As Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) barnstorms through the early primary states talking up his far-right views, many Tea Partiers remain unsettled about Perry’s record of relative tolerance regarding undocumented immigrants.
During his tenure as governor, Perry made Texas the first state in the nation to sign a “DREAM Act,” granting in-state tuition to all students at public universities in Texas, regardless of their immigration status. He also opposed a harsh immigration bill like Arizona’s SB 1070 in his state, saying such a move “would not be the right direction for Texas.” Perry even said he could support a “path to citizenship for people who are here illegally” if it accompanies border security.
As a result of his policies as governor, many in the Republican Party view Perry as insufficiently cruel to immigrants. Now, as the issue threatens to turn off Republican primary voters who might otherwise be sympathetic to his hard right record, Perry is changing his tone.
During a business roundtable yesterday in Bedford, New Hampshire, a questioner pressed Perry on the issue of immigration. After the Texas Governor tried to end the conversation multiple times by saying that we just needed to “secure the border,” the questioner challenged Perry about his plan for the millions of “illegals” already in the country. Though Perry noted we can’t “ship 12 million people back to whatever country they come from,” he backtracked on his previous support for a pathway to citizenship. Said Perry, “you gotta come up with a way that clearly stays away from this issue of making individuals legal citizens of the United States if they haven’t gone through the proper process.”
QUESTIONER: A follow-up. What’s your plan with the illegals that are already here?
PERRY: At that particular point in time, I think you have a good conversation about how do you deal with the numbers of people that are here illegally. Obviously you’re correct, you’re not going to ship 12 million people back to whatever country they come from, but you gotta come up with a way that clearly stays away from this issue of making individuals legal citizens of the United States if they haven’t gone through the proper process.
Immigration is not the first issue that Perry has flip-flopped on in his five-day-old presidential campaign. Earlier this week, he disavowed his earlier support for a health care mandate that all Texas girls receive an HPV vaccine.
Even putting Perry’s flip-flop aside, his insistence on a policy of securing the border before even considering other aspects of our immigration system is misguided and impractical. As the Washington Post wrote in an editorial today titled “Scare tactics on the border,” politicians (like Perry) who use “the myth of escalating border insecurity as an excuse for inaction…perpetuate both a lie and the national disgrace of a dysfunctional policy.”