On The Charlie Sykes Show, Congressman Paul Ryan discussed the immigration legislation currently before Congress. He also gave an update on the ongoing investigation of the Internal Revenue Service and the National Security Agency's surveillance practices.
Excerpts of Ryan's responses follow:
Erring on the Side of Civil Liberties
"I've been through a lot of briefings, but this is not something that I had been briefed on. And when we thought of the FISA court and the PATRIOT Act, we thought of a system in which you had credible evidence about a person or persons, and then you got a court order to go get that person's data--not the system that we're envisioning right now. . . .
"And so what you find playing out today is this tension that's always going to exist and even more so with technology these days, where there's tension between national security and civil liberties. And if and when these serious debates arise, in my opinion you always err on the side of civil liberties. I believe that we can come out of this with a solution where we're not needlessly jeopardizing national security, but we're guaranteeing the protection of civil liberties. And if there's anything that this disclosure presents, it's that we have to do a better job of finding that balance. And people that came out of that briefing that I had the other day--I think most members of Congress--are thinking about how can we circumscribe this program, so that we can better guarantee the protection of civil liberties. Because you know what? There's just no trust of the government. I mean, look at what the IRS has been doing that we already know about. Look at the slippery slope that your mind can clearly imagine the government going down. And that means people like us in Congress, who are elected to represent our constituents--to protect their liberties--need to do a better job of making sure that that's the case."
Finding the Best Fix for Our Immigration System
"The point I was trying to make is, I think we'll consider a number of bills on immigration reform. How do you fix the border? How do you crack down on identity theft and impose E-Verify? How do you deal with future immigration flows--you know, guest workers? How do you deal with the undocumented population? And from watching this debate move through, it's clear that what we're looking at is putting a person who is undocumented in probation. If they violate the terms of that probation, they are deported. It's a non-immigrant visa they get for that period.
"Then, after the border has been secured in an objectively measured way, after E-Verify and things like that are up and running--then and only then--can they get legal permanent residence--like a green card--after everybody else who did things right in the first place are adjudicated. And then after that, if they want to apply for citizenship like anybody else, they can do that. Now, what we're talking about here in the House, that takes about 15 years. But the key thing we're worried about--people like me are worried about--is you don't want to have a two-tiered system, a second-class citizen system."
Preserving the American Idea
"If you believe in the Pledge of Allegiance, you put your hand on your heart, and you pledge allegiance to the American Idea and our principles that we founded this country on. That's a good thing. We want you. We don't want to say you can never aspire, like our ancestors did, to have the full rights and citizenship if you pledge to these things. Now the key is to respect the rule of law. That means you're at the back of the line, you pay your fine, you pay your back taxes, you learn English, you learn civics. And everybody that came through the front door the right way, they're dealt with first.
"Then only after that, after the border is secure, after the E-Verify system is up and running, then you might be able to get a green card. Then you can get in line like anybody else in this country for citizenship. That's the basic process we're talking about."
Update on the IRS Investigation
"I'm part of that investigation because that's a Ways and Means investigation along with the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. You're going to see this thing move off the front pages for some time because we're doing our work. Our investigators are interviewing IRS employees. We've got a number of other IRS employees we're in the middle of interviewing. And there's lots of data that we're going through that we're receiving from the IRS. And so this is going to take months to go through. And I just tell people, "Don't sit around and read the newspaper thinking you're going to have something new every day.' It's because when an investigation like this takes place, it takes a lot of painstaking research and investigation in order to find out exactly what happened. And that's why you'll see this go off the front pages for some moments. We don't speculate where this is going to go because we don't know where this is going to go. And we're going to let the facts take us, and we're not going to speculate."