Rick Perry walks a fine line on immigration

(Photo by Patrick Michels)

As the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry has walked both sides of the immigration line, at one point implementing a Texas-style Dream Act that some say was the model for the national act. On the other hand, he’s also pushed for local police to have more authority to check on people’s immigration status.

One of those positions will play like gangbusters in the GOP primary and the other one will appeal to Latino voters in the general election if he gets that far. For both groups, though, there is that other Rick Perry who will always be on their minds.

In fact, Somos Republican leader Dee Dee Garcia Blase has told The Colorado Independent that Latinos have long considered Perry a friend, but that his recent positions have begun alienating Latinos.

Talking Points Memo sums up Perry’s Latino problem or immigration problem eloquently noting how swiftly he has gone from Latino hero as a new governor to Latino enemy as a long-serving governor with his eye on a bigger prize.

In August 2001, Governor Rick Perry stopped by Edinburg, Texas, to deliver a speech before a gathering of Mexican and United States officials on issue related to the border. Emphasizing the cultural and economic connections between the two nations, Perry called for new investment in infrastructure and an easing of restrictions on border traffic to further deepen ties. He also took a moment to tout a groundbreaking new law that allowed children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at Texas universities.

“We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, ‘we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.'” he said. “And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers. That’s why Texas took the national lead in allowing such deserving young minds to attend a Texas college at a resident rate. Those young minds are a part of a new generation of leaders, the doors of higher education must be open to them. The message is simple: educacion es el futuro, y si se puede.”

A decade later in June 2011, Perry traveled to San Antonio to offer an address to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at their annual convention. This time, however, immigrant rights activists were gathered outside the building to protest and he faced a frosty, even hostile, reception from the guests inside. Perry again emphasized his pride in the state’s Hispanic population, but it was no use — a failed attempt by the governor to crack down on “sanctuary cities” with legislation that would free police officers to question people on their immigration status had poisoned the atmosphere completely. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who spoke before the governor, condemned Perry’s bill as “easily the most anti-Latino agenda in more than a generation.”

And while it is easy to love a candidate who hasn’t actually announced he’s running, the closer Perry gets to an actual announcement, the more people bring out the dirt.

A story today in The Texas Independent notes that Perry’s potential troubles extend far beyond immigration into such areas as his friendship with a prominent Muslim and his loose lips on the subject of secession.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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