A Columbia seafood restaurant was the site of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s last campaign stop before taking a Christmas break.
Gingrich spoke to about 250 people at the Blue Marlin restaurant for about 90 minutes Friday.
He told reporters afterwards that, if elected president, he would stop the Justice Department’s lawsuit against South Carolina’s immigration law. That came a day after a federal judge tossed out three sections of the law (including a controversial provision that gave law enforcement the power to check a person’s immigration status during a traffic stop).
“I think it’s pretty outrageous that when the federal government fails to do its job, it then attacks the states for trying to fill the gap,” Gingrich said.
AUDIO: Gingrich speaks to reporters afterwards (4:15)
During the speech, Gingrich spent a notable amount of time on immigration. He said any changes to the system would first require securing the border. He said, as president, he would set a January 2014 deadline to do that.
AUDIO: Gingrich speaks about immigration proposal (4:25)
He also pushed to streamline the visa process and create a guest worker program that would allow foreign workers to legally enter the country. Gingrich also reiterated calls for a path to residency for illegal immigrants who had spent 25 years as productive members of society.
Gingrich pushed back against fellow candidate Mitt Romney, who previously called the proposal an amnesty “magnet.”
“You have to be here 25 years. So that means that instead of going to the guest worker program, instead of applying legally today, you’re going to try to sneak in so that 25 years from now (you can become a resident)? That’s not a magnet,” Gingrich told the audience.
Gingrich largely avoided attacking his fellow Republicans, although he did call Romney a “Massachusetts moderate trying to come down pretending to be a conservative.” Afterwards, he insisted to reporters that was not a negative attack, “I described him accurately, how could you think that was a criticism?”