrian refugees cannot be properly vetted to ensure they are legitimate refugees and do not pose a terror threat. (The threat of ISIS exploiting the lax refugee screening process was reiterated yesterday by CIA director John Brennan.)
At the very least, Ryan could have worked to convince the American people that his support for amnesty is coupled with a commitment to border security and interior enforcement. This was President Reagan’s commitment when signing the 1986 amnesty, as well as the promise then Congressman Chuck Schumer made. Instead, Ryan threw his weight behind the Gang of Eight bill which was a blanket amnesty coupled with massive increases in immigrant and guest worker provisions, and included zero requirements that enforcement mechanisms would ever go into effect.
If Ryan wants to inspire confidence in Americans, he can begin by trying to reestablish their confidence that the federal government is acting in their interests when it comes to immigration-related issues. Simply restating bromides the public has heard for the last thirty years is not going to cut it.
ERIC RUARK is the Director of Research for NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, May 31st 2017 @ 2:56pm EDT