Debate Club

Newt Gingrich Faces the Facts of Immigration

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It's not a good sign when even the most obvious truths cannot be spoken on the campaign trail.

Deport 11 million illegal immigrants? Can Newt Gingrich really be the only Republican presidential candidate who understands that this would be impossible?

Not only would it cost tens of billions of dollars and divert resources from many far more pressing law enforcement priorities, but even the toughest of presidents would soon back off as the media images of mass round-ups beamed around the world—that really is not the kind of country most Americans want to be or live in.

[Read Ken Walsh's Washington: Gingrich Faces Backlash From the Right on Immigration.]

Gingrich's presidential rivals denounced him for speaking this truth. Mitt Romney called Newt's proposal for grappling with illegal immigration amnesty. But Romney and the others offered no alternatives. Their solution for the 11 million? The status quo.

What these other candidates don't seem to recognize: The status quo is amnesty—de facto amnesty. As Romney himself described it (he thought he was describing Gingrich's plan): "people who come here illegally ... get to stay illegally for the rest of their life."

[Read U.S. News's Debate Club: Should the United States build a fence on its southern border?]

Gingrich's solution isn't perfect—no answer is. The millions of unauthorized immigrants living among us but beyond the rule of the law are the product of decades of hypocritical, unrealistic policy. And any effort to get a grip now is going to require some hardheaded tradeoffs. But at least Gingrich is owning up to the problem and trying to grapple with it honestly.

He's not the first Republican to face the facts about immigration—the dilemmas posed by the illegal millions in our midst or the economy's continuing need for foreign workers, skilled and unskilled. The stance Gingrich staked out last week recalled those endorsed in the past by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

But then, if today's ideological litmus tests had been in place when Reagan and Bush were running for president, both probably would have been disqualified by their positions on immigration.

Hats off to Newt Gingrich. He may or may not survive this. But at least he's been courageous enough to be honest about what the problem is—surely the minimum we should ask of any would-be president.

Tamar Jacoby

About Tamar Jacoby President of ImmigrationWorks USA

Tags
immigration reform
Gingrich, Newt

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