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House Democrat calls Gingrich's immigration remarks 'step in right direction'

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who heads up the Hispanic Caucus' Immigration Task Force, gave a thumbs up to Newt Gingrich's recent immigration comments

“Look, I think Mr. Newt Gingrich’s statements are a step in the right direction,” Gutierrez said today on MSNBC’s "Andrea Mitchell Reports." “They are very different than the kind of course that we've been hearing from the Republican presidential candidates.”

He added, “At least he begins to reflect on the reality that we have 12 million undocumented, many with long histories, with children and families and really deep roots in the communities in which they live.”

At a debate last week, Gingrich said he supported allowing illegal immigrants -- who have lived in the United States for 20-plus years -- to gain some type of legal status.

But on the campaign trail today, Gingrich tried to reassure conservatives in his party that he’s not too moderate on immigration, as he condemned the federal government for challenging South Carolina’s controversial immigration law. That law requires police to call federal immigration officials if they suspect someone that they’ve stopped is an illegal immigrant, and it also requires employers to check the immigration status of new employees.

Gingrich’s criticism of the administration doesn’t surprise Rep. Gutierrez, who is headed to South Carolina tomorrow to protest the law.

“I didn't think there would be a lot of consistency to the statements. He's being banged about pretty ruthlessly by his -- the other presidential candidates. So I wouldn't be too surprised if he changed his position,” Gutierrez said.