Julia Preston writes at The New York Times:
How many illegal immigrants could gain legal status under an idea proposed by Newt Gingrich? Perhaps as many as 3.5 million, according to figures published Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.
Mr. Gingrich set himself apart from his leading rivals for the Republican presidential nomination last week by saying that he would open a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who had been in the country for many years, had strong family ties here — children and maybe grandchildren — and no criminal record. The Pew Center took up the challenge of calculating how many illegal immigrants might meet Mr. Gingrich’s standards.
About 35 percent of the estimated 10 million illegal immigrants in the United States who are adults have been here for 15 years or more, the center found, based on an analysis of 2010 census data. Almost two-thirds of adult illegal immigrants have been here for a decade or more, the center reported.
One puzzle about Gingrich's plan is the following passage:
Congress must charge the Department of Justice to establish a “citizens’ review” process for those here outside the law. It would establish committees to process these cases in individual communities and determine who will continue on this path to legality, and who will be sent home.
But the Department of Justice has not had primary responsibility for immigration issues since March 1, 2003. That was the effective date of a law that abolished the Justice Department's Immigration and Naturalization Service and split its functions among three agencies – US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection -- all within the new Department of Homeland Security.