Sunday, October 2, 2011

Perry Reformulates Answer on Immigration Question

Gov. Rick Perry generally has great political radar, but in the first few weeks of his presidential campaign he walked straight into enemy fire on the issue of illegal immigration.

He’s trying to walk out of it now. Perry, in media interviews and at town hall events this weekend in New Hampshire, is giving a far more nuanced and detailed answer on why he has taken the now-controversial view that some young immigrants in the country illegally should get the benefit of in-state tuition rates.

Under the 2001 bill Perry signed into law, to qualify, a student must have lived in the state for at least three years, graduated from a Texas high school and promised to apply for permanent residency.

A chief surrogate here, former New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidate John Stephen, is also going to bat for Perry, unprompted, and is stressing the governor’s border security, anti-immigration bonafides.

Perry's new approach, with its carefully rehearsed answers, underscore the potency of the immigration issue, which acts as a proxy for the deep economic anxiety across the country. Voters here and elsewhere routinely ask Perry about immigration and border security during question-and-answer periods, and his rivals are running ads against him on the topic. Perry also took pointed questions on Social Security and global warming, but the immigration issue has resonated in a way the other topics have not.

The new formulation unveiled this weekend in New Hampshire underscores the deep hole Perry dug for himself during his uneven debate performance on Sept. 22, when he suggested that opponents of the tuition break don’t “have a heart.” It took an already bad situation and made it worse. The gaffe contributed to a big drop in Perry’s poll numbers, and Republicans seem generally surprised that the longtime Texas governor is out of step with the Tea Party-infused grassroots on this one.

Perry has since apologized for his provocative answer about heartless opponents, and his campaign is trying to reframe the issue on more favorable terrain. When Perry showed up in New Hampshire for a series of town halls that began Friday in Derry, Stephen introduced him and quickly noted that he was the only candidate in the race who had actively fought illegal immigration along the porous U.S.-Mexico border. He also said the Texas governor opposes the federal Dream Act and any type of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Perry addressed the issue himself the next day, in Hampton on Saturday morning, when local voter Dave Connors of Hampton directly confronted him: “I’m going to kick you in the heart,” he said. “You know where I’m going.” It was another way of saying that illegal immigration is an elephant-in-the-room kind of issue for the governor now.

Connors asked why Perry favors giving “preferential treatment” to illegal immigrants. Perry answered by ticking off a list of initiatives that he said are designed to curb illegal immigration, including hundreds of millions of dollars for border security, a veto of legislation that would have allowed illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses and the recently passed Voter ID bill.

He also blamed Uncle Sam.

“The federal government forces us to school young men and women regardless of their immigration status,” Perry said. “Are we going to kick these young people over to the curb and say you cannot have access to college? Because the fact of the matter is there is no way that they could pay the out-of-state tuition.’’

Connors said he seemed impressed with Perry after the exhange.


Obama to Appeal Ruling Upholding Alabama Immigration Law

The U.S. Justice Department said it will appeal the decision by a judge in Birmingham, Alabama, that allowed the state to enforce parts of an immigration law opposed by the federal government.

“Under the Constitution, immigration, no less than other aspects of the nation’s foreign relations and foreign commerce, requires uniform regulation, and cannot be subject to a patchwork of state measures,” Justice Department lawyers said today in a request to put U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn’s ruling on hold while it’s under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Blackburn said in her Sept. 28 decision that under the law, state police can make “a reasonable attempt” to determine the immigration status of a person otherwise detained or arrested, when there’s reasonable suspicion to inquire about that status.

Nothing in the federal Immigration and Nationality Act “expressly preempts states from legislating on the issue of verification of an individual’s citizenship and immigration status,” Blackburn said in her 115-page ruling.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a first-term Republican, signed the immigration measure into law on June 9. After the U.S. government, church leaders and civil rights groups sued to block it, Blackburn issued a provisional order barring its enforcement on Aug. 29. Bentley called the ruling upholding parts of the law “a victory for Alabama.”

The law, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, includes provisions requiring public schools to collect data on the enrollment of children of unlawful residents and criminalizing the failure of illegal immigrants to complete or carry alien registration documents.

Blackburn’s ruling allowed Alabama to enforce the part of the law that makes failure to carry documentation a misdemeanor, as well as the school data portion of the law and a provision enabling police to take drivers arrested without a valid license before a magistrate for determination of their citizenship.

Unlicensed drivers found to be in the U.S. illegally can then be detained for prosecution or turned over to federal immigration agents.


No comments:

Post a Comment