If you’re an illegal immigrant who has lived in America for 25 years, built a family and followed the law, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich doesn’t want to “kick you out” of the country.
“If you’re here — if you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home, period,” Gingrich said during a discussion about immigration policy at Tuesday’s CNN presidential debate.
“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,” he continued.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lunged at Gingrich’s comment, perhaps remembering that the last candidate to deviate from a strict anti-amnesty stance in a Republican debate was Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In the days that followed, Perry’s poll numbers began to drop precipitously, costing him his front-runner status.
“To say that we’re going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you’re all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing,” Romney declared.
Gingrich persisted, refusing to walk back his comments on immigration while indicating he was willing to pay a political price for his beliefs.
“I don’t see how 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,” he said. “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.”