Gingrich takes heat over “amnesty”
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.
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.”