Where Did Gingrich's Ideas on Immigration Come From?

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has been defending his position on immigration recently after saying he supports a program that would provide legal status to some undocumented workers in the United States. So where did Gingrich's ideas on immigration come from?

His ideas are based upon the “Red Card Solution,” a white paper authored by Helen Kreibal for the Kreibal Foundation.

“The Krieble Foundation has a very good ‘red card’ program that says you get to be legal, but you don’t get a path to citizenship,” the former speaker of the House said at the Nov. 22 Republican debate in Washington, D.C. “And so there’s a way to ultimately end up with a country where there’s no more illegality, but you haven’t automatically given amnesty to anyone.”

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Other candidates accused Gingrich of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants, a policy strongly opposed by many Republican primary voters. Gingrich argued that is idea is a “path to legality” rather than an amnesty program.

Kreibal's stated goal in the Red Card Solution is to provide a solution to the nation's immigration problems that can gain bipartisan support. It is designed to appeal to liberals by offering legal status to immigrants and it is designed to appeal to conservatives by furthering free market principles.

The primary reason most immigrants enter the country illegally, Kreibal argues, is to find work. The Red Card Solution is intended to match those workers with the employers who need them.

“A legal program – not for citizenship but for simple work permits – would allow the vast majority of these workers to come through the gate, not over the fence, making border control easier, cheaper, and more certain,” Kreibal writes.

The Red Card Solution would separate immigrants who come to the United States for work from immigrants who want to become citizens. Immigrants with a “red card,” as opposed to a green card, which grants permanent residency status, would grant an immigrant permission to work in a specific job for a specified period of time.

Another part of Kreibal's idea that is intended to appeal to conservatives is that it would rely upon free markets, rather than government bureaucracies. Red cards would be issued based upon the convergence of immigrants in need of work and employers in need of employees.

While Gingrich praised the Red Card Solution, and his own ideas on immigration were influenced by it, his ideas clearly go beyond the Red Card Solution.

In the Republican debate, Gingrich spoke also about illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for a long time rather than those who were looking for temporary work.

“If you've come here recently, you've got no ties to this country, you ought to go home. Period. If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids, two grandkids, you've been paying taxes, obeying the law, you belong to a local church. I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out,” Gingrich said.

Immigrants with a red card would need to reapply once their red card expires, if they would want to remain in the United States. Gingrich specifically mentioned grandparents who would, apparently, retire in the United States. For these immigrants, Gingrich has a different idea for a “path to earned legality,” as he explains on his website,

“Congress must charge the Department of Justice to establish a 'citizens’ review' process for those here outside the law. It would establish committees to process these cases in individual communities and determine who will continue on this path to legality, and who will be sent home.”

Immigrants would need to prove that they can support themselves without any government entitlement programs, pay a fine, and gain the approval of the citizens' review committee. These immigrants would not have all the same rights as citizenship, but they would have legal status.

Gingrich would also allow those who were brought into the United States as minors to gain citizenship by serving in the military.

“A system has to be established that establishes legality but no citizenship for those with deep ties, repatriates those with no family or community ties in a dignified way, and quickly sends home those who have committed criminal and other destructive acts,” Gingrich argues on his website.

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