In a recent GOP debate, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proposed a "draft board" to deal with illegal immigrants on a case by case basis. His point was that some illegal immigrants who may have been here for decades, have children and family that are U.S. citizens, have been working and in many cases have been paying taxes, probably don't need to be forcibly separated from their families and deported. Alternatively, someone who is recently here illegally with minimal ties or roots to the country probably should be told to go home and get back in line to come legally.
While this position is no different from that of either the last Republican president or the last Republican nominee for president, it has created political trouble for the Speaker's campaign. Rivals for the nomination from "also rans" like Michele Bachmann to Gov. Mitt Romney have accused Speaker Gingrich of advocating "amnesty," (although the Speaker has been clear that he doesn't advocate a path to citizenship for anyone here illegally). It appears that the GOP has a new litmus test and that there is a zero tolerance policy regarding any policy seen to favour illegal immigrants. Gov. Rick Perry's decline in the polls began before his brain freeze in the debate in which he couldn't remember his own talking points. It began when he defended a law he signed in Texas that would grant in-state tuition rates at public universities to the children of illegal immigrants (after all, it was their parents that actually broke the law, not the children), a position he actually shares with former Republican governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee.
Speaker Gingrich's support in the polls has already started to weaken as a result of his position on this issue, just as he has emerged as the chief rival to Mitt Romney for the nomination. While I have many issues with the Speaker and have endorsed a rival of his for the nomination, I would suggest that Gingrich is one of the few people in the GOP who has an adult view of this issue. There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. If none of them are going to granted some sort of legal status, using criteria similar to those laid out by Speaker Gingrich, and U.S. laws are going to be enforced, then the U.S. government is obligated to literally round up all 11 million people and deport them to their countries of origin. Not only would this disrupt families in the cases of those who have children who are U.S. citizens, but it should strike anyone that such a task is impossible. It would require devoting almost all resources of the federal government to this task at the exclusion of all else. Furthermore, it would require endowing the federal government with incredible police powers that would ultimately threaten the liberty of every American. Speaker Gingrich has done nothing more than acknowledge the obvious: some portion of these 11 million people are going to remain in the United States. Shouldn't the U.S. government have a policy that brings them out of the shadows and criteria for deciding who of those 11 million are going to remain?