Newt Gingrich On Immigration

by Gerri Willis

Newt Gingrich is distinctive for a lot of reasons. His Tiffany's account of half a million dollars. His resurrection from the dead of presidential candidates. And, more recently, his comments about immigration -- namely that he favors what sounds a lot like amnesty...

According to Gingrich, "The Krieble Foundation is a very good red card program that says, you get to be legal but you don't get a path to citizenship, and so there's a way that ultimately you end up with a country where there's no more illegality, but you haven't automatically given amnesty to anyone."

What does it mean?

Well, we did a little digging into the former Speaker's views -- and found a May 2010 report called The Red Card Solution that has inspired Gingrich's thinking on immigration.

Here are the basics of what the report calls for: -- Work permits for illegal immigrants, called "red cards," would be issued by employment agencies that which match illegals with American jobs.

Red card holders would be permitted to live in the country, but couldn't vote and would not be on a path to citizenship. However, they would pay taxes and most likely Social Security taxes, though they wouldn't be eligible for Social Security benefits.

Employers would be responsible for hiring people who are either red card holders or citizens, of course. Workers without red cards would be deported. Helen Krieble, the author of the study, says the goal is to find a simple solution to a complicated problem. She writes that her idea would still require extensive border control but that the prospect of controlling borders would be easier because workers could enter legally with a red card though they couldn't stay forever.

The idea has a lot of appeal, but like many of the ideas Newt has floated over the years, it might fail the practicality test. Admirably, Krieble tries to find a way to get the system to pay for itself by suggesting that employment agencies could issue red cards and vet immigrants. But that's a responsibility that I am not sure I would want to turn over to the private sector -- who we let into the country -- to me at least should be a function of law enforcement.

What's more, the authors assume that employment agencies could make a business of matching Mexican immigrants with employers. But how many immigrants searching for well-paying work actually have the money to pay for legal immigration? Not many, I'd dare say.

Also, if you force employers to pay taxes on these folks and offer minimum wage - if not competitive wages, their incentive to hire them diminishes. At it's core though, Kriegle's work has a critical insight: That most illegal immigrants to our country are Mexican workers who don't want to stay here but only want to earn money and send it home.

And, in fact, that's the reason that our present system hasn't already been changed. It benefits too many people the way it is. Employers get inexpensive labor. Laborers get wages better than what they would at home. Maybe a version of the Kriegle plan could work, but first it would have to prove that it didn't increase costs for companies or society.

To read more about this plan, click here.