Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is warning that the immigration bill favored by Senate Republicans will permit up to 36 million illegal aliens, as opposed to the 11 million being cited by proponents, to remain in the U.S. – a number that will make the average American “furious” when learned and will hurt the GOP.

“I am very worried that the Republican leadership in the Senate and potentially the White House are just going to end up very alienated from the vast majority of Americans on this issue,” Gingrich told Human Events in an exclusive interview. “The Senate bill is an absolute disaster.”

Gingrich criticized the makeup of the conference committee, saying the agreement made between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) “guarantees a bad bill.” Under the terms outlined by Reid, Frist and Reid each get to appoint seven senators to the committee. Republicans will have seven more from the Judiciary Committee, whereas Democrats will only be able to send five from the committee.

“The Senate is drifting toward a disaster of the first order,” Gingrich said. “The bill they’re looking at is a bad bill. It violates, in almost every case, what the American people want.”

Gingrich, who will appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press” tomorrow, cited a recent poll released by Zogby and the Center for Immigration Studies showing overwhelming support – 65% to 30% – for the House bill, a measure that emphasizes enforcement.

Eighty-four percent of the poll’s respondents wanted the government to prosecute employers who hire illegals and 86% agreed that federal dollars should be cut off to cities and states that refuse to enforce immigration laws. Nine out of 10 respondents favored making English proficiency a requirement to earn citizenship and 85% endorsed a voter-identity card to guarantee that only American citizens were casting ballots.

Gingrich disputed the oft-cited figure of 11 million illegal aliens who would be affected by any immigration reform bill, saying he believes the actual count would be three times greater.

“If there is an honest debate about how many million people will be given a chance to come to America under the Senate bill, we’re told the number is between 30 million and 36 million people,” he said. “When the average American learns that, they are going to be furious if the Senate Republicans allow that kind of bill out of the Senate.

“The Senate bill expands substantially who can be brought in as a member of the family,” Gingrich noted. “So you take 11 million and add the other people, and we believe the real number is between 30 million and 36 million.”

President Bush is scheduled to address the nation on immigration in a primetime speech Monday night.

“I look forward to the speech Monday night because I fervently hope the president is not going to side with the liberals in the Senate against the conservatives in the House, because no one in the president’s base will understand that decision,” Gingrich said.

“This is a great opportunity for the President to re-bond with the overwhelming majority of the American people. And the overwhelming majority of the American people say, ‘Put border security first.'”

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