Debate Followup: No, You Can't Really Trust Newt on Immigration (Update: Newt Hits Back at Romney)
Mark Krikorian sums up why, nicely.
First, there just aren’t very many illegal aliens who have been here 25 years, the duration Gingrich specified as warranting amnesty. The old INS estimated that there were about 5 million illegal aliens in 1996, and the growth rate had been about 300,000 a year, which means that 10 years earlier (i.e., 25 years ago), there would have been about 2 million illegal aliens. Of those, I would guess the majority have in the intervening quarter-century either gone home, died, or finagled a green card (at least one-quarter of each year’s green-card recipients — new “legal” immigrants — are illegal aliens using the federal immigration program to launder their status). So that’s fewer than 1 million people out of the current 11 million illegals who would be covered by the Gingrich Amnesty, and probably fewer than half a million.
But wait — 25 years ago. Hmmmmm. That rings a bell. Did something happen back in 1986 with regard to immigration? Oh, yeah, I remember — Congress passed the one and only amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), that legalized close to 3 million illegals (there had been about 5 million, so about 2 million remained after the amnesty, because they didn’t meet the law’s requirements). That was supposed to be followed by tough enforcement to prevent future illegal immigration and to throw out the resident illegals who didn’t qualify for the amnesty (or who failed to lie their way to a green card, since a large share of those successfully claiming amnesty, perhaps as many as one-quarter, did so fraudulently — among the liars was Mahmud “The Red” Abouhalima, a leader of the first World Trade Center attack).
So the Gingrich Amnesty would cover illegal immigrants here when Congress passed IRCA. That is to say, it would pick up where the previous amnesty left off, legalizing precisely those people who didn’t qualify for IRCA. This just underlines what a chump you have to be to support any deal offered you by amnesty supporters.
Gingrich was not only in Congress when that previous amnesty passed. He voted for it. At least, back then our betters had the decency and honesty to call the thing "amnesty."
Yes, Reagan signed it into law (his AG, Ed Meese, has since said it was Reagan's biggest mistake). That amnesty was supposed to fix the problem. Did it?
Update: Via Ace, Gingrich is spanking Romney on twitter for pushing against Gingrich's position on immigration. Which brings up another truth, which is that you can't really trust Romney on this issue either. And you can't trust that he'll wage attacks against his opponents that don't end up backfiring on him. When you've been on both sides of every issue, there's bound to be a quote or policy position in your past that will hurt you now. And so it is with Romney.
Behold, conservatives, your two front-runners.