- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday said the government’s failure to enforce immigration laws resembles its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and described current reform proposals in Congress as a “con.”

Mr. Gingrich said he sympathizes with illegal aliens participating in protests and placed blame for the illegal immigration problem on businesses and the federal government.

“I do not blame someone who leaves poverty to seek prosperity,” Mr. Gingrich said during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “They showed up here to work under a social contract and then [the government] tried to change the terms.

“We need to quit lying about who is hiring illegals — it’s Americans,” said the Georgia Republican who is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2008.

Mr. Gingrich’s own immigration reform plan, “Ending the Dishonesty: The Way Forward on Border Control and Patriotic Immigration,” calls first for gaining control of America’s borders, followed by a worker-visa program.

Mr. Gingrich said private companies such as American Express should run the worker-visa program. Worker cards would include a biometric identification system and require immigrant workers to pay taxes.

“There’s zero reason to believe the federal government can run this program,” Mr. Gingrich said.

In addition, Mr. Gingrich said a worker-visa program would allow prospective citizens currently obeying immigration laws to come to America immediately.

Mr. Gingrich said he favors the deployment of security fences at points of high traffic flow along the U.S.-Mexico border supplemented by electronic security and surveillance at areas of lower traffic flow.

In the past two weeks, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat and potential presidential candidate in 2008, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have called for increased border security.

Mr. Gingrich conceded he previously fell prey to amnesty compromises during his time in Congress. “I voted for the ‘86 bill,” Mr. Gingrich said. “It sounded fantastic.”

The House last year passed an immigration enforcement bill that calls for nearly 700 miles of new fences on the U.S.-Mexico border and requires employers to check Social Security numbers to ensure employees are legal workers.

The Senate is heading in a different direction, with leaders saying they have a general agreement on a broader bill that would create a program for future foreign workers and would legalize many current illegal aliens, offering them a path to citizenship.

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