The latest frontrunner in the Republican presidential race, Newt Gingrich, has gambled by advocating a "humane" approach to illegal immigration, one that risks alienating conservatives.
Gingrich, the former House Speaker, said he was conscious he was entering an area that was potentially dangerous for him. "I am prepared to take the heat for saying let's be humane in enforcing the law," he said on Tuesday night. An earlier frontrunner in the race, Texas governor Rick Perry, saw a sharp drop in his support in September after advocating a similar approach to immigration.
Gingrich was speaking during a Republican presidential debate in Washington in the runup to the nomination contests, which begin in Iowa on 3 January. The debate on foreign policy and security was dominated not only by immigration but Iran, Pakistan and the Patriot Act, says The Guardian.
The former House speaker found himself mounting a forceful argument for comprehensive immigration reform, including legalization for some illegal immigrants, particularly those brought to the U.S. as children. When Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended that same position in an earlier debate -- saying to those who would punish such children, "I don't think you have a heart" -- it went over like a lead zeppelin with many conservatives, many of whom haven't given him a second look ever since. Gingrich took a perilously similar line: "I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration family which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. 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.", according to The Atlantic.
Newt Gingrich drew a clear line on the issue of immigration, declining to take a deport-them-all stand and saying it would be the wrong tack for the "pro-family" party to rip people apart from their loved ones.This is clearly tricky ground - it remains to be seen whether the conservative GOP base will accept that stand in a nominee - and it was traveled to ill effect by Rick Perry not too long ago.
The difference in Gingrich's case is that, unlike Perry, he didn't use a term that conservatives associate with liberals - "heart" - and framed his stand in a conversation about "values." And Gingrich seemed truly confident in his position - again, unlike Perry.
Gingrich was first asked by debate moderator Wolf Blitzer what he would do as president "with these millions of illegal immigrants, many of whom have been in this country for a long time."Gingrich said he favors a "comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border."
"I believe ultimately you have to find some system. Once you've put every piece in place, which includes the guest-worker program, you need something like a World War II Selective Service Board that, frankly, reviews the people who are here," he said. Gingrich emphasized that those in the country illegally who nevertheless had deep ties to the community and paid taxes deserved a path toward citizenship, informs Politico.
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