Republican Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan has emerged as the unlikely hope for Democrats in the grueling battle for immigration reform in the US.

The Associated Press details how Rep. Ryan, who is currently the House Budget Committee chairman, has set himself apart from many other Republicans in that he is hoping to deliver a ‘way out of the shadows’ for some 11 million immigrants who are in the US illegally.

Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez from Illinois said, "Paul Ryan says we cannot have a permanent underclass of Americans, that there needs to be a pathway to citizenship. He is my guiding light. I know I get him in trouble every time I say it."

During a closed-door GOP meeting last week, Ryan reportedly urged Republicans to seize the moment and take the opportunity to get on board with widespread immigration reform.

Speaking of Ryan’s comments during the private meeting, Republican Representative from New York Tom Reed said, “[Ryan] made some very good points about how immigration is part of our history, it's made us great as a country. The diversity of America is one of its greatest strengths.”

"I will heartily agree with that. I think all of us in the conference accept that and believe that, and that's where we recognize that this is a problem that has to be dealt with."

The political career of Rep. Ryan, who was the running mate of Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney this past fall, includes several immigration reform attempts. The Associated Press reports in that in 1994, when he was working under Congressman Jack Kemp, Ryan penned a 4,000 word rebuttal to proponents of Proposition 187, the California ballot initiative that denied benefits to immigrants in the country illegally.

Later, Ryan backed an immigration overhaul bill which was crafted by Senator John McCain and the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The bill fell short of becoming law in 2007.

The biggest challenge for Rep. Ryan comes from the fractures within his own Republican party on the issue. While National Republicans are pushing for reform (perhaps in hopes of winning over the Hispanic vote that Ryan and Romney didn’t win in the fall), House Republicans in districts with little Hispanic representation are in no rush to implement a pathway to citizenship.

In a recent interview, Ryan said, "There are lots of different pockets of parties here in the House. And I've always believed from passing budgets and other big pieces of legislation that listening to members, talking with members, negotiating is the most effective way of getting things over the finish line.”

“It's kind of more of a workhorse role than a show horse role only because I just find that's the most effective way of getting things through the House."

Summing up his standpoint on immigration reform, Ryan said, "You can't fix the system, in my opinion, this is my personal opinion, without coming up with a viable solution for the undocumented and it's got to be a solution that respects the rule of law, that doesn't grant amnesty, that respects the person who came legally from the beginning by making sure that those who are undocumented go to the back of the line, and I think we can come up with that.”

Ryan has warned that “baby boomers are retiring to the tune of 10,000 people a day for the next 10 years. We're going to have labor shortages in this country in the next decade. We need to have our immigration system prepared for that. It's going to take time to do that and that's why I think we need to do it now."