Gingrich: Voters won’t support policy to ‘hunt down’ all illegal immigrants

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stood by his stance that some families of illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States, saying that the country would not back an immigration policy to "hunt down every single person."

Gingrich, speaking at a town hall at the College of Charleston hosted by Republican Rep. Tim Scott (S.C.), said he didn't believe the American people would back deporting undocumented immigrants who had lived in the country peacefully for decades.

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"I don't believe we'll ever pass a bill which requires us to hunt down every single person," said Gingrich. 

“Take someone who’s been here for 25 years. They’ve been obeying the law for 25 years, they’ve been paying taxes for 25 years, they’re married, they have three kids, two grandkids and belong to a church. Do you really think the American people are going to send a policeman to take that person away from their family? I don’t,” said the former House Speaker, according to reports.

He insisted that his plan would only affect a "relatively small" number of illegal immigrants.

Gingrich has been under fire from conservative anti-illegal immigration groups and other GOP candidates since arguing at a Republican debate last week for allowing the families of some undocumented workers to remain in the country.

"I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families which have been here a quarter-century," Gingrich had said. "I'm prepared to take the heat for saying let's be humane in enforcing the law."

On Monday, he said claims from other campaigns that he was for amnesty were "just totally false." "That's not true," said Gingrich, adding that such claims were "an Obama-level quality statement."

Gingrich insisted he would make combating illegal immigration a priority. "I would propose cutting off all federal funds to any city that declares itself a sanctuary city," he noted.