In an interview with the Univision network, Gingrich said it was unrealistic for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States to voluntarily leave the country, as Romney, his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, suggested in a debate Monday ahead of Florida’s Jan. 31 primary. Gingrich, who upset the GOP race by decisively winning Saturday’s South Carolina primary, also used a question about the immigration issue to get in a few digs at the former Massachusetts governor over his wealth and tax returns.
“You have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic $20 million income for no work to have some fantasy this far from reality,” Gingrich told Univision interviewer Jorge Ramos. “For Romney to believe that somebody’s grandmother is going to be so cut off that she is going to self-deport, I mean this is an Obama-level fantasy.”
In a debate Monday, a moderator asked Romney how he would get illegal immigrants to go home without rounding up and deporting them, which he has said he does not want to do.
“Well, the answer is self-deportation,” he responded. He said this would happen when “people decide that they could do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”
After Gingrich ridiculed the idea Wednesday, Romney’s campaign highlighted previous comments by Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, who said the vast majority of illegal immigrants would likely “self-deport” under Gringrich’s immigration plan, which Hammond said would allow only a small percentage of them to remain in the United States.
Romney himself on Wednesday accused Gingrich of pandering to Florida’s Latino voters by mocking Romney’s stance on immigration.
“Unfortunately for him, these are things he’s already spoken out about and he’s spoken out about in favor,” Romney said, referring to an earlier comment from Gingrich’s spokesman that also suggested that immigrants might “self-deport.”
“Now, I recognized that that it’s very tempting to come into an audience like this and to pander to the audience and say what you hope people will want to hear,” Romney told Univision’s Ramos. “But frankly, I think that’s unbecoming of a presidential candidate.”
The two campaigns also sparred Wednesday over a Gingrich political ad that called Romney “anti-immigrant.” The ad, which aired on Spanish-language radio, was denounced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a tea party favorite who has remained neutral in the primary campaign.