Newt Gingrich and his grand immigration ploy


Who would have thought the person to jumpstart an all-but-dead national immigration debate would be none other than the gringo’s gringo, Newt Gingrich?

Gingrich, the ethically challenged politico, proud philanderer, and insistent historian (never a–gasp–lobbyist), is truly someone to whom, say, a Herman Cain could aspire. Gingrich has gone from fallen house leader and disgraced pariah to GOP presidential frontrunner in just about a decade. Short memories are good for historians like Gingrich.

And now he’s making waves everywhere with this very simple idea: Make the undocumented legal.

This is causing all sorts of heart attacks on the left and right in politics, and just as Lipitor goes generic.

Really Newt, Mr. Contract On America, you want to do what?

Of course, he’s just stirring it up and playing a different kind of wedge politics, but how else do you break up gridlock?

In this case, the gridlock no one really talks about is where we’re not going on comprehensive immigration reform. You saw how hard it was to get even a Dream Act up for a vote last year. Comprehensive immigration reform? Dream on. That is, unless you like the cockamamie idea from Gingrich.

Conservative free-marketers know they’re wrong on immigration in general. You can’t have free markets and closed borders at the same time.

But it sure creates a lot of conflict for the xenophobic right.

By espousing making the undocumented legal, Gingrich appears to be the grand compromiser. At the core, however, it’s all just self-serving pandering to a turned off group of non-white voters. Latino voters, Asian American voters, any voters from a foreign land. Come home to the Republican Party.

Tio Newt will take you to the “semi-promised land.”

Oh, that’s the catch.

He’ll make you legal. But not a citizen.

Campaign ideas are always fluid and lacking details, but Gingrich implies a new bureaucracy, a committee of sorts, just not a super one, that would consider the best cases among the 11 million undocumented worthy to be given legal papers.

But not citizenship.

You’ll get a cup, but it just won’t be filled. You’re legal, but not an American.

And guess what? You’re still not good enough.

It’s really a brilliant ploy. The undocumented get to work and pay taxes as they do now. But they don’t have to worry about the political whims of the U.S.

You’re legal, relax, a member of the Anxiety-free.

But you aren’t members of the United States of America.

You’re kind of sub-members.

In animal kingdom terms, you wouldn’t be human. But really, there’s a large variety of classes and phyla between apes and amoeba. Pick your spot. You’re legal, after all. Just know your place. Don’t jump species.

Sound like a good deal to you?

It’s a great deal for the xenophobes who preserve the important distinction, and make it institutional. The undocumented are different.

For that privilege, the undocumented don’t have to live in fear or hiding or in the shadows. No, they can live openly and publicly as the “not quite good enough.”

That’s not racist, really, is it? Newt might even give you a category besides “Other.”

This is how politicians left for dead climb back to national prominence. Don’t be fooled.

Among Republicans, Gingrich’s fellow candidates see him playing with the immigration hot button and act accordingly. They dig in their heels. Rick Perry allies himself with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the chain gang king of Maricopa County. Others are aghast that Gingrich would even dare mention anything that comes close to the dreaded amnesty.

But it’s not amnesty. It’s Gingrich making the undocumented official non-Americans.

It’s one thing to get a green card and not pursue citizenship. That’s voluntary.

My late mother who came to this country after World War II held on to her green card for nearly 40 years. And then one day, she realized that she was basically an American and deserved to be treated as one.

But it also meant she got to cast a vote against Reagan. That was worth more than any SSI check. Franchise isn’t a McDonald’s franchise. But every election day, Mom got her chance to fire her shot heard round the world.

Gingrich doesn’t want the undocumented to experience the real joy of their journey to a democratic America.

He wants to freeze them where they are—-and be congratulated for it.

Essentially, he wants something for nothing. And hey, isn’t that why rank and file xenophobic conservatives hate giving the undocumented a “pathway to citizenship” in the first place?

You’ve got to hand it to the guy. That takes some chutzpah. Cajones. Gigantic lumpia. You name it.

Using the undocumented as human shields to climb back into political prominence, that’s the wicked genius of Gingrich, the gringo’s gringo.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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