Gingrich says millions of illegal immigrants should leave

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's immigration policy has come under attack from some rival GOP candidates.

Story highlights

  • Newt Gingrich says more than 7 million illegal immigrants would leave under his policy
  • The GOP presidential hopeful's immigration policy has been attacked by conservatives
  • Citizen panels would assess which illegal immigrants were eligible to stay
  • Only those sponsored by American families could qualify, Gingrich says

Newt Gingrich insisted Sunday that some illegal immigrants who have become full community members should be able to stay in the country, but he added that his policy would require 7 million or more to go back to their home nations before having a chance to return.

Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation," the front-running Republican presidential hopeful repeated his call for some kind of citizen review board to assess whether illegal immigrants would be eligible to get a residency permit and stay in America.

Gingrich, a former House Speaker, said the American people would not tolerate the forced removal of someone who has lived in their community for 25 years, has children and grandchildren, and belongs to a local church.

However, Gingrich said he expected about 1 million of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to qualify under the review board process to remain in the country, adding that they would have to be sponsored by an American family.

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The rest would have to leave, Gingrich said.

"My guess is that 7 or 8 or 9 million would ultimately go home to get a guest or worker permit and return under the law," Gingrich said.

His immigration policy has come under attack from some rival candidates who call it a form of amnesty -- a virtual dirty word for the conservative tea party movement.

        Election 2012

      • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden after his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

        A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
      • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage after his victory speech at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

        The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
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      • US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd of supporters on stage on election night November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. President Barack Obama swept to re-election Tuesday, forging history again by transcending a slow economic recovery and the high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

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