Watch Paul Ryan Get Super Awkward When Confronted by Immigrants


The news: Earlier this month, House Republicans voted to more or less end Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that allows approximately 550,000 children of undocumented immigrants (sometimes called DREAMers) to apply for work permits and visas and avoid deportation.

Virtually every member of the GOP now opposes DACA and supports an end to the program, so it can get pretty awkward when Republicans and DREAMers are in the same room.

Kind of like this: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was recently confronted by a group of DREAMers who wanted to know why he supported deporting them, and he couldn't think of anything to say.

"A couple weeks ago you voted for defunding DACA. It would put me and my sister up for deportation," one member of the group asked the immediately uncomfortable Ryan. "We just had a question: Do you want to deport me and my sister?"

Aside from a fake grin and an exhortation to "read the position in the book," Ryan was unable, or refused, to answer the DREAMers.

Ryan's book, by the way, is a little muddled on his stance on immigration. Ryan writes that he supports legislation to keep young immigrants from being deported, but simultaneously rails against DACA. ThinkProgress notes that his record includes stumping for bipartisan immigration reform legislation he later opposed going to conference on. So if DREAMers don't know Ryan's exact position, it's not really their fault: He's gone through a lot of effort to hide it.

"Why do you want to deport me?" is a perfectly legitimate question, and the representatives who support ending DACA should be able to explain their position to someone directly involved without getting flustered or choking up. But they can't.

This has happened before: DREAMers Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas had a tense conversation earlier this month with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in which King repeatedly patronized the two, including defending his remarks that for every DREAMer who's a valedictorian, there are a hundred more with "calves the size of cantaloupes" from hauling marijuana. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was smart enough to bug out as soon as the word "DREAMer" left their mouths (he even left his sandwich behind!), a luxury Ryan and King didn't have. 

In June, a report by the American Immigration Council found that DREAMers were living up to their side of the bargain. Nearly 60% of those who received a DACA deferral had gotten new jobs, and 47% reported increased earnings. While conservatives blame the program for generating a refugee crisis at the border via false promises of residency permits ("permisos"), Vox notes there's virtually no evidence that it's had an impact.

Why you should care: If you're a prominent national Republican, you're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place on immigration right now. Despite overwhelming support for a major, short-term overhaul of the immigration system, a significant minority of Republicans who also happen to be regular primary voters favor deportation and prioritizing border security before changing any regulations. So these awkward and politically disastrous exchanges are probably going to keep occurring.