Rick Perry got a chance to defend his controversial immigration policies at a campaign stop in New Hampshire Saturday. The audience at the forum was particularly upset over Perry’s Texas policy that gives in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants. In fact, in the last GOP debate, Perry caused a stir when he lashed out in defense of his policies by basically calling his opponents heartless.
According to KUT Radio in Texas, the atmosphere in New Hampshire was one of passion. A woman wearing a sombrero reportedly held a sign in front of the event sarcastically yelling, “Thanks for the free tuition, Gov. Perry!” Despite the contentious tone of the evening, Perry refrained from name-calling and instead focused on giving a substantive argument for his policies.
Unsurprisingly, Perry’s defense included putting the blame on the federal government. According to SeacoastOnline.com, Perry stated Saturday, “The United States has failed in its constitutional duty to defend our border.” He reminded the audience that, because of that failure, he has taken on the toughest stance on immigration out of all the candidates running for the presidency.
“I vetoed a bill to allow illegal immigrants to have a driver’s license in Texas,” Perry told the crowd, according to KUT. “I have sent over $400 million to the border of Mexico in the form of Texas Ranger recon teams. I helped pass and [I] signed a voter ID bill in the state of Texas.”
Since the last GOP debate, in which many political pundits deemed Rick Perry the loser, Anita Perry has come out in defense of her husband’s tuition policy. “Either we take care of those populations or they get on welfare, which is a greater cost to our taxpayers,” Anita Perry said.
According to State Column, she said her husband is no slacker when it comes to being tough on immigration.
“Rick is the same governor who vetoed driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, who fought to keep sanctuary cities out and who just billed the federal government $350 million for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens,” Anita Perry said.
With the tuition program, she added, illegal immigrants are given a chance to become productive members of society and not just welfare beneficiaries. Perry also said that Texas officials believed the program would benefit the local economy.
Despite his ardent support for the tuition program, Perry says the issue is about states' rights and he respects the decision of other states not to pass a similar bill.
"In Texas, we made the decision that it was in our best interests as a state, economically and otherwise, to have those young people in our institutions of higher learning and becoming educated as part of our skilled workforce," Perry said, according to the Associated Press. "If you don't want to do that in your state, I absolutely respect that right."
According to the Associated Press, conservative activist Jennifer Horn, the host of the Hampton town hall in New Hampshire said, she was pleased that Perry’s message this weekend seemed to be much stronger and more comprehensive.
"It is extremely important for him to convince Republican primary voters that he's not so-called ‘soft,’ on illegal immigration," she said.
KUT asked Perry’s campaign spokesman why the governor did not use this more in-depth answer during the debate, which may have helped him avoid the flak he received. The spokesman said that Saturday’s answer takes about 3 minutes, too long for the 30 to 60 seconds allotted in a debate.