By Lynda Waddington
True immigration reform in America may be a goal for Congress, but it will never become a reality until government steps aside. At least that is the plan former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed to supporters at a Republican Party of Iowa fundraiser Wednesday.
"We need a guest worker program that, quite frankly, is fairly large and driven by economics -- but that is out-sourced to American Express, Visa or Mastercard," Gingrich said, who added there is "zero possibility of the federal government managing" such a program without significant fraud abuse.
Gingrich's comments on immigration were not a planned part of his press availability or prepared remarks before a luncheon crowd of roughly 200 GOP supporters who gathered on the Kirkwood Community College Campus. But when a member of the audience asked how the current immigration problem could be resolved and how the borders could be protected, the man most credited with the landmark 1994 Contract With America spoke at length about the issue as well as what he perceives as political posturing and fear-mongering on the part of Democrats.
"What I'm opposed to is the federal level passage of a single bill that pretends it does all the right things, but is actually designed to ensure that millions of people get to be American citizens in hopes that they will vote Democrat, which I think is the Obama plot," Gingrich said.
Republicans need to be "extremely aggressive" in their response to liberals using immigration as a wedge issue "to frighten Latinos into thinking they cannot vote Republican," he said.
Gingrich's distrust of government in the arena of immigration reform was forged in the wake of the Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986, also known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan.
"I voted for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. We were told we were going to give amnesty to 300,000 people, and it turned out we gave amnesty to 3 million," Gingrich said.
"I approach this issue with a demand that we have common sense immigration reform, and with a deep opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. There is a big difference. Comprehensive immigration reform is an effort by liberal politicians to lie to you once again, and to convince you that you ought to give amnesty to millions of people in return for a promise, which they will break again."
Although Gingrich has been criticized recently for assertions in his latest book that the Obama administration's "secular socialist machine" represents "as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union," he remained steadfast to that theme throughout his remarks in Iowa, attacking Obama and other key Democrats as being a danger to the nation. On the specific issue of immigration reform, however, much of his assessment about current day legislation was delivered to the public in 2007 when he produced and published a white paper critical of legislation pushed by President George W. Bush.
Gingrich touted his role in the creation of the nation's first border fence between San Diego and Tijuana, but voiced his belief that a fence alone isn't enough to provide a secure border.
"We can control the border. Every time we focus resources we do control the border -- but we never focus enough resources for the whole border," he said.
"Now, you do not have to fence the entire border. There are a lot of areas that are wide open and all you have to do is put a predator over there."
Predators, or unmanned aerial drones, are used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan to patrol, monitor and remotely fire upon regions without placing pilots or crew in immediate danger. Unarmed models have already seen at least limited use along the U.S. and Mexico border for the past few years. Gingrich was adamant that if the U.S. government could afford to deploy the predators in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, then it could also afford to deploy them in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.
"You also want rapid response people so that if you see, on infrared at night, 100 unidentified people walking across the desert toward the border, you know you want a greeting party -- to hand each of the people a bottle of water and a map on how to get back into Mexico," Gingrich said and earned one of his largest applause lines of the afternoon.
Once the border is secured, the nation should embark on the guest worker program run by credit card companies that can create fraud-proof or nearly-fraud-proof employment verification documents for the workers. Those entering the program would need to prove they are not criminals, and would have to enter into a contract that they would pay taxes and obey laws. Employers would then be given strict economic disincentives if caught hiring anyone without proper documentation.
"I wouldn't put them in jail," he said. "I would just tell them that if they make money by hiring people illegally that we will bankrupt them."
There was actually only one portion of the reform plan that gave Gingrich pause: Long-term, law-abiding immigrants and those with families.
"I am against any person who is here illegally being on a track to citizenship without some very, very serious thought being put into this," he said. "I am thinking this through carefully because frankly if you've got a kid that came here with their parents when they were 3-years-old and they are now 19-years-old and they don't even speak the language of their native country you've got to think really long and hard about what you are going to do. If you've got somebody who has been here for 12 years, is married and has four kids, you have to think really hard about that. I don't have a good answer."
One possible solution, he said, might be to place such cases before "citizen panels" for review.
"Most Latinos who are in this country are here legally. They work hard. They want take-home pay. They want their kids to be educated. They want to live in safe neighborhoods," he said.
"Let me say this because it is important: I am pro legal immigration. I think it is very important. You've got to remember that this is a country that has made it extraordinarily possible for hard-working, descent people from all over the world to come here for the purpose of seeking a better future. As long as it is done legally, I favor it. If they want to come to America, I think they have to learn English, they have to learn American history, [and] they have to become Americans."