Last night Newt Gingrich addressed the issue of whether to deport people who are in the country illegally but have deep roots in the community over long periods of time.  The issue of deportation is quite distinct from a so-called “pathway to citizenship.”

The Romney campaign immediately came out of the debate insisting that Gingrich was in favor of “amnesty” for 10 million people, which led to this exchange bewteen Philip Klein of The Washington Examiner and Romney campaign chief Eric Fehrnstrom (added, the audio is here):

I followed up by asking Fehrnstrom whether Romney believed in deporting those immigrants who are already here illegally.

“[Romney] doesn’t believe in granting them amnesty,” Fehrnstrom responded.

That started a back and forth exchange worthy of Abbott and Costello, as Fehrnstrom kept continuing to drive the “no amnesty” point home, and I tried to get more details.

I followed up again, asking what “no amnesty” would mean for the people already here.

“Well, first, you have to get turn off the magnets to get them to stop coming.”

Again, I asked about those already here.

“He would not grant them amnesty,” Fehrnstrom said.

“But what would he do with them?” I asked.

He reiterated, “He would not grant them amnesty.”

I asked again, “But what would he do?”

“I just told you, he’s not going to grant them amnesty,” he said.

Again, I said, “That’s not an answer, that’s telling me what he won’t do. What would he do?

“He would not grant them amnesty,” he repeated.

There is no depth to Romney’s immigration position, and no nuance.  There is a world of difference between an amnesty which makes people here illegally citizens on some path other than the back of the line, and a deportation policy.

Even Paul Begala gets that Newt’s position not only is not amnesty, it is far short of Obama’s position:

I suspect that on careful examination we will learn that what Gingrich actually supports is a netherworld for immigrant workers—neither full citizenship nor subject to deportation. That is far from the DREAM Act—more like a dream come true for any employer seeking cheap labor.

Superficial talking points will not cut it.  Hopefully we figure that out before it’s too late.

Update:  Rush just played an audio of Romney in 2007 proposing citizenship for illegal aliens, a position which Ruch noted goes far beyond what Newt said last night.  If I can get the audio, I’ll post it.

Okay, here it is:

And, Andrew McCarthy on what Newt said:

That’s not amnesty. It’s common sense. It would also be a vast improvement over Obama immigration policy. I don’t understand what the hubbub is about.