) -- Newt Gingrich took a decidedly conservative tack this weekend when he said he believed his immigration plan would require 7 million to 9 million illegal aliens to return to their home countries before being given the chance to come back to the United States.

Gingrich's comment on


"Face the Nation" comes about a month after the former House speaker said he didn't think any illegal immigrants who had been in the country for 25 years and had paid taxes should be

separated from their families in the U.S.

Newt Gingrich

Of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, Gingrich said that he figured 1 million would qualify under his plan to stay in the country, which left a considerable number exposed.

"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.

Conservative Republicans blasted Gingrich's plan last month as being a form of amnesty.

Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) said in Novembber he didn't support Gingrich's plan because it would let the rule of law be eroded and allow people to be rewarded for breaking the law.

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Gingrich's comments over the weekend could serve as a reminder to social conservatives that under his plan the majority of illegal aliens would be required to leave the country, and that the 1 million who could remain would still have to be sponsored by an American family.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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