Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich supports immigration policies that rank among the most moderate in the field of Republican candidates for president.
The former House Speaker signed pledge to build a double fence on the U.S.-Mexico border if he wins the presidency. But he believes mass deportation isn't feasible and thinks the country needs to find a practical alternative. He says a limited residency option might be the right course.
“We are not going to deport 11 million people,” he has often said. “There has to be some zone between deportation and amnesty.”
Gingrich says illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for 25 years and have families should not be deported. The influential New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed him for the Republican nomination.
Gingrich has probably done more than any other Republican in the race to reach out to the Hispanic community. He started The Americano, a conservative website aimed at Hispanic voters. He is also learning Spanish.
Early in the 2011 campaign, he told a group of Tea Party activists: “We need to reach out to everybody who wants to work hard, everybody who wants to earn a living, everybody who believes in the classic traditional values. And certainly that’s much of the Hispanic American community.”
A 'Complicated Problem'
Gingrich says dealing with the nation’s illegal immigrant population is a "complicated problem." He has said he would consider creating community boards similar to those used during the World War II Selective Service drafts to help decide who belongs in the country and who should go.
“I am deeply committed to securing the border,” he said in a March interview. “I am deeply committed to changing the deportation rules for felons and gang members. But I also think we have a huge challenge. What do you do with the human beings who are engaged, some of whom are married and have children? It’s a very complicated situation, and I don’t think you can just wave a magic wand and have some kind of simple, clean answer.”
During a June debate, Gingrich said immigration policy isn’t always suited to clear-cut answers: “No serious citizen who’s concerned about solving this problem should get trapped into a yes/no answer in which you’re either for totally selling out protecting America or you’re for totally kicking out 20 million people in a heartless way.”
Gingrich has expressed support for some provisions in the DREAM Act, legislation that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates. He supports allowing immigrants to join the military and gain a path to citizenship. He believes immigrants should learn English and American history as requirements for citizenship.
“Recognizing there are millions of immigrants who have been here a short time, who have no roots here, and they probably should go home,” he says about a path to residency. “On the other hand, you have someone who came here at three years of age and now they’re 19. I suspect we’re going to want to find some way to enable them to move toward legality, if not citizenship.”
Gingrich says he would secure the border by using Homeland Security agents and National Guard to supplement patrols. He would make it easier for visitors to come to the United States by making visa procedures more efficient and less expensive.
Wants Guest Worker Program
He says the country needs a guest worker program that would allow workers to come and take temporary jobs and then return to their homelands. Gingrich says he voted for a guest worker plan as a member of the House during the Reagan administration.
If elected, Gingrich would tighten requirements on employers to use the E-verify system that checks the legal status of foreign employees. He says the right immigration policy can give a boost to the U.S. economy and supports giving more visas to skilled foreign workers.
Gingrich would push for comprehensive immigration reform if elected. He believes immigration policy is a federal responsibility and should not be undertaken by the states.
However, he is sympathetic to states such as Arizona, Alabama and Georgia that have passed immigration laws out of “frustration with the federal government.” He says its “absurd” for the federal government to blame those states for acting when Washington has failed to control its borders.