Newt Gingrich recently caught a lot of flak for his defense of illegal immigrants who have been productive, law-abiding citizens in American for 25 years. To many Republicans, Newt’s defense sounds like amnesty, and that can be a death knell for a Republican politician. Not surprisingly, however, liberals have come to Newt’s defense.
There are news reports that, because Newt currently needs support from Republicans more so than from liberals, he is walking back from his “humane” position on illegal immigration, but I suggest that a close review of his new “Ten Steps to a Legal Nation” on his website reveals that he is sticking with his guns. The ten steps are as follows:
- Control the border (big surprise – not)
- Upgrade the visa program (of course)
- Attract the brains from other countries (no brainer)
- Privatize the legal guest-worker program from e-verify to Visa/MC/AmExp (creative)
- Authorize residency to foreigners who can create jobs (sure)
- Create a path to earned legality for the 8-12 million illegal immigrants (the 800-pound gorilla here)
- Deport criminals quickly (does anyone disagree?)
- Teach American history and America exceptionalism (bit of demagoguing here)
- English must be the official language (bit of demagoguing here)
- DREAM Act should create citizenship for military volunteers (surprisingly trimmed back)
Although Gingrich has significantly trimmed the benefits of the federal DREAM Act (e.g., college attendance will not suffice and military volunteers will not be able to rely on chain immigration to get their relatives into the country), the big 800-pound gorilla amongst Gingrich’s solutions is #6 – i.e., the path to earned legality.
Obviously, the distinction between earned legality and earned citizenship is slight. With Newt’s earned legality, the illegal immigrants will get to remain in the country while those who have patiently followed legal channels in most foreign countries will continue to wait, and wait, and wait (like in Casablanca in WWII).
Gingrich’s plan does contain a creative mechanism for deciding which of the 8-12 million illegal immigrants will be awarded a path to legality. He suggests that the Department of Justice create thousands of local boards (like a draft board) that would review the application of each illegal immigrant based on “family and community ties, and ability to support oneself via employment without the assistance of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs. The government will rigorously enforce a requirement that all individuals seeking this path to legality must be able to prove that they can independently pay for private health insurance. If an individual cannot prove this, they will lose the ability to stay in the United States. Furthermore, proficiency in English within a certain number of years, similar to the requirement for naturalization, will be required for anyone who seeks continued legal status in the United States.”
Approval under Gingrich’s review process concludes with the immigrant being required to pay a penalty of at least $5,000. Those not approved will be deported.
I like Gingrich’s plan. Although I disagree with the way he trimmed back the DREAM Act from college students, he has given many more people an opportunity to become legal.
Gingrich suggests that his proposals don’t need to be adopted together as comprehensive immigration reform, but rather can be evaluated and decided on their own merits. I disagree. We can’t be imposing any new anti-work measures like e-verify until we have developed some process to protect those who may eventually be awared legal status.
Let’s hope that Gingrich’s excellent ideas force Romney to raise the level of his game.