Gingrich to Republicans: Don't sound like Romney on immigration

Newt Gingrich has a warning for the GOP: Don't sound like Mitt Romney on immigration.

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Gingrich emailed supporters on Friday night ripping Romney for the way he discussed immigration during the 2012, and calling for Republicans to draw lessons from the exchanges to avoid the same type of rhetoric.

"It is difficult to understand how someone running for President of the United States, a country with more than 50 million Hispanic citizens, could fail to acknowledge that the American people should not take grandmothers who have been here 25 years, have deep family and community ties — and forcibly expel them," he writes before attacking Romney for his comments on "self-deportation," warning that "rhetoric can kill the Republican Party among Latinos."

Gingrich, who faded in the GOP primary field partly because of Romney's attacks on his opposition to deporting all undocumented immigrants, says he doesn't mean to "single out" Romney — though he spends the first two thirds of the email rehashing Romney's remarks during the GOP primaries.

"I write this because as the current immigration debate heats up it is critical for us to recognize that words and attitudes really matter," he writes. "Understanding what people hear matters. We may not mean to say what people hear we say. After decades in politics this is a lesson I have learned the hard way. As a party, we simply cannot continue with immigration rhetoric that in 2012 became catastrophic — in large part because it was not grounded in reality."

Gingrich praises Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his proposals on immigration — and says the issue must be dealt with for the party to survive.

"This does not mean we as Republicans should give up on our principles, or on the priority of securing the border," he concludes. It means we must recognize, as I tried to do in that primary debate, that politics is always an intersection of principles and people. A party that appears to ignore people won’t get the chance to make the case for its principles — any of them."