Ryan, Gutierrez talk immigration reform with local leaders

Ryan, Gutierrez talk immigration reform with local leaders in Chicago

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

They're a political odd couple: Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan and West Side Democrat Luis Gutierrez. The two congressmen made joint appearances here in Chicago Monday, defending a controversial rewrite of America's immigration laws.

While they haven't introduced it, yet, they said it would allow people who entered the US illegally to eventually become citizens.

The joint appearances in Chicago Monday came as critics were pointing to the Boston Marathon bombings, allegedly perpetrated by two immigrants. Opponents argued for delay, until more is known. Gutierrez and Ryan rejected that.

The conservative Wisconsin Republican and liberal Chicago Democrat made their first joint appearance at Erie Neighborhood House, where immigrants have found assistance for more than a century.

A group of Catholic priests prayed for them. Gutierrez and Ryan, who don't agree on much, said they do share a religious faith and a belief in the benefits of comprehensive immigration reform.

"If we actually have the kind of immigration we need to sustain a healthy and strong American economy, we'll raise per capita income by $1,700 per family," Ryan says.

Mitt Romney's former vice-presidential running mate told the City Club of Chicago the first immigration reform priority is to secure the border so no more enter illegally; then, expand legal immigration, including "guest workers;" and offer legal residency and/or citizenship to those who pay penalties for having broken the law and learn English.

"What Luis and I are putting out there are the basic components of a system that we want to endure," Ryan says. "We don't want to be having this conversation five years from now."

Ryan won backing from several top Illinois Republicans.

"When somebody who I think is one of the leaders of the Republican Party comes to Chicago and says ‘we've got to fix this,' I think that speaks volumes," says State Rep. Tom Cross.

"Our broken immigration system is actually bad for national security," says State Senator Christine Radogno. "So, I would say we need to get busy and get it done."

The impact on taxpayers is hotly debated. Former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint cites a study that found unlawful immigrants would consume $2 trillion more in services than they would pay in taxes. The other side says those numbers are just wrong.

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