“Former House speaker Newt Gingrich attracted huge crowds in Florida this weekend, but he continued to face down accusations from his rivals that he is too soft on immigration to win the Republican presidential nomination…
“The growing energy around Gingrich on the campaign trail may explain why some of his rivals are continuing to go after him on immigration, an issue that surfaced at the most recent televised debate last Tuesday. Gingrich called on Republicans to be ‘humane’ and support a path to legal residency for certain long-time illegal immigrants with deep ties in this country, and since then, two rivals — Romney and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann — have attacked Gingrich for what they say is his support for amnesty…
“Gingrich said he was gratified to continue attracting crowds in southwest Florida, a relatively conservative enclave in this enormous state and a critical battleground in Florida’s Jan. 31 primary.
“‘It’ll be pretty clear by Jan. 31 that I’ll be the conservative candidate in the race,’ Gingrich said, adding that he expects the Republican nomination to wind up as a contest between him and Romney.”
“Gingrich wants to model his immigration plan for illegals already in the country on the WWII model of the Selective Service System program, which allowed local communities to decide who would be drafted for war. He noted that the program ‘really tried to take general policy and give it a human face.’
“‘I think the vast majority [of illegal immigrants] will go home and should go home and then should reapply. I do not think anybody should be eligible for citizenship,’ the former speaker said to loud applause in Southwest Florida with his wife, Callista, sitting in the front row of the audience. ‘I am suggesting a certification of legality with no right to vote and no right to become an American citizen unless they go home and apply through the regular procedures back home and get in line behind everybody else who has obeyed the law and stayed back there.'”
“Two aspects of the plan are especially compelling. First, studies have shown that many illegal immigrants have no intention of settling in the United States, and would likely return home anyway, once they had earned sufficient income. Many, in fact, have done that in past years, sometimes returning to the US again after a hiatus, but sometimes not. And their numbers are dwindling in any event. The idea, often propagated by the left, that all immigrants come to the US to stay permanently is largely a myth – but a powerful one. It justifies a ‘mass amnesty’ plan that allows Democrats the opportunity to mobilize a prospective pool of new voters, while portraying conservatives as simply hostile to Latino aspirations
“Second, the Kriebel-Gingrich plan neatly separates the GOP from a strictly negative, ‘party of no’ approach to immigration based on the policy of ‘enforcement only’ and ‘mass deportation’ backed by the GOP’s ‘restrictionist’ far-right. Gingrich certainly isn’t saying ‘no’ to enforcement; in fact, he backs continued efforts to enhance border security and even promises to ‘seal the border’ by 2014. However, his plan focuses more on the positive elements of immigration that Republicans dating back to Ronald Reagan have emphasized: economic growth, family values, and cultural enrichment leading to assimilation. Gingrich wants immigrants to learn English and to become naturalized US citizens, which a high percentage, depending on the immigrant group, fail to do. Many also don’t register to vote. Gingrich’s plan would create more incentives for that to happen.
“Gingrich’s plan, in effect creates two tracks for legal status – one leading to citizenship, the other not. Critics could well argue that he’s relegating non-citizenship tracked immigrants to ‘second-class status,’ as they couldn’t get residency, and their children born in the US wouldn’t automatically become US citizens. But what Gingrich is doing is so rare in the immigration debate: making distinctions between different types of immigrants, based on their economic and family ties, and their relative contributions to the national interest, and not just treating legalization or deportation as an ‘all-or-nothing’ proposition. Already some national Latino groups are praising Gingrich’s courage for standing up to the ‘nativist’ far-right on immigration.”
“Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich signed a letter in 2004 praising President Bush’s plan for comprehensive immigration reform — which gave illegal immigrants a path to citizenship — according to Rep.Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who released the Gingrich letter today.
“‘President Bush has proposed a new legal path to work in the U.S. through a temporary worker program that will match willing workers with willing employers,’ Gingrich wrote, along with 14 other co-authors. They added that ‘the president has shown courage by calling on Congress to place reality over rhetoric and recognize that those already working here outside the law are unlikely to leave.’
“To challenge their conservative critics, Gingrich and the others wrote that ‘the status quo is unacceptable and clinging to the status quo — or tougher versions of it — is neither conservative nor principled.’ They argued that ‘it has become clear that the only viable approach to reform is combining enforcement with additional legal avenues for those who wish to work in our economy, while also addressing the situation of those already here in the U.S.'”
“While the letter did not call for legalizing every illegal immigrant, Bachmann said it didn’t draw a distinction between recent illegal immigrants and those who have been in the U.S. for decades either.
“‘He was on board with that amnesty policy which many Americans opposed,’ Bachmann said Saturday. ‘This isn’t for people who’ve been here for 25 years. This is a path of amnesty for people who are here in the United States. … If he’s only talking about people who have been here for 25 years, that would be completely different than the letter that he published in The Wall Street Journal.'”
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