Gov. Walker backs citizenship pathway for illegal immigrants

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) says he supports a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally as part of an overhaul of the nation's immigration system.

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"If people want to come here and work hard and benefit, I don't care whether they come from Mexico or Ireland or Germany or Canada or South Africa or anywhere else," Walker said Tuesday during an interview with the Daily Herald Media Editorial Board of Wisconsin. "I want them here."

Walker was then asked about the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. The editorial board asked if he could "envision a world where with the right penalties and waiting periods and meet the requirements where those people could get citizenship?"

"Sure," Walker responded. "I mean I think it makes sense."

Walker's comments came roughly a week after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform proposal that includes a pathway to citizenship. 

The proposal strengthens border security along the U.S.-Mexico border by doubling the length of fencing across the border and also doubling the number of border patrol agents. Walker said he had not fully reviewed the Senate bill and has not taken a position on the legislation. 

Walker's comments separate him from some conservative House lawmakers who have said they cannot support the Senate immigration reform bill because it includes a pathway to citizenship. 

"Not only do they need to fix things for people already here, or find some way to do it, there's got to be a larger way to fix the system in the first place," Walker said. "Because if it wasn't so cumbersome, if there wasn't such a long wait, if it wasn't so difficult to get in, we wouldn't have the other problems that we have" of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Walker is not the only prominent Wisconsin Republican to support immigration reform. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also called for his chamber to pass an immigration overhaul. Ryan recently said the Senate bill's enhanced border security measures make the proposal more likely to pass the House.

"I think that, that passing makes this final passage more likely," Ryan said in late June.

Updated at 1:24 p.m.

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