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Team Mitt slams Newt for endorsing ""amnesty"" |
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Washington Examiner 11/22/2011
After tonght's debate, Mitt Romney's campaign clearly saw an opening to go after a surging Newt Gingrich, after he argued for considering a path to citizenship for immigrants who had originally come to this country illegally 25 years ago, but had spent decades integrating themselves in a community.
“Newt Gingrich supported the 1986 amnesty act, and even though he conceded that was a mistake, he said that he was willing to repeat that mistake, by extending amnesty to immigrants who are illegally in the country today,"" Romney adviser and spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said in the spin room following the AEI/Heritage Foundation debate in Washington, DC. “Mitt Romney is against amnesty, and Newt Gingrich made it very clear he was for amnesty.”
I followed up by asking Fehrnstrom whether Romney believed in deporting those immigrants who are already here illegally.
“He doesn’t believe in granting them amnesty,” Fehrnstrom responded.
That started a back and forth exchange worthy of Abbott and Costello, as Fehrnstrom kept continuing to drive the ""no amnesty"" point home, and I tried to get more details
I followed up again, asking what ""no amnesty"" would mean for the people already here.
“Well, first, you have to get rid of the magnets.”
Again, I asked about those already here.
“He would not grant them amnesty,"" Fehrnstrom.
But what would he do with them?"" I followed up.
“I just told you, he’s not going to grant them amnesty,"" he said.
Again, I said, “That’s not an answer, that’s telling me what he won’t do.” But what would he do?
“He would not grant them amnesty,"" he repeated.
Finally, after I asked the question for a sixth time, Fehrnstrom responded by emphasizing employer enforcement as a way to get illegal immigrants to leave through attrition.
“Well, if you cut off their employment, if they can’t get work, if they can’t get benefits like in state tuition, they will leave,"" he said.
I asked if that would take care of all of the illegal immigrants, and he said, “Enough of them would leave that it wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is today.”
Just to be clear, I wanted to know about those that still could remain under such a scenario.
“I just answered your question Phil, and you keep hectoring me about it,"" he snapped. ""You turn off the magnets, no in state tuition, no benefits of any kind, no employment. You put in place an employment verification system with penalties for employers that hire illegals, that will shut off access to the job market, and they will self retreat. They will go to their countries.”
I asked Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond how he would distinguish Gingrich's immigration position from Romney's, and he passed.
“That’s for you to do decide, you can compare the two of them,"" Hammond said.
I then asked for his response to the Romney campaign's charge that Gingrich's position was amnesty.
“That is inaccurate on its face,"" he said. ""What it’s saying is that first you have to secure the border. Then after you secure the border, you can explore options for reform. What we learned about in the ’06 debate is comprehensive reform will not work. Neither party was able to move forward a comprehensive bill. You have to secure the border that is the top priority. Gingrich has put it in the 21st century contract. He says you can do it within one year.”
I asked him to compare this position to conservatives who would define amnesty as legalizing anybody who had ever come here illegally.
“Newt is for a local, community review board where local citizens can decide whether or not their neighbors that have come here illegally should find a path to legality, not citizenship,"" he said. ""Two distinctly different things.”
He said it would operate like a World War II draft board. But I asked him whether it would be a problem for local communities to determine legality given that this issue would concern federal law.
“None of this matters until you secure the border,"" he said.
I asked him again, though, about how local communities could determine federal law.
“That’s why it’s called reform,"" he said.
When I told him it didn't answer the question, he looked to another reporter, and said, “What else do we have.”
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