Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s immigration policies came to the forefront after he called for a “humane” stance on illegal immigration during the recent Republican presidential debate. He is now defending his statements and record on immigration.
“I am not for amnesty for 11 million people.” Gingrich said during a town hall meeting last Friday, “I’m actually not for amnesty for anyone.” He insisted that he would be “very tough” on employers of illegal immigrants.
However, Gingrich has long record of supporting amnesty at the behest of cheap labor lobbyists.
His sorry performance goes back to 1986, when he voted for the Simpson-Mazzoli bill that ultimately granted amnesty to three million illegal immigrants.
Gingrich later admitted this was a mistake. But he never learned from it. His backroom maneuvering as speaker destroyed the last serious chance of real immigration reform in 1995-96, after the bipartisan Jordan Commission recommended cuts in legal immigration and cracking down illegal immigration.
The political scientist Aristide Zolberg notes, in “A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America,” that Gingrich opposed the legislation modeled after the commission’s recommendations “after meeting with representatives of caterers, fast-food establishments and restaurant chains.”
Fifteen years after stopping legislation to get tough on illegal immigration, Gingrich now claims we can’t deport illegal immigrants because they’ve been in this country too long. Gingrich argued at the debate that illegal immigrants who “have been here 25 years,” have children and grandchildren here and who have been “paying taxes and obeying the law” should be allowed to stay.
“I don’t see,” he added, “how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt a policy that destroys families.”
Setting aside the issue of whether enforcing our nation’s immigration laws is “anti-family,” it’s hard to see why illegal immigrants should be rewarded simply because they have evaded deportation for so long.
As for “obeying the law,” does Gingrich not realize that the illegal immigrant in his hypothetical has been breaking the law every moment of those 25 years that he has been here? Not to mention all the other probable crimes — like identity fraud — that illegal immigrants regularly commit to remain in the United States.
In addition, given that illegal immigrants are “undocumented,” it may be difficult to prevent those who have come to this country recently from claiming a quarter-century of residency.
Gingrich insists that giving these people work permits is not amnesty — rather “a path to legality” which gives them a “red card” that does not end in citizenship. The millions of unemployed Americans competing against the eight million illegal immigrants in the U.S. workforce do not care about that distinction.
When Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced his run for the presidency in August, he took away Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s momentum, although she had just won the Iowa Straw poll. Many were predicting a Romney-Perry race.
Yet when Perry called opponents of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants “heartless,” and his other liberal positions on immigration were reported on, he sank in the party polls and never recovered.
If Republican voters learn the truth about Gingrich’s immigration policies, he may well face the same fate.