This weekend, former Speaker of the House and conservative leader Newt Gingrich (R-GA) spoke at a gathering at the Southern New Hampshire University sponsored by STEWARD of Prosperity (Stimulating The Economy Without Accumulating Record Debt). During his appearance, Gingrich took a leading question from an audience member who suggested that the nation’s Founding Fathers would be opposed to the “illegal” immigration situation that the U.S. faces today. Gingrich resisted appealing to the right’s worse instincts and instead provided a sensible, pro-immigrant answer:
If somebody is zero threat to the United States and wants to come here as a student, or as a business-person, or as a tourist, it ought to be easy, not hard to get a visa. We currently have a system where it’s pretty easy to sneak into the country illegally, but fairly hard to get here legally. Now that doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t understand the model we’re currently using, and that needs to be fixed.
Gingrich aptly points out that the nation is currently operating under an inefficient, out-dated, and ineffective visa system. While many immigration hawks demand that undocumented immigrants go “to the back of the line,” Gingrich speaks to fact that there isn’t really a line for them to get in. The number of green cards available for low-skilled workers is capped at an inflexible number that doesn’t respond to fluctuations in demand and supply. Meanwhile, the numerical limits on family immigration have generated a visa back-log that has resulted in several family members having to wait decades to be reunited with their loved ones. Few potential immigrants meet the requirements necessary to be granted refugee status and the annual Diversity Visa program affords visas to a small number of persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
Gingrich has undoubtedly started promoting a gentler alternative to the fear-mongering approach to immigration that many of his Republican colleagues have adopted. Nonetheless, not all of his positions are entirely sensible. This past summer, he told Univision’s Jorge Ramos that his solution to the nation’s broken immigration system would involve requiring undocumented immigrants to leave their homes, jobs, and U.S.-born children and go back to their home countries for a couple years until they receive a temporary worker permit to return to the U.S. During his speech in New Hampshire Gingrich further suggested “outsourcing” the temporary worker program to Visa, Mastercard, or American Express because the federal government wouldn’t be able to implement it. He also warned against becoming a “multi-lingual” country, despite the fact that he personally runs a political bilingual news and op-ed website called The Americano.