Republican Ryan says U.S. immigration bill 'in doubt' this year

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 02, 2014 12:43 PM

By Margaret Chadbourn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican congressman and key player in the immigration reform debate, on Sunday said that it is uncertain whether or not a broad immigration bill will reach President Barack Obama's desk by the end of the year.

Immigration reform legislation, which the Senate has already passed, has stalled in the Republican-controlled House.

Asked in an interview that aired on ABC's "This Week" if Obama would get a bill to sign this year, Ryan replied: "I really don't know the answer to that question. That's clearly in doubt."

Last June, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive bill that would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and tighten border security.

The bill stalled in the House, and some conservative Republicans in both chambers remain staunchly opposed to offering legal status for millions of adults who live in the U.S. unlawfully.

Ryan said Republicans have made it clear that they will not be forced to compromise with the Senate on a deal and refuse to go to conference committee with the Senate immigration reform bill, which contains a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented residents.

"This is not one of those issues that has a deadline," he said in the interview aired on Sunday. Ryan emphasized that securing the U.S.-Mexico border was a crucial first step before changing rules around legal residency.

"We don't know who's coming and going in this country. We don't have control of our borders," he said. "Doing nothing on the security side of this isn't the responsible thing to do."

On Thursday, House Republican leaders rolled out their "principles" for pursuing immigration reform this year. It was unclear whether those principles would advance any further amid deep Republican divisions and instead were seen as gauging the party's willingness to tackle such a controversial issue during an election year in which all 435 House seats are at stake.

"We are still having a debate in our caucus," Ryan said.

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On NBC's "Meet the Press," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the principles offered by the House Republican leadership appeared to represent "pretty good progress."

"The bottom line here is that he (Obama) doesn't want to see an America where we have two permanent classes - citizens and non-citizens," he said.

"We feel pretty good that we will get a bill this year."

House leaders must contend with several conservatives who are suspicious of Obama's agenda and are reluctant to give the president a long-sought legislative victory.

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," said his party wants to make progress on immigration, "step by step."

"We want to help the situation," Cantor said.

(Reporting By Margaret Chadbourn and Thomas Ferraro, editing by Rosalind Russell)