Rick Perry once called Tom Tancredo a racist

Rick Perry can’t win for losing. Latino votes are important to any Texas politician and for years Perry was considered a friend by immigrant groups. The Republican presidential nomination, though is unlikely to go to a coddler of immigrants and he has recently taken steps to be seen as tougher on illegal immigration.

While immigration may be sticking point for some voters, Perry could get some Colorado votes simply for having called former Rep. Tom Tancredo a racist back when Tancredo ran for president himself in 2008.

Tancredo hasn’t forgotten and this week penned an opinion piece for Politico saying he is no fan of Rick Perry.

From Tancredo’s column:

Perry is eager to separate himself from his predecessor in the Texas governor’s mansion, George W. Bush — who is unpopular with both tea party Republicans and the American electorate as a whole. But one area where Perry’s positions are virtually identical to Bush is immigration.

When I ran for president in 2008, I tried to pressure the Republican candidates to take a hard line against illegal immigration. For this, Perry called me a racist.

When he first took office as governor in 2001, Perry went to Mexico and bragged about his law that granted “the children of undocumented workers” special in-state tuition at Texas colleges, the first state in the nation to do so.

“The message is simple,” Perry concluded, “educacion es el futuro, y si se puede.” Education is the future, and (echoing Cesar Chavez’s slogan) yes we can.]

Just a few weeks ago, Perry defended his decision to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. He said “to punish these young Texans for their parents’ actions is not what America has always been about.”

Perry opposed Arizona’s tough anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070. “I have concerns,” he explained, “with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas.”

On top of that, Perry is fond of touting the recent economic success of Texas, but at least one report says a big part of that success is due to the contributions of illegal immigrants who provide a net benefit to the state even after the cost of education, health care and other services are taken into consideration.

From The Associated Press:

For all of his rock-solid conservative credentials, Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have an Achilles’ heel: immigration.

Perry will undoubtedly focus his presidential campaign on Texas’ relatively healthy economy and its low taxes and his record in creating jobs in the 11 years he’s been governor. What he may have to explain on the stump is how illegal immigrants have contributed to that success, adding as much as $17.7 billion a year to the state gross product and enjoying such benefits as in-state tuition at public universities.

“Gov. Perry is very eager to appear tough on illegal immigration, but upon closer inspection he’s part of the problem,” complained William Gheen, who runs the North Carolina-based political action committee Americans for Legal Immigration. The group intends to educate conservative groups about candidates’ positions on that issue.

Tea party criticism about Perry’s immigration record is now appearing on activist blogs in Arizona and New Hampshire.

A 2006 state report said that the state’s illegal immigrants — 1.4 million then, 1.65 million now — added $17.7 billion to the gross state product, and that the state came out ahead on taxes it collected versus services it provided. But local governments and county hospitals were shouldering the burden of caring for that population.

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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