Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich clashed over illegal immigration at Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate, and today the media is zeroing in on a newly revived policy fight. It's Romney's bottom-line, no-amnesty approach against Gingrich's notion that longtime, taxpaying illegal residents should be afforded some leniency.
Today, the candidates took their fight to Twitter. Gingrich tweeted the video above -- from a Dec. 16, 2007 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press":
Romney, apparently busy basking in the glow of Sen. John Thune's (R-S.D.) endorsement, allowed senior aide Eric Fehrnstrom to respond with a link to the former governor's full quote, which, in its entirety, isn't quite as pro-illegal-immigrant as the clip Gingrich tweeted:
My own view is, consistent with what you saw in the Lowell Sun, that those people who had come here illegally and are in this country, the 12 million or so that are here illegally, should be able to sign up for permanent residency or citizenship, but they should not be given a special pathway, a special guarantee that all of them get to stay here for the rest of their lives merely by virtue of having come here illegally, and that, I think, is the great flaw in the final bill that came forward from the Senate.
So here's what we learned from last night's debate and the ensuing Twitter spat:
1) Newt Gingrich opposes "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, but he says there should be exceptions. Specifically, Gingrich holds that any "reasonable person" would be hard pressed to tell a taxpaying constituent of 25 years that he has to leave his family and return to the country of his birth, after coming here illegally long ago and becoming a productive member of American society.
2) Mitt Romney opposes "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and he says Gingrich's idea of allowing exceptions would incentivize foreign nationals to come to the U.S. illegally.
3) Newt Gingrich opposes Mitt Romney's 2007 opinion that illegal residents should be able to sign up for permanent residency or citizenship.
4) Mitt Romney also said in 2007 that he did not believe in a "pathway" to citizenship for illegal residents or a "special guarantee" as part of that sign-up process.
Get ready for a potentially convoluted debate about humaneness and the rule of law.
Video credit: teaparty2012us/YouTube, NBC