Ryan: Deporting Dreamers 'not in our nation's interest'

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDem: Ex-lawmaker tried to pin me to elevator door and kiss me Two months later: Puerto Rico doesn’t have power, education or economy running again On Capitol Hill, few name names on sexual harassment MORE (R-Wis.) said deporting recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is “not in our nation’s interest” and believes Congress could reach a legislative fix.

"I do believe that kicking these 800,000 kids out to countries that they have probably not been to since they were toddlers, countries that speak languages that they may not even know, is not in our nation's interest," Ryan said in a wide-ranging AP Newsmakers interview Wednesday.

Ryan discussed immigration at length. But while he declined to discuss details of a deal, he hinted a fix with border security measures could get through Congress.

"I don't want to negotiate through the media," he added. 

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Ryan is meeting this afternoon with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and the leaders of the Hispanic, Black and Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucuses to discuss DACA.

The Obama-era program provides relief for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

President Trump rescinded the program last week, but gave Congress six months to figure out a legislative solution for 690,000 undocumented immigrants who could soon lose their work permits and deferral from deportation.

Ryan said Trump "made the right call" in giving Congress a six-month deadline to find a solution.

"I wanted him to give us time, I didn't want it to be rescinded on day one and create chaos. But he was right in that President Obama was wrong in basically using legislative powers that he did not possess," said Ryan.

"What we asked the White House is to give us some time, so we could come up with the right consensus and compromise to fix this problem," he added.

Ryan stressed that any deal with Democrats to make DACA benefits permanent would have to include border security measures.

"I do believe there's got to be a solution to this problem, but at the same time I think it's only reasonable, it makes perfect common sense, that we deal with the problem that was the root cause of this, which is we do not have operational control of our borders," said Ryan.

Ryan added that a border wall, Trump’s signature campaign issue, should be part of the solution. 

Democrats have vowed to do everything in their power to block wall funding.

"I think a wall actually works," said Ryan. "The reason I say that is because I went down to the Rio Grande and the Border Patrol themselves told me that there are certain spaces where we actually need a physical barrier."

He added a wall would not need to cover the entire length of the border.

"There are circumstances on the ground that should dictate how we do border security but doing border security should not be a negotiable thing, we should have security over our borders."

Beyond DACA, Ryan said, the country needs to fix a "broken immigration system."

He warned, however, that a comprehensive immigration bill was unrealistic, and "fall under its own weight."

"I think we just need to make progress in immigration just for the sake of the country. Put aside politics, this is a broken system that needs to be fixed," he said.

"I actually like the idea of moving to a merit-based immigration system for the economy's needs. I think that makes a lot of sense," Ryan continued.

He mentioned the Raise Act, proposed by Republican Sens. Tom CottonTom CottonCotton: I hope we go back to health care next year Sunday shows preview: GOP gears up for Senate tax reform push A simple way to make America even greater is fixing our patent system MORE (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), but said he disagreed with its sharp reduction in legal immigration.

"The numbers are what I have an issue with. But the idea of going to a skills-based point system, which a lot of countries do, I think there's a lot of merit to that idea," said Ryan.

Ryan said the economy, with workforce shortages and an aging population, would need an influx of labor to maintain growth.