- (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is well known for his “out-of-the-box” thinking and intellectual prowess. But his suggestion that some illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for several years be allowed to legally remain may cause some conservative Iowa voters to think twice before offering their vote.
Earlier this fall, Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended his position on allowing some illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities. The heavy price he paid was a substantial and immediate drop in the polls. Some are asking if New Gingrich could suffer a similar fate.
Moving away from the traditional GOP position on illegal immigration, Gingrich said he could not imagine an American that was not “humane in enforcing the law” and would not allow illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in America for at least 25 years to remain with their families, possibly gaining a legal citizenship.
Gingrich said he is “willing to take the heat” on his comments. Dr. Larry Sabato, the distinguished professor at the University of Virginia, told Fox News on Wednesday morning that Gingrich may lose support in the Hawkeye state.
“There’s a very strong anti-illegal immigration contingent among the people who show up at the Iowa caucuses,” said Sabato. “That’s where Gingrich hopes to make his breakthrough. He has to do well in Iowa in order to compete in New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney is doing very well … He came awfully close to Rick Perry’s heartless comment, which as we know caused Perry enormous problems.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wasted no time in jumping on Gingrich’s comments, comparing it to a form of amnesty that could motivate even more illegal immigrants to cross the border.
“The failure of the federal government to enforce immigration laws costs federal, state and local governments billions of dollars annually,” Bachmann said in a written statement released by her campaign. “Our nation was founded on the rule of law, and we must ensure U.S. immigration laws are respected and enforced not only to preserve our national security, but to protect federal, state and local budgets, and to curb the unfair strain on our country’s job market.”
However, William Ghee, the political action committee chair for Americans for Legal Immigration, levied the toughest criticism against Gingrich, suggesting that his campaign will “implode.”
“Newt Gingrich’s campaign will noq take the ‘Perry Plunge’ due to his support for DREAM Act Amnesty,” Ghee said in a written statement. “Newt Gingrich is finished!”
Former Bush adviser and political analyst Karl Rove indicated he thought Gingrich would not suffer any long-term damage over his comments. “You’re never going to get everyone to agree with you every time,” said Rove on Fox News.