(CNN) – Rep. Paul Ryan, number two on the GOP's presidential ticket in 2012, said Monday that last week's bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon should be an impetus to modernize the current immigration system, refuting calls from some Republicans to halt the revamp amid an ongoing investigation.
"I would say for the sake of national security, I want to modernize our immigration laws," Ryan said. He was speaking at the invitation of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, at the City Club of Chicago. "We do not know how to even track people who have overstayed their visas. We need a modern immigration system that not only helps us protect our border, but protects national security in all its aspects."
That's a different stance than some of Ryan's fellow Republicans, who have called for a delay in immigration legislation until investigators piece together more information about the bomb attack in Boston. The suspected perpetrators of that attack were born in Kyrgyzstan. The one surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, became a U.S. citizen in 2012, while his brother Tamerlan, who was killed during last week's manhunt, was a legal U.S. resident.
The Boston case "if anything, is an argument for modernizing our immigration laws," Ryan said Monday.
"We need it for national security reasons, and we need it for the economy."
The Wisconsin Republican, who chairs the House Budget Committee, also explained that immigration overhaul plans currently winding through Congress would help repair the looming shortfall in government entitlement programs.
"It will help our economy. This will benefit America's economy," the Wisconsin Republican said, noting the number of Americans retiring was far outpacing the number entering the workforce.
"We need people to come and do work in this country so we can keep this country's promise alive," he said.
Ryan presented a budget proposal earlier this year that includes major changes to entitlement programs, with the goal of balancing the federal budget in a decade. Like his budget plans in years past, the measure would overhaul Medicare in ten years by shifting it from a government-run program to one that would give seniors support to help pay for private health care coverage.
Early in last year's presidential race, GOP nominee Romney took a hardline stance on immigration, favoring a system of "self-deportation" for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
Ryan voiced a divergent view Monday, saying a pathway to legality was essential in any repair of the immigration system.
"We have to offer people a path the earned legalization," Ryan said. "We have to invite people to come out of the shadows. We have to have a system that people have confidence in. It's a system where people who have been contributing here can right their record, can get themselves right with the law."
Such a pathway to citizenship is included in the Senate version of comprehensive immigration reform, which was unveiled by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" last week. The 10-year pathway is conditional on a series of "triggers," including ensuring the U.S.-Mexico border is properly secured, and keeping better track of immigrants who enter the United States on visas.