RACINE, Wis. — U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan has laid out his proposals to achieve a consensus in Congress and push through immigration law reform during a town hall meeting in southern Wisconsin.
"Immigration is a good thing for this country; immigration is this country," Ryan told about 300 people in St. Patrick's Church in Racine on Friday.
Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate, has been working as bridge-builder between fellow majority Republicans in Congress.
The U.S. Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill that included a 13-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally. Ryan said in the House, the intent is to create five or six bills and possibly vote on them in October.
Under one proposal, those who are here illegally would have to wait a minimum of 15 years to gain citizenship, Ryan said, but they would be eligible to receive a "probationary visa."
"I think we (in the House) can do a much better job," Ryan told a reporter. "I think that we have to have real, verifiable border enforcement, real, verifiable workplace enforcement, a visa tracking system, and I think we have to have a system that makes sure we respect the rule of law ... with these probationary visas. That's the basic concept that I'm describing... that, I think, is where the consensus lies."
Some people in the crowd were critical of the 15-year time period to citizenship and Ryan told reporters he understood.
"We want to make sure the law does not reward people for quote, unquote, cutting in line," he said. "We want to make sure that that person who came here legally in the first place who waited patiently, that they're respected by being at the front of the line."
Ryan added, "So, yes, it may be difficult and it might take 15 years for a person to get right. But I think that's a pretty good deal given that we have all these undocumented Americans."
In a news conference after the event, local immigrant advocacy group Voces de la Frontera criticized Ryan's lack of specifics, and condemned the requirements attached to the probationary visas.
But executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz said it's encouraging Ryan is taking leadership on the issue.
"I feel it's important for someone in his position to continue to articulate the economic benefits of immigration reform for everyone and the moral imperative to do this," she said.