Newt Gingrich’s immigration gambit (Updated with video)

One of the headlines from last night’s GOP presidential debate, which focused on foreign policy, actually has more to do with domestic policy: Whether Newt Gingrich, the latest anti-Romney frontrunner, kinda-sorta endorsed amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been in our country for a long time.

I had to go back and listen to a recording of the debate because, watching it live, I thought he might have erred by not phrasing his policy in the conventional conservative manner of 1) secure the border to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants, then 2) decide what to do with the ones already here. In fact, here’s what he said (there’s a partial transcript below the video):

I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border … I believe ultimately, you have to find some system — once you’ve put every piece in place, which includes a guest-worker program, you need something like a World War Two selective service board that frankly reviews the people who are here. If you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home, period. If you’ve been here 25 years and you have three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully, and kick you out. … You get to be legal, but you don’t get a path to citizenship.

I am not quite sure that puts him far at all outside the Republican mainstream:

1. His plan “starts with controlling the border.”

2. He then adds a guest-worker program — although, admittedly, that could spark a backlash depending on how it’s done.

3. He then acknowledges that we’re not going to deport 10 million to 12 million people, and offers a kind of delineation — albeit a very vague one — between those who have been here awhile and otherwise obeyed the law, and those who haven’t. All while offering praise for immigrants who come here legally.

4. And for the ones who get to stay, he advocates only legality, not citizenship. That’s an important distinction, because Democrats think they can win generations of Hispanic support by turning illegal immigrants into legal Democratic voters.

In sketching that outline, he uses some language that I think could be very effective in winning over some skeptics, courting independents and, potentially, going some way toward making amends with Hispanics.

Specifically, I am certain the reference to “belong[ing] to a local church” was no accident. Now, I rather doubt a President Gingrich would try to impose a religious condition for an illegal immigrant to be legalized or deported — or that American courts would uphold such a test. But it is exceedingly likely that he thinks there’s appeal here for the religious wing of the party, some of which has voiced its discomfort with hard lines on immigration issues. That’s particularly likely in light of his conversion to the Catholic church, to which many Hispanic immigrants of course belong. His later reference to the “party of the family” further underscores the outreach to social conservatives.

Are there potential problems with Gingrich’s approach? Sure. As I noted above, his time-based delineation, between those who could stay here and those who would have to leave, comes off as rather arbitrary and possibly too malleable. (I have not yet had time to read the study to which he referred; that might clear up some of the vagueness.) And while he nodded to the notion of securing the border first, he didn’t harp on it, and people will rightly wonder how much emphasis and priority he really puts on that before everything else. Anything less than absolute emphasis and priority could sink him.

All that said, I was intrigued that he would go out on this limb so soon after rising in the opinion polls. It tells me that he’s confident in his chances (not that many people have ever doubted Gingrich’s confidence) — so confident that he’s already looking for ways to bring traditional GOP groups such as social conservatives as well as independents under the Gingrich tent.

That’s the kind of forward-thinking maneuver none of the other Romney alternatives, from Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain, has been able to pull off. The coverage of and reaction to his immigration gambit may tell us whether Gingrich will succeed where they failed.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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111 comments Add your comment

arnold

November 23rd, 2011
5:31 am

“I was intrigued that he would go out on this limb so soon after rising in the opinion polls.” He will go out on many limbs, if he doesn’t crash sooner rather than later. He will crash. Always has, and always will.

Rick in Grayson

November 23rd, 2011
5:57 am

Mandate the use of E-Verify for all employers and vette all employee over the next two years.

Illegal aliens will be denied jobs and lose the jobs they currently hold illegally. They will self-deport and they can get in line to enter the US LEGALLY!

The argument that it is impossible or it takes a lot of time doesn’t hold water. The US immigration policy should be for the good of the US, not the good of the immigrant. If the policy was for the good of the immigrant then billions of the world’s poor would be in this immigration line. We all know that the US can not accomodate all the world’s poor.

Isn’t the population of the US already large enough. We can’t even provide jobs to those entering our county legally. Job growth will never be what it was in the past and our welfare programs are taxed to the max. Technology and globalization has forever changed the number of jobs the US will have to service the population.

We have had several amnesties since Ronald Regan and none of them worked because our immigration laws have not been enforced since that time. The Democrats promised to secure our border back then and never intended to follow through on that promise. Ronald Regan and the Republicans were taken advantage of by the Democrats and they should not be trusted.

The current administration, like others in the past including the idiot Bush, puts the interests of illegal aliens before those of US citizens. At a time of great unemployment, this is a testimonial to the harm the Democrats will perpetrate on US citizens.

Joel Edge

November 23rd, 2011
6:06 am

“Are there potential problems with Gingrich’s approach? ”
Yes, we keep hearing the same noise from the same old cast of characters. It boils down to slicing and dicing legal/illegal. ‘Yeah, you actually broke the law, but you got away with it for twenty-five years’. Not to mention that after the discussion we get ‘We’re going to do this’ then it’s ‘well, we were going to do that’. In the end, nothing changes. The government continues to expand and the borders are porous. I’m beginning to think this is nothing but theater. Political professional wrestling. I’m beginning to suspect that after hours both parties meet somewhere and laugh at the rubes in the audience.

Rick in Grayson

November 23rd, 2011
6:21 am

I hope the Joel Edge is wrong, but I would not be surprised that either political party wants to do anything with illegal immigration.

That is a shame because that means our elected officials do not support the “rule of law”. When our elected officials do not respect our laws then our government is being run by a bunch of anarchists.

Rick in Grayson

November 23rd, 2011
6:23 am

The problem with Gingrich’s statements are that they are essentially…illegal behaviour is acceptable IF you can get away with it for a long enough time!

Again, lack of respect for our nation’s laws.

Alecto

November 23rd, 2011
6:40 am

I was stunned by his convoluted statement which is de facto amnesty. Unfortunately, if it costs money to deport them all, what exactly does Newt and his illegal apologist contingency think a “Selective Service Board” is going to cost? It will be even more expensive, and will be overrun with desperate Hispanics and others commiting fraud to stay here. I also don’t fall for the ruse that somehow politicians are going to “close the border”? Blah, blah blah! If the past 5 presidents wanted to close the border, they would have done so yet they haven’t. You know something? They will manage to do so just long enough to legalize 20-30 million illegals who then rush to apply for every possible entitlement and their Democratic voter card. Then magically the border will open! Over my cold, dead body will I allow this to happen.

The American electorate had better wake up! We prize diversity, but how is a 40% Hispanic population making us diverse? How about a 60% Hispanic nation? Face it – It’s having the opposite effect. Immigration exists to serve the NATION, not business owners. What kind of citizens are we bringing in to our country? Liars, fraudsters, and criminals. The U.S. halted immigration in the 20s, and since we’re doing such a poor job of assimilating anyone, we need to do so again.

Newt lost my support. If he is nominated, I won’t vote for him.

DeborahinAthens

November 23rd, 2011
6:47 am

This is another complex issue the Republicans try to boil down to a sound bite. Dubya the Dumb had a strategy that was similar to Newt’s as I recall. Bottom line, as long as we elect representatives like Saxby Chambliss, who are owned by agri-business, we will never, ever “fix” the immigration problem. I don’t care if there is a guest worker program. We need these workers, badly. This garbage about making the unemployed go dig onions is ludicrous. Yet we hear it from the right-wing nuts all the time. The things that bother me the MOST about illegal Hispanic immigrants are 1) they are by and large Catholic, and have too many children. The reason Mexico is fast failing as a state is because they have too many people. Mexico City is the most highly populated city in the Western Hemisphere. The population long ago outstripped their despises. I hate seeing any husband and wife, Hispanic or blond in the stores with five and six kids with
another one on the way. It will only be a matter of time til they outbreed our resources as well. Yet this is an area the right-wing religious nuts encourage them–by restricting birth control education, birth control and abortion. 2) The other thing about illegal immigration that bothers me is how easy it is for terrorists to slip into our country through our porous borders–the northern border as well as the southern border. The problem has to be fixed, but the Republicans don’t have a clue or are ham stringed by their corporate owners.

DeborahinAthens

November 23rd, 2011
6:51 am

Correction! I have no idea why my IPad changed the word “resources” into “despises” in the post above. I apologize. They “outstripped their RESOURCES”.

Joel Edge

November 23rd, 2011
6:58 am

“but the Republicans don’t have a clue or are ham stringed by their corporate owners.”
Nothing for the Dems in that? The Democrat party has gotten to the point of not even talking about this. The current administration and the Justice Department has four lawsuits against states due to immigration laws. I agree that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. If it’s their responsibility, can’t they do something about it. Well…other than suing people who would like to do something about it.

Joel Edge

November 23rd, 2011
7:00 am

“idea why my IPad changed the word “resources” into “despises””
It does that occasionally. Still love mine though.

Mountain Man

November 23rd, 2011
7:17 am

“The problem with Gingrich’s statements are that they are essentially…illegal behaviour is acceptable IF you can get away with it for a long enough time!”

No, it is because WE let them get away with it for so long. It is the same as enforcing the 55-mph speed limit on I-75 and I-85 inside the perimeter (and on 285). It has been ignored for so long, that people would get extremely irate if the State Patrol started ticketing anyone who went 56 mph. We never created a system to check for illegal employment, the easiest way to control illegal immigration. We have a system now (e-verify) but it is not required nor is it as good as it could be. Face it, WE granted illegals AMNESTY 30 years ago by not choosing to enforce the laws. So let’s start enforcing the laws, starting with all speeders inside the perimeter. After all, WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND!

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 23rd, 2011
7:17 am

As long as there are “jobs Americans won’t do” we should suspend unemployment handout programs.

Mountain Man

November 23rd, 2011
7:18 am

It is actually nice to hear a politician advocating MAYBE looking at a reasonable solution to the illegal immigrant problem.

HDB

November 23rd, 2011
7:50 am

Lil’ Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)
November 23rd, 2011
7:17 am
As long as there are “jobs Americans won’t be HIRED to do” we should maintain unemployment benefit programs.

There….fixwd your statement!!!

Alecto's Laundry

November 23rd, 2011
8:02 am

@Alecto — you laundry is ready. White sheets and pillow cases all washed and pressed. Sorry, we couldn’t get some of the red stains out nor what appears to be charcoal or some sort of burned wood stains. The Bible that somehow got thrown in with the laundry by mistake is in fine shape, however. Come pick it up.

@@

November 23rd, 2011
8:12 am

Newt also said employers should be punished.

I may find myself in hot water for saying this but I agree with Newt’s proposals on immigration.

jconservative

November 23rd, 2011
8:13 am

Nice try Kyle. But so far you have a “NO SALE” on convincing your Republican readers that Gingrich and his immigration plan should be acceptable to Georgia Republicans.

As soon as I heard the words come out of his mouth I said “there goes his chances in the Georgia primary”. And I might add South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

I

Aquagirl

November 23rd, 2011
8:16 am

I have no idea why my IPad changed the word “resources” into “despises” in the post above.

http://damnyouautocorrect.com/

JF McNamara

November 23rd, 2011
8:23 am

I’m not sure how Newt differs from the status quo. The crossers don’t get citizenship now. It’s their offspring that do. We have a guest worker program already. We only deport a subset of illegals (criminals). We already “control the border”.

If he sent his plan to Congress, it would almost surely pass, because its only slightly different from the Democrat’s current plans. It’s actually less restrictive than a lot of them. What would States like Arizona and Georgia do though?

metfanlou

November 23rd, 2011
8:36 am

What is hard to understand. He was sucking money from fannie mae as a consultant and he was probably telling them to give toxic mortgages to illegals. Do you know in California they would give a mortgage to illegals, they would then take out a home equity loan, grab the money and go back to their home country. True, check it out. We are suckers! We need a President who is not a Democrat or Republican.

todd

November 23rd, 2011
8:45 am

Well Next did it again – shot himself right out of the saddle. I am extremely conservative and would probably have voted for him over Romney but not now – not in a million years. OUR BORDER NEEDS TO BE SECURED AND LAW BREAKERS SHOULD NEVER BE REWARDED! This country belongs to all of us – not just a few DC insiders who think they know best – and we have spoken loudly and clearly for years – secure our border and no amnesty. We all need to get behind the person who is electable and will secure the border – probably Romney. Adios Newt – you idiot.

joe

November 23rd, 2011
8:46 am

Kyle misses the larger point. History. All of man’s history is about neighboring populations exploiting inter-regional job markets and migrating across borders which inevitably elicit the poll-pleasing martial remedies that dung beetles like Newt invent. Hell, Atilla the Hun only invaded Italy because he heard they were hiring guards at the Vatican.

What is the remedy for Mexican migration? Not war. Not a fence. Not exile. The remedy lies in the perception of the historical facts of immigration and the present day reality confronting both populations, that is, we must interbreed and put it all on youtube.

If not, we’re finished.

Not Blind

November 23rd, 2011
8:49 am

@Joel Edge – your statement that immigration enforcement is strictly a federal government responsibility is nonsense. Creating national immigration laws IS the province of the feds but apprehension of the vast majority of illegals will always be done by local LE resources. The wave of state laws being enacted is mostly an attempt to give local LE the ability to constitutionally identify illegals they apprehend so they can be turned over to the feds for processing. The state laws also attempt to give the state the ability to penalize employers who are already breaking the law.

No amount of immigration reform will allow us to gain control of our immigration until we get rid of the birthright citizenship clause.

roughrider

November 23rd, 2011
8:51 am

Newt has proved again and again that he will say anything to get in the news.He is washed up, has no new ideas and should be ignored by the voters.

sheepdawg

November 23rd, 2011
8:55 am

don’t care what any of them said, if any of these GOP goobs is elected we’re doomed

CDW

November 23rd, 2011
9:12 am

Beware all ye who cast stones. If you are going to get all high and mighty about following the law to the letter, be sure you do the same. To @Mountain Man’s point, there are clearly laws that as a collective we choose to “fudge” on (as anyone driving around Atlanta can attest – 55 what?).

A lot of these “criminals” are small business owners who DO pay taxes, do NOT suck off public resources, create jobs in their communities, and frankly contribute more than a lot of low lifes who have never done anything other than live off the public dole, secure in their US citizenship. Further, as our own GA farmers will tell you, there are jobs that Americans, (even broke, unemployed Americans), won’t do.

Newt’s suggestion recognizes that not all illegal immigrants are equal. It would be simpler to say that our laws are black and white, the reality is otherwise. While they are both breaking the law, no one would suggest that the person driving 60 mph on I-285 is the same as the person going 100 mph. There are “degrees” of breaking the law and tolerances that society accepts.

Cosby

November 23rd, 2011
9:13 am

As painful as it is, Newt has a point of those that have been here 20+ years and have assimilated into the USA life style. First and formost, it is time to enforce our current imigration laws and close the boarders, then we can deal with those that are here. This country will never deport those that has asimilated over the past 20+ years..that is reality.

NOT NEWT 2012

November 23rd, 2011
9:13 am

Can we deport Newt? That guy is an idiot.

MC

November 23rd, 2011
9:18 am

And your comments Rick in Grayson prove you’re an idiot with no common sense whatsoever.

JohnnyC

November 23rd, 2011
9:20 am

Interesting that conservative Republicans, especially the ones running for President, are attacking Newt for his immigration policy. Short memory, these Republicans. Their darling of the 80’s Ronnie Reagan also
got an amnesty plan enacted in the late 80’s. All illegal aliens who could prove they had been working in the US for a specific period of time could apply for a green card. It really is interesting that this Republican party has moved to the right of one of the most conservative presidents this country ever had.

MC

November 23rd, 2011
9:20 am

CDW actually gets it.

tiger-uga

November 23rd, 2011
9:21 am

Hey sheepdawg- we are already doomed, cannot get any worst!

Smoke

November 23rd, 2011
9:25 am

#1: To those who call illegal immigrants, aliens, does that mean they are legal aliens?

catlady

November 23rd, 2011
9:28 am

I would add language about immediately repaying all aid received, such as Medicaid for the birth of the children. I would also add a background check about such children–staying out of trouble, parents coming to school for conferences, kids graduating. Add, too, a requirement that those who have been here a long time must IMMEDIATELY show some English mastery. Use the ACCESS test like we do the kids, at least for verbal fluency. Require a 4.0 at least. And, of these requirements, pick the best of the best. Deport the rest. They were not “really” here and assimilated.

Newt has no chance. Anyone with an IQ of over 100 sees through his fabrications.

JDW

November 23rd, 2011
9:29 am

Immigration is another issue the current crop of Republicans have no chance of solving. The entire position of the Republican party is facetious. Let’s take a look:

1) Secure the border-if you think that is realistic you need to go for a walk along the border in Texas, Arizona, NM, and California. Folks this is a thousand miles of nothing but sand. Barriers won’t work, it can’t be physically controlled and electronic monitoring is easily overcome. If they want in they will get in.

2) Send them back they are lawbreakers-there are about 12 million of them, most gainfully employed, paying some level of taxes and doing a job that in all likelihood would be very difficult for the employer to fill (see onions in the field). Take them out of the workforce and you have instant recession.

3) Did I mention there are 12 million of them…that’s larger than the population of Georgia and you think we are going to round the up, process them and send them back? :roll:

The only way this could possibly be controlled is at the point where they interact with society. For example eVerify before employment (companies are suing to keep from complying with that now), proof of citizenship to get into schools but that gives us a poor ignorant class of people to manage, or proof of citizenship to access health care. Those things would work but realistically we don’t have the national will to implement them.

That means that we have to come up with some way to manage the inflow and assimilate the population. As pointed out in early posts there are some problems with the population growth and the ultimate impact on demographics. I can tell you first hand there are issues that need to be addressed in school systems. All tough questions and no easy answers.

Bottom line…as long as one of the major parties continues to spend money on fantasies such as “Secure the Border” and “Send them Back” we won’t have a solution.

BTW…The Obama administration had deported about 1.06 million illegal immigrants as of Sept. 12, against 1.57 million in Bush’s two full presidential terms.

Yet again Republican posturing doesn’t match up to Republican actions.

Smoke

November 23rd, 2011
9:31 am

#2: Wasn’t the “fence” suppose to be the cure all for our illegal immigration problems? Wasn’t that what forced GW Bush to back off supporting the liberal notion of comprehensive reform?

joe

November 23rd, 2011
9:33 am

Newt 2012: After all, he’s not a witch.

Smoke

November 23rd, 2011
9:33 am

#3: Can someone name two known Arab terrorist who slipped into the US via Mexico?

tiger-uga

November 23rd, 2011
9:38 am

Thanks for your input JDW- Maybe all the Immigrants will read your post and half of the ones that voted for Obama will re-think that vote!

Lee

November 23rd, 2011
9:39 am

Anyone who ever watched the tv show “Dirty Jobs” knows the claim that these illegals are doing “the jobs that Americans wont do” is a lie. American citizens do the dirty, sweaty, labor intensive jobs all the time. They do, however, expect a fair days wage for a fair days labor.

On another note, I don’t think you can talk about fixing the illegal immigration problem without talking about fixing the welfare problem. Too many American citizens are laying around drawing a check when they should be out there doing those “jobs that Americans wont do”. I haven’t seen a politician yet who has connected those two dots. Besides, what will happen when you allow the 20-30 million illegals to become American citizens who then line up to collect their welfare benefits? Who’s going to do those “dirty jobs” then?

The Chinese, I guess…

Smoke

November 23rd, 2011
9:40 am

#4: Has anyone figured out the economic impact of the illegal immigration crusade has had on exploitive businesses, or folks having to pay more to use legal workers to do their landscaping and construction, increased costs of produce, and income and sales taxes paid by illegal immigrants?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 23rd, 2011
9:56 am

HDB: there are “jobs Americans won’t be HIRED to do”
———-

Link please.

Didn’t think so.

Smoke

November 23rd, 2011
9:59 am

#5: It is not about how dirty the job is, but rather the compensation. Many hard jobs have been done by exploited “minorities.”. Chinese railroads, Italian sweatshops, Irish miners. History has shown that ag business has been based on cheap labor, whether it was indentured or captive slave labor, sharecroppers, or immigrants. Those need to understand that real rednecks have become nonexistent for a reason.

joe

November 23rd, 2011
10:01 am

With logic like that, who needs Newt, eh?

todd

November 23rd, 2011
10:01 am

CDW – Does that stand for Carlos Dim Wit. There is a massive difference between legal citizens violating a traffic law and citizens of another country entering our nation illegally. If you cannot see that then you are either a Mexican, ignorant, or both. JDW must stand for Justa Dim Wit – you are kidding when you say we can’t control a fenced border right? You can’ be that stupid. The world is filled with secured borders and the Chinese were able to build a 5000 mile fence two thousand years ago that stands to this day. I have to assume you are married to the other dim wit as you show the same level of intelligence. We will take back our country from idiots like you – trust me.

Van Jones

November 23rd, 2011
10:07 am

Catlady @ 9:28 – Amen Sister! But I would also add “are you currently receiving any govt aid?” If so, buh-bye.

Aquagirl

November 23rd, 2011
10:16 am

the Chinese were able to build a 5000 mile fence two thousand years ago that stands to this day.

That fence didn’t work, todd. While you may marvel at the engineering feat, it failed, like every other fence ever built. Did you snooze through that history class? How surprising.

You are kidding when you say we can control a fenced border, right? No one ever has, and no one ever will. If there is enough social/economic pressure people will cross borders. There’s not a damn thing screaming wingnuts like yourself can do about it. Screech about aye-leegals until you have a McNugget induced coronary, all you’re doing is digging a ginormous grave for the GOP and providing cheap entertainment for those of us pointing and laughing.

Quest

November 23rd, 2011
10:17 am

The good wall of china din’t keep anyone out, moron. The only barrier that kept anything out in history was your skull from any thought or intelligence.

bwa

Chip

November 23rd, 2011
10:19 am

No matter what any conservative president/Congress sets out to do regarding illigal immigration, the Lefties are going to scream, rant, and rave. Why? For two reasons… first, they are Lefties, and hysterical defecation is just part and parcel of who they are. (Why be rational can calm when you can experience the emotional high of dropping a load in your pants while throwing a shrieking tantrum in public?) So, we can expect more public misbehavior from the rank and file.

Second, and more important, the leadership of the Left will fight tooth and nail for amnesty for a very simple reason: demographics. Conservatives, especially conservative Christians, are outbreeding liberals better than three-to-one, closer to four-to-one.

This is particularly fascination when one considers the fact that the Left created a permanent black underclass, via Johnson’s Great Society in the mid-60s, to ensure a permanent base of ignorant, helpless souls trapped on the Democratic Welfare Plantation. Despite the out-of-control breeding in all the slums, the white elitist liberals and young liberal slackers are having (relatively speaking) almost no children at all. (Thank Heaven for the small favors.)

The leadership of the Left is in full blown panic mode. Their useless, brain-dead, drug-fried slacker offspring are raising cain in their “Occupy” street parties, while Conservative offspring are getting useful degrees, serving in the military, getting married, getting and holding jobs, making society function, and raising their children in churches to be responsible adult citizens.

If our borders were secured and the illegal immigration situation dealt with, liberalism would disappear in 15 to 20 years. The original idiot liberal Baby Boomers (who were only a minor percentage of their generation, but got all the press) will die off, including a lot of college professors. The younger libs will find themselves displaced by their conservative competitors who will take the jobs, leaving the younger Lefties to starve in the gutter, get themselves beaten senseless when they riot, and hopefully decide to move to France. As the young conservatives continue to rise along with alternative New Media, the ability of the mass info-tainment complex to pollute the country with the current stew of vile electronic sewage will diminish.

The hard Lefties know their only chance long-term is to legalize millions of poor Hispanics and then addict them to Big Government “free money” so they will vote Democrat. THAT, folks, is what this is all about.

Just Saying..

November 23rd, 2011
10:20 am

‘Splain again: Republicans held the White House and both Houses of Congress for 6 years and did what with the border, after the terrorists attacks?