Gingrich, other conservatives look to soften 2012 immigration message

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s recent call for a humane path to immigration enforcement makes him the most recent conservative voice calling for solutions that encompass something more than the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Newt Gingrich

Color Lines, a daily news site “in service to racial justice,” writes today that Gingrich’s”remarks were a reminder of how far the right has moved on immigration, and how twisted the immigration debate has become for both parties. It’s too soon to say, but Gingrich’s remarks could be a sign that Republicans are ready to heed growing calls from within their own party to temper the anti-immigrant rhetoric and stop alienating Latino voters.”

At last week’s CNN GOP presidential debate focused on national security, Gingrich said, “I don’t see how the — the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, ‘Let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.’”

The Washington Post reports that “Gingrich attracted huge crowds in Florida this weekend, but he continued to face down accusations from his rivals that he is too soft on immigration to win the Republican presidential nomination.”

The Post adds that Gingrich, “who joined former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney at the top of the field less than two weeks ago, showed no sign of slipping at two appearances along the southwest Florida coast — a conservative enclave and critical battleground in the state’s Jan. 31 primary.”

Gingrich has laid out a 10-step program for immigration reform — without citizenship for undocumented immigrants — that would create “a truly efficient and fair system that embraces the rule of law, while acknowledging and celebrating the valuable economic, cultural and social contributions that both existing and future visitors and immigrants have to offer our country.”

The Hispanic Leadership Network, “a sustained effort to engage the Hispanic Community on center-right issues,” co-chaired by former Gov. Jeb Bush and launched this year, is working on several issues, including immigration, to “find common sense solutions to address our broken immigration system.” The Leadership Network will host its national conference in Miami in January 2012.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has said legal and illegal immigration remains a problem that needs to be confronted, and “that Republicans would do better to tone down the overheated rhetoric and focus on a positive immigration reform agenda.”

Rubio has also said that the Republican Party “should be the pro-legal immigration party,” saying it’s time for GOP candidates to start talking about “how we modernize our legal immigration system.”

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