House Speaker Ryan Plans to Hold Up Comprehensive Immigration Reform

By John Hamilton, a Fall 2015 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

On November 1, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R. Wisc., made rounds on morning talk shows laying out his vision as the newly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. One thing quickly became apparent: there would be no movement on comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the House under Ryan’s leadership while President Obama remains in office. Ryan’s announcement is just part of a recent string of attacks on immigrants, the latest being presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio’s declaration that, if elected, he would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children if they pursue higher education or military service with status that means they are considered in the United States under color of law. People with this status can apply for employment authorization as well.

In Ryan’s words, the House can’t move forward with immigration reform because he can’t trust Obama. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called Ryan’s remarks “ironic,” because Ryan himself has supported comprehensive immigration reform efforts in the past. Ryan’s decision to further delay much needed immigration reform that would benefit millions of hardworking immigrants and their families is disgraceful.

Advocating for comprehensive immigration reform has been a cornerstone of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ work in recent years. In 2013, The Leadership Conference supported an immigration reform bill in the Senate (S. 744) that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. However, Congress missed a crucial opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform when a similar immigration reform bill failed to move forward in the House.

The unacceptable status quo of immigration policy forcibly separates families, obliges unskilled laborers to work in the shadows without rights, and ultimately instills deep-seated fears in hardworking immigrants that they could be detained and deported at any time. Common-sense reform would help hard-working immigrant families currently at risk, and address the inhumane treatment of immigrants in detention facilities at the border.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund strongly believes that comprehensive immigration reform is vital not just for our country’s immigrants, but for all Americans who support human rights, basic fairness, and simple common sense. Comprehensive immigration reform would have real benefits for our economy, and make the opportunity of the American dream a reality for millions of immigrant families. Millions of hard-working immigrants suffer every day that goes by without such reform. For the sake of the millions of young people, workers and families still waiting in the shadows, we need congressional leadership that will forsake partisan politics and move forward with comprehensive immigration reform.