Newt Gingrich: Time to Revisit Court Decisions Giving Aliens Rights of Citizens

Newt Gingrich Alex Wong Getty
Alex Wong/Getty

Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich addressed the media firestorm around his remarks that Western nations are at war with Islam and all sharia adherents must be deported, after a Muslim terrorist in Nice, France slaughtered 84 and maimed many more.

“Let me start where I am coming from and let me be as blunt and direct as I can be — Western civilization is in a war,” Gingrich told Sean Hannity Thursday night. “We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia — glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about who our enemies are.”

Gingrich took to Facebook on Friday to lay out more of his thoughts on combating Muslim terror in the U.S.

Let me start by saying the attack in Nice, which killed about 80 people at least, including children, including two Americans… was a horrifying event, but it shouldn’t have been an unexpected event. It’s the third major attack in France in recent times. Just a day or two before, the director of intelligence in France said publicly Europe is on the edge of a civil war with conservative anti-immigrant groups fighting foreigners in the streets. The media and governments have been covering up crime migrants commit, particularly sex attacks on European women, and citizens are growing angrier and angrier about the cover-ups.

“So that’s a starting point for looking at Nice,” Gingrich continued. “But there is a larger picture built around these. There is the bombing at the airport in Turkey. There is the bombing at the airport in Belgium. There are the previous attacks in France. There is the nightclub massacre in Orlando. There is the killings in San Bernardino. There are the two Canadian businessmen who were beheaded in the Philippines. There was the restaurant… attacked in Bangladesh.” He went on to say:

Again, and again, and again, we have these attacks. And the news media covers them with shock. With horror. And is confused about what’s going on. I believe that we have to recognize we’re at war. A very real war with people who would destroy our civilization, and people who are being recruited on the internet, and people who are recruiting themselves. Remember in the American case I cite — Orlando and San Bernardino — the primary actors were both American citizens. They weren’t foreigners, they weren’t refugees, they weren’t immigrants, they were people who had been radicalized, even though they lived in the United States.

Gingrich is only partially correct — the wife of the San Bernardino terrorist came to the U.S. on a visa from Pakistan. He said, noting past presidents have fought wars under a constitutional government:

So we have a real, deep challenge, and we need an honest conversation about that challenge. So suggesting how we think through how we protect Americans, how we defeat our enemies, how we win this civilizational war between those who would literally destroy our civilization — that’s their goal. They say it publicly. They mean it. They’re recruiting people to help them do it. We have the obligation and the right to defend our civilization and to defend the United States.

I want to describe three different levels, and I think this is very important because a great deal of the coverage of what I said last night on Fox distorted the direction I was trying to lead us in, to start a conversation. I don’t think anyone has the complete answer, but at least have the courage to start the conversation. And I think you have to divide it in three groups. What are the ground rules for people who are not in the United States but who want to come here? Now, they have no right to come here. We have every right to vet people, to decide whether or not they’re appropriate and whether or not we should let them in. So, the first group, there has to be a set of rules for people who aren’t here.

The second is for people who are here but aren’t citizens. Because again, they are operating under a rule of law that goes back to the Smith Act, to 1940, which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which required legal, registered aliens to register, just as a part of dealing with the challenges of Nazism and Communism. Third, of course, are American citizens. In the last two big cycles of killing in the United States, they were both done by American citizens. So you don’t solve the problem if you only deal with people outside the U.S… You also have to confront the fact that in the age of the internet, we’re seeing people radicalized, who are American citizens.

Now, let me make something very clear, because the news media went into a hysteria overnight in trying to grossly exaggerate what I was saying. If you are a practicing Muslim, and you believe deeply in your faith, but you’re also loyal to the United States, and you believe in the Constitution, you should have your rights totally and completely protected within the Constitution. You should have nothing to fear. Your children should have nothing to fear. This is not about targeting a particular religion, or targeting people who practice in a particular way. This is about looking for certain characteristics that we have learned painfully, time after time, that involve killing people, that involve attacks on our civilization.

I want to draw a sharp distinction here. And let me start with the most difficult area here, which is with American citizens. When we have the courage to look directly at the lessons of San Bernardino, and the lessons of Orlando, and the lessons of Fort Hood, and the lessons of other places around the country where there have been attacks — Boston would be another example — one of the things that’s obvious is that if we had the kind of counter-terrorism surveillance that New York developed shortly after 9/11, which has been disbanded in a way that makes no sense at all… If we had been actively monitoring the killer in Orlando, we would have known when he went to buy guns, and when he went to buy a lot of ammunition, that we ought to pick him up.

If we’re at war, we’re on a very different ground than peacetime. If we’re at war, aiding and abetting the enemy is totally unacceptable and illegal. If we’re at war, seeking to undermine the American constitution and seeking to replace the American government is an act of sedition which is prosecutable. So it’s very different than in a normal, peacetime environment. Every bias should be in favor of the innocent, every bias should be protecting you from the state, and as a conservative I deeply believe we should be protecting you from the state. But at the same time, I believe that if we’re at war, then we have an obligation to let the state operate in such a way that protects us from being killed. And so we need to set up rules on what Americans can and can’t do during a time of war.

As for aliens legally present in the U.S., Gingrich said, “I think we need to revisit court decisions which have transferred to them rights of citizenship, and protections of citizenship, even though they’re not citizens.”

Law-abiding aliens who respect the Constitution have nothing to worry about. Gingrich went on to say:

But if you come here for the purpose of recruiting people to ISIS, if you come here for the purpose of radicalizing people, if you come here to gather resources for terrorism, then we have every right to raise serious questions. And there the dialogue should be if you’re guilty of these things, is the only correct answer that if you’re here as a green card resident, is deportation, or is the correct answer prison? Now, with an American citizen, deportation is impossible. It’s not appropriate under the Constitution. And there historically we’ve always said: If you fought against the United States, the correct answer was basically jail as opposed to deportation. I think we have to talk through what should be the right way of handling people who are here but are not citizens. But again, the bias should be in favor of winning the war, and the bias should be in the favor of taking steps to stop people before they kill. Not to arrest people after they kill.

Foreigners who want to come to the U.S. must be screened, he said. “We have every right and every obligation to our citizens to screen people who want to migrate to the United States. To find out whether they believe, for example, that you should kill homosexuals. To find out whether they believe you should kill apostates who leave Islam. To find out whether or not they believe you should kill Christians and Jews. There are some questions that are very real. We should also find out: Are they willing to learn English? Are they willing to assimilate? Are they willing to become Americans?”