The journalist asked Gingrich for his take on this claim about halfway through the half-hour long interview. Gingrich replied, "I'm not going on comment on Governor Romney," and simply recited his policy recommendations on illegal immigration. When the candidate stated near the end of his answer that "I do not believe the American people are going to send police out to round up folks who have been here 25 years," Schieffer followed up and asked, "There are 11 million of these people. I mean, what are you going to do with them? I mean, you can't build that many prisons to put them in jail....and you can't get that many buses to haul them back."
This isn't the first time that the CBS host's views on the issue have come out. Just under a year ago, on the December 26, 2010 edition of Face the Nation , the journalist used part of a year-end commentary, which took the form of a poem, to criticize Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration law.
About a month and a half earlier, on the October 31 edition of The Early Show, anchor Erica Hill asked Schieffer about how he pressed then-Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain about an ad where a campaign aide smokes on camera. Her CBS colleague claimed that "I don't take positions during my interviews very often." Well, it didn't take him very long to cast doubt on that already dubious claim.
The transcript of the relevant portion of Bob Schieffer's interview of Newt Gingrich from Sunday's Face the Nation:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about another big issue in the campaign, and that is immigration. Mitt Romney has taken such a hard line, it seems to me, on immigration that some within the Republican Party are saying he is simply running off Hispanic voters. Do you agree with that?
NEWT GINGRICH, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not going on comment on Governor Romney. I will say that I do not believe that the American people are going to tolerate going after somebody who has been here 25 years, who has a family, has children and grandchildren- belongs to a local church. What I have proposed is very standard things- control the border by January 1, 2014; make English the official language of government; go to a much better visa program that's much- that makes it more desirable to visit the U.S. legally; go to a much easier deportation program that makes it much easier to move people out who shouldn't be here; have a guest worker program outsourced to American Express, Visa or MasterCard, so that you know that fraud is very unlikely; and have much steeper penalties for employers who hire people illegally. In that context, what I've said- which I think most people think is common sense- is there is a group of people who have been here a long time, and we've talked about creating a citizen review board, in the World War II selective service model-
SCHIEFFER: Could you-
GINGRICH: One last thing: and we've said if somebody has been here a long time and has an American family willing to sponsor them, they should be subject to review to get a residency permit- not citizenship, but a residency permit. I don't think- I just disagree with some of my friends. I do not believe the American people are going to send police out to round up folks who have been here 25 years.
SCHIEFFER: That's the question that I'm coming to. There are 11 million of these people. I mean, what are you going to do with them? I mean, you can't build that many prisons to put them in jail-
GINGRICH: No. Seven or eight million-
SCHIEFFER: And you can't get that many buses to haul them back.
GINGRICH: My guess is that seven or eight or nine million would ultimately go home, get a guest worker permit, come back under the law. But the last million or two are people who have been here a very long time. They are very part of- they're part of the community. They're not citizens, but they're part of the community, and the folks- you and I may well know some of these folks- and 25 years ago, they did something wrong, but they've been very good neighbors. They belong to the local church. And as I said, one of the requirements would be they have to have an American family sponsor them to be eligible for review by the citizen review board. I think it's a responsible position that recognizes the humanity of the problem, but firmly establishes the rule of law.