During Tuesday’s Republican debate on national security in Washington, former House speaker Newt Gingrich called for a “humane” immigration policy. As Rachel Weiner reported:

It was an echo of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s declaration in an earlier debate that if you don’t support helping undocumented immigrants afford college, “you don’t have a heart.”

“I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families and expel them. 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.”

He added, “I do believe if you’ve been here recently and have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you.”

Wonkblog’s Suzy Khimm took a closer look at Gingrich’s proposal:

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.

“The Krieble Foundation is a very good red card program that says you get to be legal, but you don’t get a pass to citizenship,” Gingrich said. “And so there’s a way to ultimately end up with a country where there’s no more illegality, but you haven’t automatically given amnesty to anyone... I would urge all of you to look at the Krieble Foundation Plan.”

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.

Now a leading candidate in some polls, the former speaker must demonstrate that he can is a viable challenger to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, Amy Gardner wrote:

Gingrich’s challenge is to keep his momentum going a bit longer than the other Republicans who have vied for the role of chief rival to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

Gingrich entered the contest with enough baggage to prompt skepticism that his campaign could go anywhere. He had an extramarital affair with the woman who is now his third wife, and as House speaker he was sanctioned for ethical violations. More recently, he has had to fend off questions about a report that he received between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees for advising Freddie Mac, a federally backed housing finance giant that is despised by conservatives.

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