On Face the Nation yesterday, Gingrich made clear that he wants to amnesty all illegal aliens, not just church-going grandmothers who wash the feet of the poor and knit socks for our troops in Afghanistan to help them kill the enemies of America. As he sees it, the bulk of illegals would get amnestied through his guestworker program: "My guess is that 7 or 8 or 9 million of them would ultimately go home, get a guest-worker permit, come back under the law." This is the same "touchback" gimmick that amnesty backers have been pushing for years — illegal aliens cross over to Tijuana, have lunch, pick up their papers, and come back in the afternoon as newly christened legal workers. In the Fifties official government documents called this "drying out the wetbacks" (really) and there's no way to describe it other than amnesty.
The others? "But the last million or 2 are people that have been here for a very long time. They're very part of — they're not citizens, but they're part of the community. One of the requirements would be that they would have to have an American family sponsor them to be eligible for review by the citizen review board." I guess the difference here is that the 7–9 million getting guestworker visas would have a temporary nonimmigrant status (a "nonimmigrant" is any foreigner legally here in a status that doesn't lead to eligibility for citizenship), whereas the people who got the nod from the citizen review boards would get a permanent nonimmigrant status. Except that the "temporary" guestworkers would have to be able to indefinitely renew their status — otherwise, we'd have to undertake the "inhumane" task of deporting them, right? So there's really no difference between his two groups of illegals.
Also, no one would be rejected by the review boards because you'd just find an SEIU official in Berkeley or Madison or Cambridge to sponsor you, regardless of where you really lived, and the panels themselves would be staffed by ACLU members and La Raza activists. (East L.A. alone would rubber-stamp 2 million amnesty applications.) But if anyone were rejected, why wouldn't they just go and get one of the "temporary" guestworker visas? Gingrich may know what he's talking about with regard to space mirrors or polar bears, but he has obviously not given two seconds of sustained thought to immigration.
Kris Kobach does know something about immigration, and his piece in the current "Marvin the Martian" issue of National Review raises another important point about the review board idea. Gingrich compares his panels sometimes to draft boards and other times to juries; but juries can only decide matters of fact, not law, whereas these boards would have to do both:
Or, to put it differently, a jury decides the narrow factual question, "Did he do it?" But Newt's amnesty panel would decide the legal questions, "Which immigration laws did he violate?" (and inquiry that involves both law and facts) and "Did he violate those laws in such a way that we are inclined to forgive the violations?" These inquiries are vastly more complex and subjective — and likely would result in different panels’ treating similarly situated aliens unequally.
Finally, the very premise of Gingrich's plan is false. He contends that very long-term, "otherwise law-abiding" illegal aliens with American dependents have no recourse if they’re picked up by immigration authorities. But, as I pointed out in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer piece, there are already ways of legalizing certain illegal aliens with compelling cases, and there are changes that could be made to, for instance, increase the discretion of immigration judges to legalize such people. What we don’t need is new government programs which would serve as fraud factories and open the doors to unlimited future immigration.