(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.”
I don't like Romney, but Newt has flipped on everything from mandatory healthcare and immigration to climate change and cap-and-trade and on to Libya and trials for terrorists.
The man knows his political history, personal life, and constantly changing views on the issues will mean he never gets elected. He's simply a hack job on Romney and a shallow attempt to maintain political relevancy. When's his next book coming out?
Separate from his policy pronouncements, even a largely obese population does not want a pudge-dub politician to be President.
Gingrich 2012: Because sometimes a womanizing blowhard is the best you can do.
I am not sure Mr.Gingrich has the right credentials to talk about Family Values. He's failed miserably on that front with his philandering ways. It is blatant pandering on a sensitive issue.
At any rate, Shirking responsibility and shifting it to "so-called" community review boards is an extremely dangerous suggestion – it not only opens the process to widespread corruption but also is an invitation for a totally dysfunctional system of disposition. It is essentially an admission of "failure" before even evaluating the issue.
This G.O.P only has themselves to blame for four more years of Obama, if they nominate this guy.
Too much flip flopping. C
Newt should be on the defensive, he is one of the last back room, cigar smoking politicians that made all the decisions. What I would like to know is if he was forced to resign as Speaker of the House, and from the House of Representatives, in disgrace, why would anyone give any serious consideration to the bozo, running for President.
I am sorry, but I don't see how a man who resigned from Congress to save himself from facing multiple ethics charges can be considered a front runner for the GOP Presidential nomination.
Newt should know by now that using the word " humane" is a sin to teabaggers.
He probably has some illegals working for him.
The 25 years sounds like hyperbole to me. What about somebody who has been here illegally for, say, 22 years? Does Newt really mean 25 years? I think not. The devil is in the details. No amnesty. Enforce current law, seal the border.
DEPORT all illegal immigrants is the VAST majority of twhat the GOP demand. IF a candidate deviates from that position than they will get no support from the extremist.
“But I am for a path to legality for those people whose ties run so deeply in America" I have a few questions for the Newtster. -- HOW DEEP IS "SO DEEPLY?" WHAT IF THEY DON'T BELONG TO MY CHURCH? WOULD IT BE ANY EASIER, OR HARDER, TO TEAR UP A FAMILY WHO HAS ONLY BEEN HERE 24 YEARS 11 MONTHS? One last question, JUST HOW BIG IS YOUR WIFE'S JEWERLY BOX?
Trip down memory lane? If this was the Rookie in Chief's idea, CNN and Ms Ashley would have heralded it as a triumph in statesmanship and humanity. What lopsided reporting headline......
what if they have been in this country 25 years, have a family, work hard, pay taxes, and DON'T go to church. Then what?
Nute's a career criminal and will gas forth any idea to further his reign of felonies upon the USA
It would appear that at least one Republican candidate for POTUS is wising up. There is no sensible method of deporting all the illegal aliens in the US. The cost is prohibitive and there are other less expensive and achieveable methods. Newt seems to be the Rep that's willing to move to the center and make a real challenge to Obama. Others inflexible positions on immigration will not bode well in the general election. Those who have dismissed Newt in the past may want to take a second look....
Poor Newt. Like most Republicans he has no core beliefs, except for a narcissitic love of self and, of course being a pig at the trough of government and lobbyist money. I do hope he gets the nomination because he would make a horrible, easily beatable candidate.
Anyone who votes for the Grinchwich is crazy. I for one am sick of seeing these Illegals everyday in our area ,taking jobs away from Americans because they will work for peanuts. I know for a fact that they are paid under the table, and DO NOT pay income taxes. The US has rounded up millions of other law breakers, just check our prisons and local jails, I dont know what the big deal is that the US couldnt round up Illegals. The Illegals are raping our country and our politicians are loving it. Democrats, Republicans are so entrenched in getting the Mexican vote that neither side really wants to do anything about it. The US is being invaded and no one in charge gives a DAMN. We need to find a President who really cares about America, we dont have that now and we dont have that with any of the Republicans who are running. As for the Grinchwich wanting amnesty for the twenty five year thieves, they are the first ones that should be deported. They have been criminals and breaking our laws for twenty five years. The Grinchwich says that we would put the anchor babies in jeopardy b deporting these criminals, so what.
1-Mexico Admits To Second Mayan 2012 End-of-World Reference.
So true if Odumbo gets re-elected.
2-Wall Street Thrashed in Worst Week in Two Months
It will only continue if Odumbo maintains his current path of destruction.
3-Obama: Let’s overcome partisan gridlock
Odumbo will never allow this. He is on a Socialistic mission. His professor at Cornell drove this home to him. Believe it.
Newt has a very short memory when it comes to his past record. Login to Facebook and search "Scarlet Letter Express" for a way to help him remember . . .
Had some weird drug freak support of the most incompetent, inept, corrupt union toady president attack me for being disrespectful of our president. Read the post from these people about Michelle Bachman, Palin any Republican or go back to the ones about Bush or even Laura Bush. Remember the Letterman attack on Bristol Palin. Hypocrisy is symbolized be democrat liberals.
This completely eliminates Gingrich from my consideration.
I am not a deportation purist and I think Newt has a good idea.
If this tired old retread is the best the GOP can produce, I think President Obama has very little to worry about.