Urging compassion on illegal immigration, Newt Gingrich offered a specific idea of how to reform the broken system during the Republican primary debate Tuesday night: the Red Card Solution.


In fact, the Krieble Foundation has an entire Web site devoted to selling its Red Card Solution, which attempts to separate legalization from citizenship by creating two distinct tracks for immigrants: 1) an expanded migrant/guest worker program that would issue microchipped cards to those who have secured jobs; 2) the current pathway to citizenship, which wouldn’t change under the program. Employers and law-enforcement officers would check the legal status of temporary workers by swiping these new cards, running them through a database funded by user fees and private companies and overseen by the federal government.

It would still be illegal to hire a worker who’s not in the country legally, but the Red Card Solution would essentially allow employers to circumvent the bureaucratic, backlogged visa system to hire immigrants legally. The “non-citizen workers” participating in the program would be required “to go through a background check and to return home at the end of their employment. It would give them no special place in the citizenship line.”

Also, the children of these non-citizen workers—and, presumably, those born to illegal immigrants— who are born in the United States would not receive “birthright citizenship” that’s granted under the 14th Amendment, which the Krieble Foundation describes as an “absurd practice” that misinterprets the Constitution.

So under this Gingrich-endorsed program, illegal immigrants could presumably apply for work permits and get a Red Card to stay in the country, preventing the kind of deportations that break up families and communities. But what if that longtime immigrant loses her job or is unable to secure one through the program? Under the Red Card plan, she would presumably have to return to her home country. That raises the concern that the program would effectively create a “second class” of migrant workers whose options in the United States are strictly limited. (Reihan Salam raises other good questions here.)

It’s also unclear whether Gingrich’s support for the Red Card will dampen the blowback that’s already begun on the right, accusing him of backing “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. But Gingrich may already have a group of conservatives waiting in the wings to back his immigration compromise: Matt Kibbe, president of Freedomworks; Stephen Moore, the Wall Street Journal columnist; and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) have all endorsed red cars, as the Krieble Foundation features prominently in the promotional video above.