No matter how tough life in the U.S. is for an illegal immigrant, it is still better than returning home. Gingrich has called Romney's position an "Obama-level fantasy." He's right; and the sooner Republicans wake up to the reality, the better for the party and the country.
Gingrich is not simply pandering to the Hispanic vote on this issue. He understands that immigrants -- even those who've come here illegally -- are an important part of America's economic success. They don't take Americans' jobs; they create more jobs by keeping otherwise unviable industries in the U.S. Without immigrant labor, we'd have no agricultural or meat industry. Without an immigrant work ethic, our service industry would be a lot less productive and would cost customers a great deal more. And every immigrant worker spends money in his or her community that redounds to the benefit of native-born Americans in those same communities. And Gringrich understands that immigrants do much more than help the economy; they reaffirm American exceptionalism.
If he wanted to, Gingrich could help educate Republican voters on these facts. Better yet, he could talk about something that politicians in both parties often ignore: namely, the need to assimilate newcomers.
Every immigrant backlash in our nation's history -- and there have been many, including movements against Germans, Eastern and Southern Europeans, even the Irish -- has been driven by a fear that those coming to our shores would never become fully American. Newt Gingrich's amnesty proposal acknowledges that some illegal immigrants have already become Americans in every sense but a legal one -- and his proposal to embrace them offers the best hope to the GOP to turn around its image as the anti-immigrant party.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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