(CNN) – GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich sought to stand strong against illegal immigration Friday after rivals blasted him this week as a supporter of amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants.
“I am not for amnesty for 11 million people. I’m actually not for amnesty for anyone. I’m not for a path to citizenship for any people who are out here illegally, ” Gingrich said forcefully at a town hall event in Naples, Florida. “But I am for a path to legality for those people whose ties run so deeply in America that it would truly be a tragedy to try and rip their family apart.”
Gingrich drew fire at Tuesday’s CNN Republican National Security Debate when he said he was “prepared to take the heat” for arguing that the GOP should take a “humane” position on longtime illegal immigrants by finding another way to “legality” that avoids breaking up families.
His opponents onstage pounced on his comments, and on Tuesday Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann took to the airwaves to blast Gingrich as “liberal” on illegal immigration and as a proponent of amnesty.
On Wednesday, he engaged in a back-and-forth with fellow GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, pointing to a 2007 interview in which the former Massachusetts governor said longtime illegal immigrants should "be able to stay, sign up for permanent residency or citizenship."
Romney’s campaign fired back, arguing that the video had been taken out of context and provided a fuller clip of the interview, in which Romney later said: “But they should not be given a special pathway, a special guarantee that all of them get to stay here for the rest of their lives merely by virtue of having come here illegally.”
The former House speaker insisted Friday night that he was anything but soft on the issue. He said controlling the border and making English the official language would be among his first tasks as president. He also called for a guest worker program, but only if it imposed harsh penalties on anyone who hires workers without documentation.
“I would have very, very stiff economic penalties for anyone who hires somebody who is not legally inside the system,” Gingrich said. “I would be very tough.”
Talking about Tuesday’s debate, Gingrich said his opponents had grossly twisted his words and he chided the GOP field for being unable to have an “honest, serious discussion about real solutions.”
He said the point he tried to make on Tuesday was that he believes the vast majority of illegal immigrants should be deported – with a few exceptions.
“I do think if somebody in your neighborhood has been here 25 years and they belong in your church, and they have three kids and two grandkids, and they've been paying taxes and working hard the entire time, it's going to be very, very hard to get the American people to believe that we ought to tear up those families and expel them,” he said.
Instead, he proposed that the country adopt a system used during World War II, in which communities made the decision as to who stays and who goes.
“They really tried to take general policy and give it a human face,” Gingrich said.
He insisted, however, that anyone who remains would qualify only for legal status and not American citizenship, “unless they go home and they apply through the regular procedures back home and get in line behind everybody else.”
Isn't a compassionate GOP/Tea Party family values social conservative on immigration an oxymoron? At least Gingrich is showing unexpected character by not flip flopping on the immigration issue like Romney.
Typical GOP, spending all their time arguing the small stuff. Illegal immigration is a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of fighting I don't know how many illegal wars and poor monetary policy.
This is merely a tactic to distract you from the fact that we are at 27% real unemployment. By comparison, the Great Depression saw a 25% unemployment rate! (Sources: Wikipedia, Inflation dot us.)
We are in a New Great Depression, and have been since 2009.
OK Newt, just where do you draw the line? How many years does it take?
Congress has already answered that question but you stand beside lawbreakers and not just any lawbreaker but those who have flaunted our laws for years. Shame on you, you are not presidential material (Presidents are there to uphold the law–the chief law inforcment officer and you fail).
The best offense is a good defense. This guy is a master politician and super-Washington-insider. Don't underestimate him.
I'd like to see Newt and Ron Paul dressed in Laurel & Hardy garb. Dead ringers.
newt, you just got my vote for being reasonable! me, my family, and would rather waste our votes than pick your racist opponents.
So Newt says the illegals would not have a path to citizenship but would have some sort of legal status. Would their legal status give them a path to subsidized housing? A path to food stamps or any of the other 14 food giveaway programs? Medicaid? SSD? SSI? Etc......
while I understand where he is coming from, it makes ZERO sense to reward criminals. Instead, we should help the victims, which would be those that were brought here and raised here. Basically, we should allow those that attended our primary schools for 5 years or more, and are either in school, or have finished GED or better to stay via modified dream act (require all to do service, such as military or vista). This should be connected to HR 2885 which mandates E-verify for all businesses. If we do that, we solve the illegal issues, lower our unemployment below 6% and can solve many issues.
Why are they not dealing with real solutions instead of constant pandering to the most extreme of the party?
it will take a combined effort from both political parties and from all citizens including the rich to work together accept higher taxes and make sure the corporations pay their share, not find loopholes that allow them to pay 0 in Fed taxes. We must provide a jobs program that rebuilds major infrastructure and puts people to work at LIVEABLE WAGE JOBS.
You say the 1% are the job creators, well yes they are as THEY CREATE JOBS IN CHINA, INDIA, etc etc etc
We need to stop all illegal immigration, regardless of the homeland from which the snuck into the US. If you robbed a bank 25 years ago....i bet the Feds will still prosecute for it no matter how many anchor children you have & how many churches you belong to & worship at. Your family will suffer because you robbed a bank thereby breaking the law. If you broke our immigration laws, the you should also expect your family to suffer as well. If you do not like US law...self deport.
On Newt, if as you say you really want to have a discussion about "honest, serious discussion about real solutions", you are going to have to leave the modern Republican party. It is pretty clear what the Republican base wants, and they aren't likely to tolerate too many differing opinions.
so,,,if a U.S, citizen commited a crime 25 years ago, but he pays his taxes, has a family in the U.S., and is a member of a local church we should treat our citizens the same and not send them to jail??
you know it is mazeing how this people that comments onhere how they talk about the people that running for wh. i thank most of them don't vote
i don' thank that gingrich has a chance getting the whitehouse
Nobody cares. He will not be the nominee.
Romney has 10 times more endorsements from leaders in the Republican Party than Gingrich. Those who have worked with Gingrich in the past don't want to again. To nominate Gingrich would be a huge mistake. He is not the man we need at the helm right now. Smart and clever perhaps... but able to function as a true leader as POTUS?... No. Despite Gingrich's efforts to court the Latino vote, Gingrich is not going to be a lasting phenomenon.
ginGRINCH – what if these same immigrants were here 20 years and don't go to church? Better yet, what if the immigrant was here 25 years and belong to a Mosque??? I love it when the RIGHT thinks that only "Mexicans" are here illegally – so sad!
I like it Newt!
any of the candidates pro illegal is out of my list
Newt is for the illegals? Good man, you got my vote! I will call my cousins in Mexico to share the good news, hope they can be here before you become the president. Illegals for Newt!
Gingrich has way too many skeletons in his closet. His campaign will implode again within weeks if not days.
He's better at being offensive.
After years of watching this person use every talking point, every human being,, any thing to advance himself and to heck with the affect on those around him, including three wives,I have marveled at his obvious non concern for anybody but himself. He is not above any dirty trick,any verbal distortions and his presidency would bring down what ever we have left of decency,honor,integrity and love of country. Those who would champion this man need to do some serious study and get the facts before going to the voting booth!!!!!!
America has no future as long as congressman can be paid by companies.
Humane people, Repubs or Dems. are welcome