Monday, February 21, 2005

Newt Gingrich is demanding that the Bush administration get serious about stopping illegal immigration.

The former House speaker wants the United States to completely seal off its border along Mexico and Canada, deport illegal aliens within 72 hours of their arrest and exclude U.S. courts from reviewing such deportations.

“Let’s be serious about sealing off our borders or [else] have open borders,” Mr. Gingrich told more than 1,000 cheering conservatives on Saturday.

“It’s a complete misreading of the 14th Amendment” to the Constitution to think that illegal aliens are entitled to the same rights as U.S. citizens, he said on the closing day of the 32nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

He hit all the right notes for activists at a conference where immigration proved to be the hottest issue — in speeches, panel discussions and hallway talk.

Legal immigrants, he said, should “have to learn about American history to pass a citizenship test, and they should have to pass it in English.”

Mr. Gingrich was one of the three biggest attractions at the three-day meeting, with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove and author Ann Coulter.

“We have to have a relatively open green-card policy to relieve pressure” from Mexico and elsewhere, as well as from U.S. firms seeking workers, Mr. Gingrich said.

Some skeptical conservative leaders interviewed after his speech noted that Mr. Gingrich did not explain how the “open green-card” program would work, or what more the administration should do to seal thousands of miles of border to the south and north.

Nor did Mr. Gingrich say whether he backed some form of President Bush’s guest-worker program to allow illegal aliens holding jobs in the United States to remain — or whether such aliens eventually could apply for citizenship.

Many in the audience booed and hissed Manhattan Institute analyst Tamar Jacoby’s defense of the guest-worker proposal. In a panel titled “Immigration Reform: Recognizing Reality or Surrendering Principles?” she clashed with Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly.

The audience — about a third populated with college-age members — sided heavily with Mrs. Schlafly on the immigration issue, as it had with Pat Buchanan in a speech Friday morning.

Many CPAC speakers emphasized the themes of limited government and individual freedom, which they said were at the heart of conservatism.

“The president has set for this nation a great task of extending liberty throughout the world,” said former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

“We can debate the method of doing that, but there is no debate about what our goal is as conservatives here at home,” he said. “It is to define and extend liberty here at home.”

The views of speakers displayed the deep divisions that run through the right on Iraq, same-sex “marriage,” Social Security and a host of other issues.

The Law of the Sea Treaty, backed by Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, came in for heavy criticism by Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, and others.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and featured speaker at the CPAC Ronald Reagan Banquet on Friday, called the treaty a surrender of U.S. sovereignty.

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