Rep. Paul Ryan could be Mitt Romney’s olive branch to voters who want to see illegal immigrants gain legal status, with the Wisconsin Republican having repeatedly backed legalization efforts and cast himself in the mold of former President George W. Bush, who fought a battle with his own party on the issue.
But in the first few days since Mr. Ryan was announced, a split is developing among immigration reformers. Those in the business community say they are thrilled, while those who approach the issue from an immigrant-rights stance reject him as a salesman.
Mr. Ryan’s record is decidedly mixed.
As a staffer in Washington, he worked for Jack Kemp and Sen. Sam Brownback — both of whom were part of the Republicans’ pro-immigration wing, and who fought crackdown efforts from within their own party.
As a congressman, he voted for a 2002 legalization bill, praised the 2006 Senate immigration bill backed by Mr. Bush and co-sponsored a 2009 Democratic bill that would have legalized immigrant farmworkers. Each time, he was in a minority of Republicans.
But he also routinely backed the House Republicans‘ enforcement bills, including voting for the Secure Fence Act and for a 2005 bill that would have turned being an illegal immigrant from a civil violation to a criminal charge. Most recently, he voted against the Dream Act to legalize young adult illegal immigrants.