As other candidates attack him for being too soft on unauthorized immigration, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich signed a pledge on Thursday to build a double fence along the entirety of the southern border of the United States.
The former Speaker of the House promised in the Americans for Border Security pledge to construct a complete double border fence between the United States and Mexico by the end of 2013, should he become president. Only one other GOP presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), has signed the pledge so far.
Gingrich promises on his campaign website to "control the border" by Jan. 1, 2014, implying that President Barack Obama lacks the "will" to stop unauthorized immigration from Mexico.
"The United States must control its border. It is a national security imperative," the website reads. "Every nation has the right to control its border. Historically, every country that has been determined to control their border has been able to do so. Controlling the border is a matter of resources and will."
Gingrich has taken heat in recent weeks for his immigration stances, particularly after he called during a GOP debate last week for a more "humane" policy to deal with the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants. He said there should be a way to allow some undocumented immigrants, particularly those with long-standing ties to the United States, to stay, as well as allowing for more guest worker visas to allow people to work legally.
Bachmann attacked him for those comments the day after the GOP debate, telling PBS's "NewsHour" that Gingrich wants to add "powerful magnets" for people to come to the United States illegally.
"He probably has the most liberal position on illegal immigration of any of the candidates in the race," Bachmann said on the program.
Gingrich has since been on the defense on immigration, attempting to boost his tough-on-immigration bona fides by decrying "amnesty" and praising a South Carolina law that mimics Arizona's S.B. 1070 by allowing police to ask about immigration status.
He also spoke about the border, reiterating earlier this week his website's promise to secure the border by 2014, in part by sending half of the employees of the Department of Homeland Security to Southwest border states.
Nearly all of the major GOP presidential candidates have called for a fence along the southern border, with the exception of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has said it would be too expensive to build and maintain. Continuing upkeep of the current border fence, without additional fencing, will cost an estimated $6.5 billion between 2009 and 2019, according to a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office.
Americans for Securing the Border Chairman Van D. Hipp Jr. said in a statement Thursday that the pledge "is the best way to hold the politicians' 'feet to the fire' and ensure that a secure double fence is built along our southern border, thereby making America safer."
"Newt Gingrich has heard our challenge and will sign 'The Pledge' to support the construction of a date certain, secure double fence across the US border with Mexico prior to the end of 2013," Hipp said. "Speaker Gingrich is no 'Johnny come lately' when it comes to border security."