Newt Gingrich’s misrepresentation of the immigration bill

Newt Gingrich is one of my favorite conservatives, so much so that if he didn’t carry certain baggage (the affair on his wife, among other things) that I would vote for him in a heartbeat for president. He’s very well-educated, politically savvy, sharp as a tack, and seems to have his finger on the pulse of the conservative movement. So with that in mind, it’s disheartening to see how he’s misrepresented the immigration bill in a recent ad he was in opposing it.

Here’s the Fact Check summary on the ad and some of its faulty claims:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made false claims about the Senate immigration bill in a TV ad for a conservative group. He said it “will put…potential terrorists and gang members on a path to U.S. citizenship” which is contrary to the language of the legislation.

Actually, the bill grants authority to deport any alien who “at any time has participated in a criminal gang.” And as for terrorists, the measure also gives the government authority to deny temporary visa status to an illegal alien if “there are reasonable grounds for regarding the alien as a danger to the security of the United States.”

Gingrich further claimed that the bill “does not even allow convicted criminals to be deported,” which is false. The bill provides for deportation proceedings for those convicted of “aggravated felonies,” which can include violent crimes such as rape or murder or even nonviolent crimes such as fraud or theft. The bill would even allow the government to toss out an illegal alien who had been convicted of three misdemeanors, such as running a red light or disturbing the peace.

Gingrich and other opponents of the immigration legislation also describe the bill as granting “amnesty.” We find that label to be misleading and a classic case of mislabeling. Several dictionaries define “amnesty” as a pardon of past offenses, or clemency. But while the legislation would allow millions of persons who are in the country illegally to remain, it does not overlook violation of U.S. law. It would require illegal immigrants to pay a $1,000 penalty for having entered the country illegally, plus $2,000 in fees, and meet several other requirements before they could qualify for a temporary visa.

We neither oppose the legislation nor endorse it. We do advise our readers against making up their minds based on an inaccurate label.

Make sure to read it all beyond the summary to get the details.

Whichever side you fall on – or even if you don’t have a ‘side’ in the debate – we all want the facts about the bill presented accurately and fairly so we can make an informed decision about where to stand on the issue, and after reading the Fact Check piece on some of the claims Newt made, I can only conclude that someone as smart as Newt deliberately distorted some of the facts on this bill in order to appeal to the emotions of its opponents and also fencesitters. This is a tactic that I’ve seen the ‘pro’ side use, too, but to a lesser extent.

It’s easy enough for me or some other blogger to blog about something and inadvertantly get it wrong – or at the very least ony get it partially correct – because we’re not a part of the elite ‘beltway gang’ with all the insider knowledge but it is simply inexcuseable for a man of Newt Gingrich’s extensive Congressional experience and smarts to mislead on an issue that deserves honesty from start to finish. He’s got some great ideas on how to help solve the problem of illegal immigration. But it’s too bad that when discussing the problem he misrepresents the key piece of legislation aimed at trying to tackle it.

There are plenty of valid arguments out there in opposition to the immigration bill (most of them made at this blog by my thoughtful commenters) and knowing that makes it all the more disappointing that Newt went this route. If the bill is that bad, then Newt should have had no trouble whatsoever accurately portraying the immigration bill’s faults in that ad.

On a related note, the Fact Check piece also referenced a prior piece they did (in 2005) on how much worse the Canadian border security problems are than the Mexican borders, something I wrote about here last month.


For a mini-recap of today’s Senate goings-on as it relates to the revival of the immigration bill, make sure to check out Politico’s “Crypt” blog.

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