Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) tore into Mitt Romney’s harsh rhetoric about “self-deportation” during the 2012 presidential campaign, calling on Republicans to abandon their extremist rhetoric and unrealistic policy solutions for the nation’s broken immigration system.
In a letter sent to supporters on Friday night, Gingrich criticized Romney for deriding proposals offering legal status to undocumented immigrants as “amnesty.” “It is difficult to understand how someone running for President of the United States, a country with more than 50 million Hispanic citizens, could fail to acknowledge that the American people should not take grandmothers who have been here 25 years, have deep family and community ties — and forcibly expel them,” Gingrich wrote.
He observed that “The 12 million people are here, living and working.” “Many of them are bound together by the web of human relations — family, friends, neighbors — and the American people will not support mass deportation.” “As a party, we simply cannot continue with immigration rhetoric that in 2012 became catastrophic — in large part because it was not grounded in reality.”
Gingrich’s own position on immigration has evolved. In 2007, the former Speaker claimed that American civilization will “decay” unless the government declares English the nation’s official language and later suggested that unauthorized immigrations should go back to their home countries for several years in exchange for a temporary guest-worker visa. Upon announcing his candidacy for the presidency in 2011, Gingrich proposed that local communities establish “citizenship boards” to consider which unauthorized immigrants can remain in the country.
As the 2012 primary kicked into gear, however, Gingrich explained that he opposed “a path to citizenship for anybody who got here illegally,” but backed “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 described Romney as the “most anti-immigrant candidate” in the race and ran Spanish-language ads calling the former Massachusetts governor “anti-immigrant.”
In Friday’s letter, Gingrich praised Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — the leading Republican advocate for a path to citizenship — for “cutting through some of the baloney with the observation that what we have now is de facto amnesty.” “A party that appears to ignore people won’t get the chance to make the case for its principles,” Gingrich warned. His message may be resonating, during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on immigration this Tuesday, conservative Republicans avoided harsh rhetoric and seemed interested in finding compromise on immigration reform.