Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continued Thursday to defend his call for a "humane" policy of allowing some illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S., pointing out that he never said there would be a path to citizenship for those breaking the law.
Gingrich's latest comments, contained in a statement released to Newsmax, came in response to a charge from Rep. Michele Bachmann that he was advocating citizenship for illegals. It was the latest attack on the plan by a GOP presidential contender.
"He's saying that all people who are here as illegal workers would be given that status, that's over 11 million people who are here," Bachmann said on Fox News.
But when a reporter challenged her with Gingrich's actual position, which applies only to those who have been here for "decades," Bachmann said Gingrich had previously advocated blanket amnesty.
"That would be a contradiction of the statement that the speaker made earlier," Bachmann said. "That's two different statements that the speaker is making."
But "there is no path to citizenship in my Tuesday night comment on immigration," Gingrich told Newsmax. "There is a path to non-deportation for certified, very long-term community members but they would not have the right to vote."
The goal of his plan, Gingrich said, is to gain control of the border in 12 months while ensuring that English is the official language of the U.S.
government. He wants even faster rules for the deportation of criminals and a guest worker program "outsourced to American Express, Visa or MasterCard to minimize fraud."
Only in that context would a citizen panel "evaluate applicants and certify if they have been here so long and have such deep family ties they should be allowed to have" legal documents.
But that does not give them a path to citizenship or to voting in U.S.
elections, Gingrich stressed.
"Anyone suggesting that is my position is simply false," Gingrich said. "I do not believe the American people will accept the deportation of people with children and grandchildren and two-plus decades of local community friendships, church membership, etc (that was the specific group I referenced Tuesday night."
On Friday, Gingrich is expected to elaborate on his immigration policy at a campaign event in Naples, Fla.
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