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Santorum blasts Gingrich, Romney on immigration

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a Republican presidential debate in Washington Nov. 22, 2011.
AP Photo
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a Republican presidential debate in Washington Nov. 22, 2011.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a Republican presidential debate in Washington Nov. 22, 2011.
AP Photo

Campaigning in New Hampshire Monday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum criticized the immigration positions of the two men at the top of the polls for the GOP nomination.

During an hour-long interview with the Nashua Telegraph, the former Pennsylvania senator said his record "backs up his vision" for the future of the country while deeming Mitt Romney inconsistent and arguing Newt Gingrich was wrong to suggest some illegal immigrants should not be deported.

Santorum said Romney has held differing positions on immigration policy, calling Romney's latest comments a "classic Romneyism." Romney has said he favors a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants but believes this should consist of "going to their home country, applying for citizenship or permanent residency just like everybody else, and getting back in the line."

Romney's opponents and Democrats have highlighted his more lax position in 2007, when Romney said, "the 12 million or so that are here illegally should be able to sign up for permanent residency or citizenship." For his part, Santorum said illegal immigrants should not be able to hold employment. If elected, Santorum added, he would decrease employment opportunities for illegal immigrants.

"If we enforce the law, more people will leave," he said.

Santorum also had harsh words for Gingrich, who in a debate last week proposed the "humane" treatment of illegal immigrants who had been in the United States for decades.

"People have been holding jobs in the country responsibly for 20 years, well they're holding jobs illegally in this country, and they shouldn't be," Santorum said.

It's worth noting that in a September debate, Santorum said his immigration position is "very similar to Newt Gingrich's." Asked what to do with illegal immigrants who live in the United States, he suggested it was appropriate to look at "how long they've been here, whether they had other types of records."

Despite spending considerable time in New Hampshire, Santorum has struggled to gain traction in the state. In a WMUR Granite State Poll released on Nov. 23, Santorum garnered just one percent support among Republican voters. Romney led the group with 42 percent support in the first primary state. Gingrich is a distant second, with 15 percent support.