US News, November 30, 2011
Former Speaker Gingrich's approach to immigration is identical to that of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama: promises of enforcement in exchange for an illegal-alien amnesty and unlimited future immigration. Congress and the public have repeatedly rejected this approach and there's no reason to think anything's changed.
Gingrich also follows in his predecessors' footsteps by denying his amnesty is an amnesty. In the immigration context, an amnesty means the illegal immigrant gets to stay. Period. By saying that he's against amnesty but for a "path to legality," Gingrich is replaying the semantic game that has rightly become a red flag for the public. If you want to make a case for amnesty, as Gingrich obviously does, speak truthfully and frankly—voters have proven that on immigration, they're not idiots ready to be duped by rhetorical trickery.
The former speaker of the House seeks to allay concerns about the insincerity of enforcement promises by saying, as he did during the debate earlier this month, that an amnesty would happen only "once you've got every piece in place." But this isn't just a matter of passing a law that says, "There shall be enforcement," but rather is a years-long process of bureaucratic implementation and legal challenges. Only after all those hurdles are overcome is it legitimate to even discuss the possibility of amnesty.
And who would qualify? In the debate, Gingrich listed very specific criteria for his amnesty: at least 25 years of residence, U.S.-born grandchildren (not just children), consistent payment of taxes, church membership (he mentioned that three times), and obedience to the law (presumably not including the immigration laws). The number of illegal aliens meeting these requirements is close to zero. Which means the tough criteria Gingrich is using to market his amnesty will be watered down to cover a big share of the 11 million illegal aliens, and everyone, including Gingrich, knows this.
And finally, what of Gingrich's "red card" proposal? This concept, hawked by billionaire heiress Helen Krieble, would be the vehicle for Gingrich's amnesty, relabeling illegal immigrants as "temporary workers"—but would also admit an unlimited number of future workers. As bad as the amnesty would be—in attracting future illegal immigration, rewarding lawbreaking, and telling legal immigrants they're chumps—the future impact would be worse. A guest worker program on the scale Gingrich proposes would drive down wages (and not just for stoop labor), throw less-skilled Americans out of work, and move us in the direction of a two-tiered society like Saudi Arabia.
Just say no to the Gingrich Plan.