Newt Gingrich’s misrepresentation of the immigration bill

Posted by: ST on June 27, 2007 at 8:01 pm

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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  • 24 Responses to “Newt Gingrich’s misrepresentation of the immigration bill”


    1. Drewsmom says:

      My fingers are agian dripping blood from emailing my Senators. I got a respone from Jeff Sessions, (Ala.)
      He ain’t voting for it so he saved his ass for gettin our revotes in Ala.

    2. Samuel in Houston says:

      This is a case Fack Check and being at once pedantic and also ignorant of how the law works in the real world.

      Many felonies are pled down by D.A.’s in order to get cases quickly resolved.

      For an example of how this works, see the Houston Chronicle for an example of an illegal immigrant was able to plead his third drunk driving arrest down to a misdemeanor.

      The DA gave him two choices:

      Plead guilty to a felony and receive five years probation, 30 days confinement, $500 fine, 160 hours of community service and substance abuse treatment.

      Or plead guilty to a misdemeanor and spend a year in county jail.

      He selected the jail sentence and, with good time, was released in six months, records showed

      Later he killed three people while driving drunk.

      Having two misdemeanor convictions does one has been picked up only for speeding tickets or jaywalking. Fact Check is being deliberately naïve in its presentation of the facts.

      But I have come to expect that from them.

    3. DaMav says:

      Well, that was interesting. It certainly damaged the credibility of FactCheck.

      If you go to FactCheck and look at the sources they cite for their opinion, one of the most prominent is the American Immigration Lawyers Association. This group is basically an open borders lobbying group and will be a major beneficiary of the bill. What a shock to find they don’t consider it to be “Amnesty” eh?

      Whether it is in fact “Amnesty” is more a political opinion than a technical fact to be discerned in an objective manner. The key here is the Z Visa process, which does not provide immediate citizenship but does provide almost immediate legalization. Technically, there is a “background check” before the Z Visa is granted. However if such does not provide reason for rejection in 24 hours the Visa must be granted. In theory, there is a fee. In actuality, there will almost certainly be a payment plan. In theory, gang members cannot be admitted. In reality, all they have to do is say they quit the gang.

      If all these judgement calls sound like a fertile ground for litigation, you only have to add the extra sweetner that the bill requires you, the taxpaper, to pay all legal costs on both sides of any court battle.

      Gingrich is not only right about this bill, but FactCheck has joined a parade of clowns who have jettisoned their integrity and credibility in an attempt to mislead American voters on this abomination. I’m a little surprised that this blog, which I have enjoyed in the past, appears to have fallen for it hook line and sinker.

    4. Winghunter says:

      The Shamnesty bill starts out listing a mere 24 hours for a background check to be completed or they must be given a Z visa…This is ludicrous! Anyone with an ounce of reason understands where this is already heading if they put such laughable hurdles in the way from the start. To make this deal behind closed doors and then try and shove it through our Constitutional process by using subversive tactics screams out that something ( or everything ) is seriously wrong.

      Additionally, if one of the 30,000 known gang members signs an affidavit saying they will not participate in gang activity, they will be allowed to stay. On top this, if any illegal professes a “hardship” case of finances, their fines and/or penalty fees will be waived…the $2.7 Trillion this bill is estimated to cost will only be covering HALF of this total if they ALL pay! Remember the $4.4 Billion added on as some sort of incentive for enforcement? It is also supposed to be covered by the penalties and fines ofwhich I’ve already indicated will certainly be on OUR tab. Thank you Mr. President but, no thanks. Seal our border and we’ll figure out what to do from there. Also, we will discuss it openly and not use archaic manuevers of Congressional procedure to get legislation passed in a covert and subversive way as you have tried with this Shamnesty Bill.
      Illegal aliens cost us upwards of $340 Billion per year today and when we add on the $1.35 Trillion for the shamnesty the democrats will then raise our taxes as a “necessity” to pay for an indefinable economic downturn or they’ll simply blame it on Bush as they always do while they rub their hands together thinking of their pet pork projects. We have approximately 300 Million Americans residing in our country, if each of these illegal aliens are allowed all their immediate family we’re looking at a 60% increase of our total population…Does everyone fully understand what that means??

      AND I don’t know who came up with these criminal offense guidelines but, they sure weren’t an attorney or cop. Theft would have to reach over $1,000.- in most jurisdictions to be considered a felony or take place on federal property. To reach an “aggravated felony” charge there would have to be very extenuating circumstances.

      “Running a red light” or “distubing the peace” are almost always municipal ordnances and don’t reach a misdemeanor charge unless you have extenuating circumstances. So, again, I don’t know who wrote this but, they either didn’t know what they were talking about or they’re trying to blow smoke up our skirts.

      Lets face it folks, this bill and they way they’re trying to make it law stinks to high heaven and this bill is nothing BUT amnesty and although we’re at fault for not demanding our borders be sealed from the 1986 amnesty, which they had no problem calling it at that time, and U.S. employers for clearing the way for illegals to work in just about every way you can think of AND Mexican corrupt officials for making their national policy in exporting their own subjects to send money back to benefit the Mexican economy…Illegal aliens still broke our laws by sneaking over our border and staying here.

      I’ve doneseveral hours of homework on this folks. Healthcare costs didn’t go up because cotton is scarce, it went up because people aren’t paying their bills and the hospitals merely push it to the next guy showing up and the insurers keep hitting us for higher premiums and less coverage every single year…Who hasn’t this effected? this will not be the only service or entitlement they will adversely affect in this way.

      This Bill is designed to grant amnesty for well over 20 Million illegal aliens with only 13% prediction of reducing the 8,000 to 10,000 that sneak across our border everyday, many of whom are not here to assimilate. Google Aztlan or MS-13 for real eye openers.
      Hey, don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself.

    5. AlexSi says:

      One of the main excuses given for supporting the so-called Comprehensive Immigration bill is to garner favor with Hispanics. As revolting as race-based politics is, this doesn’t even make sense considering a majority of Hispanics DON’T WANT amnesty for illegals! The racist group La Raza (which translates into “The Race” – reminiscent of Hitler, I would say) should not be involved in this process – so why are they? Who was there to balance out their views? Have you contacted “You Don’t Speak For Me” – ? They are a group of Hispanics that are not in favor of illegal immigration.

      No, the ethnic lobby is mostly a cover for those with even more sinister agendas for this country.

      This bill is war on the middle class.

      This bill is war on American culture.

      This bill undermines the sovereignty of the US (something elected officials are sworn to PROTECT when taking office.)

      This bill rewards criminals.

      This bill will bankrupt the country.

      All these things are well known and there is no need for me to elaborate on them and no excuse for ignorance about them in a Senator’s office. There is no excuse for one Senator supporting this unless they are corrupt.

      P.S. I suppose the illegals who will be subject to only a 24-hour background check will also get a MEDICAL exam during that period? Or will people carrying tuberculosis (even drug-resistant TB), hepatitis, HIV, and/or malaria suddenly become “legal” health threats to Americans (and financial burdens)? Has that even been discussed in the Senate? You see, the backers of this bill are out-of-touch with American’s concerns

    6. Drewsmom says:

      Was watching Neil Cavouto yesterday and he had a mexican professor on. It seems in calafornifacation aka California, they are wanting Home Depot to TAKE CARE of the ILLEGALS WAITING IN THEIR PARKING LOT FOR WORK, they are thinkng about making it law.
      Australia is really looking better and better to me since I am losing my home country to this shit.
      Butt :(|)‘s

    7. I find it disappointing that the best anyone can do in this thread so far is to attack Fact Check as a source, when their main source for information was the bill itself (not the immigration lawyers, as one person stated). They even referenced the relevant pages as it related to the deportation of gang members and felons.

      I’m also flabbergasted that no one has yet taken issue with the prominent anti-bill activist quoted in the piece who has convieniently redefined the term ‘amnesty’ so as to suit his agenda – and as the piece pointed out, using the word ‘amnesty’ versus ‘path to legal citizenship’ is important when pollsters poll voters on the issue in terms of which way they swing. Is that what we’re reduced to in this party? Redefining words so as to make them mean what we want them to in order to ‘prove a point’?

      So if I understand this correctly, Fact Check’s referencing the actual pages of the bill in an attempt to refute of some of Newt’s assertions in the ad is ‘naive and dishonest’ while Newt’s generalities and misrepresentations of the bill’s specifics in order to drum up support for more opposition are ok.


    8. Lorica says:

      I will support this law when, and only when, Congress completes what they started with the October 2006 border security bill. This should be the stance of every conservative. Anything else is operating out of fear, and not a show of strength or unity. – Lorica

    9. Great White Rat says:

      ST says:
      I find it disappointing that the best anyone can do in this thread so far is to attack Fact Check as a source, when their main source for information was the bill itself (not the immigration lawyers, as one person stated). They even referenced the relevant pages as it related to the deportation of gang members and felons.

      OK. Permit me to approach this a little differently, then. Before posting, I did take the time to skim through S. 1639 (762 mostly mind-numbing pages), and much of what Fact Check says here is valid. Some of it is not.

      For example, Fact Check disputes Gingrich’s claim that gang members couldn’t be deported:

      the bill grants authority to deport any alien who “at any time has participated in a criminal gang.”

      Fact Check is correct, as far as it goes. But what Fact Check doesn’t mention is that the deportation can be waived. That’s on page 122 of the bill, right after the section they cite. And if I can parse the legalese correctly (any attorneys, please correct me if I’m wrong), “granting authority” doesn’t necessarily mean it WILL happen, just that it’s legal to do so. Meaning it’s not likely, but it is entirely possible, that not one gang-banger will be deported.

      Fact Check spends a lot of time on the “amnesty” label, which they dispute because of the fines to be assessed:

      It would require illegal immigrants to pay a $1,000 penalty for having entered the country illegally, plus $2,000 in fees

      Not exactly. That $3000 total figure is a maximum. In fact, the bill only mandates $1500 of that (pages 568-569). The rest of the money are fees to cover the paperwork, but in no case MORE than $1500.

      In fact, criticism of the ‘amnesty’ terminology takes up about half of their piece. They base their dispute with Gingrich on the literal dictionary definition and claim it’s an emotionally charged term. In that, they’re probably right (although President Bush is also using the term). But it overlooks whether the penalties to the illegals are stiff enough. And most of their figures on the amounts of the fines do come directly from the pro-bill AILA site (in fairness to Fact Check, they do note it when they use those figures).

      By the way, Sam in Houston is correct about the 24-hour time limit for the background check (actually, it’s “by the end of the next business day”). You’ll find that on pages 572-573 of the bill. What’s interesting there is that once that waiting period is up and the Z-visa is granted, the person gets employment authorization and “may not be considered an unauthorized alien unless employment authorization is denied”. Fact Check is silent on this point.

      In other words, yes, Gingrich stretched the truth some here. But Fact Check is selective and a little bit subjective in its analysis. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between.

      That said, let me toss another log on the fire.

      This is the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the original bill (some differences from the current bill, but not substantial). Among other things, CBO says all the enforcement provisions will cut the influx of illegal immigrants by about 25%. In other words, if the report is accurate, three-quarters of the problem will continue to exist. And I doubt whether CBO took into account any plans by criminal elements to accelerate the pace of illegal immigration.

    10. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, GWR.

      With or without the quote from the immigration lawyers, it is clearly stated in the bill that illegals would be faced with fines for their coming here illegally in the first place. I posted about this in a prior piece I wrote about the bill.

      And as far as the background checks, I forget where I read it but what I read stated that the US government can do up to 100,000 fingerprint background checks a day. The employment verification process sounds find to me, as it just adds another layer of checks to the process. If the gov’t can’t get to it in the 24 hour period, an employer will – I’m involved in background checks at my work, and we usually know within a day-max 2 – if something isn’t right with the background check.

      Re: amnesty, that is one of the biggest issues I have with how this debate has been conducted, because this bill is not amnesty, no matter what dictionary you look at. I think Fact Check devoted a significant amount of time to the term because it’s huge in terms of the way both pros and antis frame the debate, so it’s worth a lengthy analysis, I think. Almost everytime I hear the word ‘amnesty’ used now, it’s because the people using it define it as someone being let off the hook for doing something illegal. Having to pay thousands of dollars in fines and wait several years before you can become truly legal in this country is not letting people off the hook. What is amnesty, however, is putting off doing something about who we have here now because we’d rather have a longer border built first. That’s de facto amnesty. This bill is not.

    11. Great White Rat says:

      UPDATE: Cloture fails on round 2.

      46 Yes, 53 No.

      Is this bill finally dead?

    12. UPDATE: Cloture fails on round 2.

      46 Yes, 53 No.

      Is this bill finally dead?

      For this term, maybe. But next term, I would say no, it’s not dead. But we’ll wish it were.

    13. Lorica says:

      The problem to me is that with this bill we are building this house from the top down. Who puts the roof on a home, before they start with a foundation?? Let’s give illegals their visas, but we don’t have the infrastructure to handle the influx. It took the FBI 4 months to do my back ground check, A friend had to do one for another agency, and it took DIA a year. 24 hours, and bada bing here’s your visa?? Also, how would you stop the influx of illegals who are here from swamping Homeland security in the 1st month?? You couldn’t, you would have 12 – 20 million people wanting their visas in the 1st month. The Gov could only process 3-4 million of those applications that month, if it wasn’t shut down. Look at the “flood” of passports that shut down Homeland security.

      This problem is from years and years of neglect. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this problem isn’t going to be solved by this bill or by the end of the month. It is going to take time to solve this problem, and this bill, from what I can see, is only going to make the problem worse. – Lorica

    14. Baklava says:


      Fact check was fact checked on this Newt Gingrich fact check issue.

      I’m not up enough to say who wins this debate because I’ve been busy. But neither fact check or the fact check fact check articles changed my mind as I live and breathe government bureacrocy (sp) every day and “feel” the arguments concerning the paperwork and the z visa’s are valid.

      To me I’m shooting for the moon I guess but I think the actions should be split. I think the border for national security reasons should’ve been sealed the day after 9/11. I think all congressmen/women have been negligent in doing that. I think to let illegal immigration continue to run rampant and have token enforcement here and there but mostly no enforcement is reason enough to put a lot of people behind bars for negligence. I’m that strong on the issue.

      After that has been accomplished we can work on fixing the “legal” immigrant backlog or rule change issue. We allow more “legal” immigrants than all other nations combined and it is because we are generous and we need to always continue being generous.

    15. Sorry, Bak, but that fact check of Fact Check comes up lacking to me. The core of what Fact Check asserted on the term ‘amnesty’ as well as Newt’s faulty assertions on gang members and other criminals has not been refuted and I don’t think it can’t be, because it’s right there in the bill, and it was an issue before the ‘latest version’ was released.

      No matter now, though. The bill is dead – for the foreseeable future. But maybe next year after the elections when Democrats have a more comfortable lead in the Senate (after all, any Republican Senator in favor of “shamnesty” is “history!”) and we have a Democrat in the WH, we’ll really get a bill we hate shoved down our throats, and there won’t be much of anything we can do about it.

    16. Great White Rat says:

      illegals would be faced with fines for their coming here illegally in the first place.

      True, ST. But I’m thinking that the vast majority of the illegals would prefer to stay undocumented rather than pay the fines. Compliance is basically voluntary, unless there’s some major plan I’ve not heard of to find all the illegals now in the country and bring them to registration locations.

      Good point about the quick background checks. I hope it’s as efficient as you’ve heard.

      What is amnesty, however, is putting off doing something about who we have here now because we’d rather have a longer border built first. That’s de facto amnesty.

      If there are no plans to ever address the problem of the illegals now in the country, then I’d agree. That isn’t how I’d approach it. As I’ve said before, first put effective border enforcement in place. Then we can decide, in a calmer atmosphere, what to do with the illegals already here. Who knows…perhaps some of the guest worker and other provisions of this year’s bill might evoke less emotion and pass once the border is less porous.

      But next term, I would say no, it’s not dead.
      Yes, that’s true. I was speaking of this term, but this will not go away permanently.

    17. Baklava says:

      ST wrote, “But maybe next year after the elections when Democrats have a more comfortable lead in the Senate (after all, any Republican Senator in favor of “shamnesty” is “history!”) and we have a Democrat in the WH, we’ll really get a bill we hate shoved down our throats,

      I fear that also.

      Hopefully the % of Americans who do vote will clean house and Senate after that to fix things. Right now the % of Americans who vote either a) have common sense or b) are deranged and the deranged percentage is winning.

    18. To the regulars who post here, I apologize if I’ve seemed a bit ‘snippy’ today – I’m feeling slightly fatigued and on top of that irked by the whole issue … not a good frame of mind to be in to post! LOL.

    19. Lorica says:

      But maybe next year after the elections when Democrats have a more comfortable lead in the Senate (after all, any Republican Senator in favor of “shamnesty” is “history!”) and we have a Democrat in the WH, we’ll really get a bill we hate shoved down our throats, and there won’t be much of anything we can do about it.

      Quick Question, What is stopping the Dems from doing this in this eventuality anyway?? Even if you pass this today, if the Dems gain power like they lust to do, there would be absolutely nothing stopping them from “revisiting” this law and adjusting it as they desire. – Lorica

    20. Bob says:

      This is a duplicate post. It is already posted in another thread. –ST

    21. Great White Rat says:

      ST says: (after all, any Republican Senator in favor of “shamnesty” is “history!”)

      I’d hope not. Those up for re-election in ’08 have more than a year to mend fences; the rest have even longer. That won’t help with the single-issue voters – the ones who will still be ranting a year from now about ‘El Presidente Jorge’ – but for most, I suspect the rancor will subside as other issues come to the forefront (the WOT, fairness doctrine, making tax cuts permanent, confirming good judges, etc.) and they demonstrate their credentials.

      My attitude toward the pro-bill conservative legislators is “OK, this one’s over. Put it behind us and let’s work together on the other important issues.”

    22. I hope you’re right, GWR.

    23. Sanity102 says:

      Actually, no one in the GOP minority will touch this issue again…the Dems might–whenever they are in trouble so the focus will be off them and on illegals.

      Does anyone on the “build the fence” first understand that Hunter’s fence took 10 whole years (and is STILL being fought in the courts by environmentalist) and that fence is only 14 miles?

      Funny how they think our government is incompetent, yet expects this same government to build a fence in a year or two.

      By that time, we’ll have a lot more than 12 million to “decide what to do with”.

      And really ironic is that they have zero faith in Congress to “enforce the law in the bill” but COMPLETE faith that Congress will give “amnesty” to illegals.