House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s leery of trying to work on immigration reform with President Barack Obama, whom conservatives do not trust to be strong on border security.
But the speaker, a Wisconsin Republican, stressed in a 60 Minutes interview that he remains supportive of an immigration measure that would offer undocumented immigrants a path to legal status, though not U.S. citizenship.
“It starts with border enforcement,” he said on the program. “It starts with enforcing the rule of law. But you need to have a vibrant, legal immigration system. Legal immigration is America.
"I think you could have a pathway to legal status," he said. "That's been what I have proposed in the past — a way to make amends with the law, effectively go on probation and earn your way to legal status, but not to citizenship."
Ryan supported the 2013 bipartisan Senate bill that called for tightening enforcement and at the same time offered reprieve to some of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants who already are living in the United States.
Shortly after he became speaker, he made clear his lack of trust in Obama, citing the common conservative view of the president as being overzealous and making end-runs around Congress on immigration through his executive orders.
“Look, I think it would be a ridiculous notion to try and work on an issue like this with a president we simply cannot trust on this issue,” said Ryan, in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” last month. “He tried to go it alone, circumventing the legislative process with his executive orders, so that is not in the cards.”
He repeated that on Sunday, saying that while he is open to working with the Obama administration on issues on which they can find common ground, "On this particular issue, he tried to go around Congress and write the law unilaterally."
Ryan also balked at GOP presidential contender Donald Trump’s call for rounding up all undocumented immigrants and deporting them. Ryan said it just is not feasible when asked if he would go along with that approach.
“I can’t imagine how it could happen. So no.”