Gingrich: ‘It Ought to Be Easy, Not Hard to Get A Visa’ to Come to the U

This weekend, former Speaker of the House and conservative leader Newt Gingrich (R-GA) spoke at a gathering at the Southern New Hampshire University sponsored by STEWARD of Prosperity (Stimulating The Economy Without Accumulating Record Debt). During his appearance, Gingrich took a leading question from an audience member who suggested that the nation’s Founding Fathers would be opposed to the “illegal” immigration situation that the U.S. faces today.

Gingrich resisted appealing to the right’s worse instincts and instead provided a sensible, pro-immigrant answer:

If somebody is zero threat to the United States and wants to come here as a student, or as a business-person, or as a tourist, it ought to be easy, not hard to get a visa. We currently have a system where it’s pretty easy to sneak into the country illegally, but fairly hard to get here legally. Now that doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t understand the model we’re currently using, and that needs to be fixed.

Watch it:

Gingrich aptly points out that the nation is currently operating under an inefficient, outdated, and ineffective visa system. While many immigration hawks demand that undocumented immigrants go “to the back of the line,” Gingrich speaks to fact that there isn’t really a line for them to get in. The number of green cards available for low-skilled workers is capped at an inflexible number that doesn’t respond to fluctuations in demand and supply. Meanwhile, the numerical limits on family immigration have generated a visa back-log that has resulted in several family members having to wait decades to be reunited with their loved ones. Few potential immigrants meet the requirements necessary to be granted refugee status and the annual Diversity Visa program affords visas to a small number of persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.


Gingrich has undoubtedly started promoting a gentler alternative to the fear-mongering approach to immigration that many of his Republican colleagues have adopted. Nonetheless, not all of his positions are entirely sensible. This past summer, he told Univision’s Jorge Ramos that his solution to the nation’s broken immigration system would involve requiring undocumented immigrants to leave their homes, jobs, and U.S.-born children and go back to their home countries for a couple years until they receive a temporary worker permit to return to the U.S.

During his speech in New Hampshire Gingrich further suggested “outsourcing” the temporary worker program to Visa, Mastercard, or American Express because the federal government wouldn’t be able to implement it. He also warned against becoming a “multi-lingual” country, despite the fact that he personally runs a politicalbilingual news and op-ed website called The Americano.

Andrea Christina Nill

Republished with permission from the Wonk Room/Think Progress


  1. says

    While I question Newt at every single turn, he is obviously correct on this issue. It is sad that there are so many students and workers that wish to come to the United Stated in a mutually beneficial atmosphere, yet are prohibited due to archaic legislation. Immigration can really help this country right now, we just need some actual meaningful actions instead of the seemingly endless rhetoric.

  2. Nathan says

    For once in my life I am in full agreement with Mr. Gingrich. The process for obtaining a green card visa is far too complicated and seems purposely made that way to dissuade people – for what reason, I have no idea.

  3. Blake says

    Nill apparently thinks that there’s some right to immigrate to the U.S.. There’s no such right. The country exists for the benefit of its citizens, not to rescue the world. We could set immigration to zero without abusing anybody’s rights.

    In particular, there’s no reason the U.S. should be admitting low-skilled workers. We have no shortage of native-born people who are low-skilled (mostly those who have less than a high school education).

    And for illegal aliens, the only lines that are relevant are the back ends of the ones at the U.S. embassy of consulate in their home countries. Further, if they’re deported, the can keep their families intact by taking them along.

    • Celia says

      I beg to differ Blake. If it weren’t for low-skilled, low-paid Mexicans working extremely hard back-braking work in our agricultural fields you wouldn’t eat. I know because I live on the central coast of California “America’s salad bowl”. No matter how bad the economy or how high the unemployment rate white Americans will not do this work. I personally have benefited from the excellent workmanship of Mexican workers who have fixed my roof and painted and cleaned my house, always with excellent quality work, an outstanding work ethic, and great courtesy. In my community Mexican and other immigrants contribute far more then their share by providing excellent work, paying taxes, volunteering, and greatly enriching our culture. The US was founded on immigration. Who are you to say “Now that my ancesters got in, close the gates”?

      • Blake says

        To Celia:

        Bunk, bunk, and bunk again.

        The United States was founded by colonists or settlers, not immigrants; they built a country in what was, for them, a wilderness. In contrast, immigrants are people who leave one home and move to a society that’s already a going concern. The U.S. has had a lot of immigration, but immigrants came here because the Anglo-Saxon founding stock had made a society that was livable for even the “common” people, not because there were prior generations of immigrants here.

        Further, the fact that there’s been lots of immigration (the two sides of my family arrived around 1700 and around 1890) is no argument that immigration should continue forever, despite changed conditions. By your reasoning, the founding generation should have simply not permitted any immigration at all, since you apparently think that the nation is forever obligated to accept further immigrants, once it’s allowed any.

        Regarding the workmanship of Mexicans in the building trades, I’ve heard plenty of stories that contradict yours. And your notion about starving without cheap illegal-alien labor is just wrong. See the “lettuce argument,” fourth item at this web page: (There’s another factor in the agricultural arena — the presence of abundant illegal-alien labor led UC Davis, during the Carter administration, to shut down most of its R&D on mechanizing the field work.)

  4. says

    Gingrich is right: Yes, USA migration policy promotes contempt for law abidance or indeed worrying about legal entitlements. Thanks to the laws and their administration, illegal entry has been made a more straightforward course than legal entry. Furthermore, these same factors often make it easier, with fewer filters and barriers, to achieve a big non-routine change in legal status rather than a small change or none at all.

    I encountered an instance of this in summer 1996, when my late wife who carried a British passport – but had long been here (and full-time employed) as green-card holder – had to choose between the ‘simple small step’ of renewing the green card and taking the ‘big step’ of becoming a citizen.

    It turned out that it was almost impossible to get a green card renewed – the lines were long and the hassles many – but relatively easy to become a citizen. (Perhaps especially then, as apparently the Clinton administration had come to the recognition, both self-serving and enlightened, that new citizens could likely soon be Clinton reelection voters.)

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