Gingrich takes heat over “amnesty”

November 24, 2011

Electrified fences, predator drones and anchor babies were nowhere to be found when the subject of illegal immigration came up in the latest of a series of Republican presidential debates.

The softer, gentler tone Tuesday night at Constitution Hall was a contrast from when the White House hopefuls took on the subject at a debate in Las Vegas last month.

But there was still heat at the Washington debate — and this time Newt Gingrich got scorched by expressing a relatively moderate position on illegal immigration.

The former House Speaker opened himself up to sharp criticism from rivals in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and conservatives in general, with one word he did not even utter — “amnesty.”

As Reuters’ Steve Holland reports, the new Republican front-runner may have put himself into a box with his comments about immigration.

Conservatives who tend to vote in Republican primaries generally oppose extending any form of  legal status to people  who entered the country illegally. Gingrich may have some explaining to do if he hopes to secure their support.

Republican strategist Phil Musser told Holland: “There is a professional cottage industry that exists within the conservative universe that is intensely focused on the details of this issue, and Newt for better or for worse walked squarely into a hornet’s nest.”

The heat was still on a day after the debate, and the Gingrich campaign fought back,  taking aim at Mitt Romney by   circulating old video of the former Massachusetts governor making comments similar to what Gingrich said Tuesday night.

Here’s what Gingrich said about his approach to illegal immigration at the debate on national security:

“If you’re 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 got 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.”

“I don’t see how the — the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.”


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You can’t have Republican debates in Washington DC this early in the campaign. The audience in DC was comprised of the monied/intelligent Republicans, not the folks you need to pander to in the primaries. If the candidates uttered any of the usual foolishness, they’d have been booed like the gay soldier was by the rubes.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

So this is why they call Red States the Republican States?, chosen by the color of their necks. Frustrating that so many Republicans have to come out with guns blazing and John Wayne threats against Family values (ie. staying together as a family). You would think that the Christian Party would be the ones to protect family values. They sure spent a lot of time talking about it the last time around.

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive

Anyone promoting the genuine protection of U.S. citizens through enforcement of reasonable immigration laws will always be under fire from the likes of left wing opportunists like Senator Durbin and Senator Schumer. It’s time to protect the legitimate economic and security interests of our citizens by enforcing the same immigration laws as every other nation on the earth…including Mexico. Join us at to see how you can help stop the insanity of mass illegal immigration. We need doers, not talkers, to stop this insanity.

Posted by actnow | Report as abusive

Gingrich helped establish our governments policy or turning a blind eye to illegal immigrants and companies that hire them. Gingrich also favors selling off more national park land to private interests. Probably to house the massive population growth he and his like minded politicians are trying to force on the people of this country.

Posted by coloww | Report as abusive

Any Republican candidate that even mentions a word like “compassion” or “reasonable” will lose support. Republicans have displayed a fervent and well developed lack of humanity for years now and they want candidates that reflect this core principle. If the candidates want to win GOP voter support that must be very strong on torture techniques like water boarding; they must smile and cheer when a young person dies because they did not have the foresight to buy health care insurance; they must degenerate gay soldiers and most of all they must be very negative toward any person that is in this country without proper documentation. Fear, hatred, lack of generosity of spirit are the hallmarks of the modern Republican. Of course this goes hand in hand with a firm Christian faith.

Posted by Jambo86 | Report as abusive

With real unemployment numbers in excess of 20% yet Newt and Dick both want more law breakers busting our boarders. Maybe our unemployment numbers would lower if we actually closed the boarders? No, we want super cheap labor that we can abuse so businesses can make higher profits instead. Has America lost its mind? We’ve got one side wanting everything they can grab for free (abuse of social programs) because they don’t want to really work for a living and the other side who doesn’t feel they should pay taxes even though they’re making millions in profits. No wonder the tax bills are only being paid by the average smuck once called the middle class. Divided we fall. We’re devided that’s no doubt.

Posted by forteinjeff | Report as abusive

Decades ago this conflict wouldn’t have come up. Romney would say one thing to northern moderates and another thing to midwestern conservatives, and there would have been no issue. Newt would have earned big dollars lobbying and then campaigned on not being a lobbyist. But, in today’s world, there are clips available on YouTube to prove the inconsistencies. The reality is that we’ll never be able to form a coalition party in an environment like this.

Posted by ReasonableViews | Report as abusive

I’ve always been rabid against even one illegal left standing in America after they marched our streets carrying their Mexican flag.
Newt’s words struck home. Not only will it solve the problem of the illegals it takes away the huge carrot the Democrats have always used to garner votes and one of their best talking points. Legalized but UNABLE to VOTE. That is the key, AND, this would only come AFTER the border was closed, sealed and hopefully anyone coming through would be stopped with a well placed bullet. Americans are sick of elected officials caring only about their next election instead of protecting America.
My vote is for Newt.

Posted by paco12348 | Report as abusive

Nothing scares Republicans more than voters. That’s why they are working feverishly to make it as diffcult as possible for people to register, to vote, and have their votes counted. Anyone who is legally residing in the United States should be allowed – no – REQUIRED to vote, in every election.

One person, one vote. Not one dollar, one vote.

Posted by SteveoOOo | Report as abusive