WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2015 - Paul Ryan assured House conservatives that if he becomes speaker he won’t allow an immigration reform bill to move unless a majority of Republicans support it.
The pledge, made during a private meeting with members of the House Freedom Caucus, would likely make it more difficult to pass a bill that provides a path to legal status for immigrants now in the country.
Ryan didn’t discuss specific issues in immigration policy, only the process by which legislation would be considered, said Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who raised the issue in the meeting.Many conservatives and anti-immigration groups have raised concerns that Ryan would allow passage of a broad immigration reform bill akin to the legislation that emerged from the Senate in 2013 when that chamber was under Democratic control.
The Senate bill had broad backing from agricultural interests because it would have provided legal status to farmworkers and created a new program to ensure a future flow of legal labor.
“He assured me that there would be no immigration bill forthcoming" unless it is "approved in substance and form by a majority of the majority,” Brooks told reporters. “That gives me some degree of comfort, because that means that we’re talking about being serious about the problem illegal aliens have caused for American families that are struggling in the face of this very deep surge of illegal alien labor and loss of jobs and wage suppression.”
Ryan has said he won't seek the speakership unless the House Republicans are united behind him. Wednesday night, the House Freedom Caucus announced on its Facebook page that a “supermajority” of the group supported Ryan but not the 80 percent necessary to formally endorse him. The group is believed to have about 40 members.
Ryan later issued a statement indicating he would still seek the speakership despite failing to get the endorsement. “I’m grateful for the support of a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus. I look forward to hearing from the other two caucuses by the end of the week, but I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.”
Agriculture groups continue to express confidence that Ryan appreciates the importance of the immigration issue for farms.
Ryan "understands the need for responsible immigration reform and the challenges the broken system places on farmers,” said Kristi Boswell of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“We understand the dynamics in the House are challenging on a very complicated issue; however, our farmers are facing instability in their labor forces many suffering through the burdens of the H-2A program all the while losing their crops because they do not have access to the workers to get the job done.”
Craig Regelbrugge of AmericanHort said, “I'm not going to speculate about an alleged conversation between Reps Ryan and Brooks, but at a time in our history when illegal crossings on our southern border have plummeted, and the labor crisis on farms is worsening, it's high time Congress addresses what needs fixing.”
(Updated 9 p.m.)