Rick Perry has been caught slumming–reaching out to discuss immigration with Maricopa (AZ) County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the more famous anti-immigration voices of the West.
While the issue was danced around during Wednesday night’s debate–with most of the fireworks centering on Social Security and job creation–immigration may well end up as a defining issue in the Republican primary.
As governor of Texas, Perry has taken mostly moderate positions on immigration but seemed to begin moving right at about the same time he began mulling a run for the White House.
During his time as the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry has staked out one of the most reasonable and moderate positions on immigration reform in the entire Republican Party. He signed the Texas version of the DREAM Act, guaranteeing graduates of Texas high schools in-state tuition at Texas universities regardless of their immigration status. He has indicated support for a path to citizenship and criticized the idea of building a border fence.
Perry even criticized Senate Bill 1070, the radical Arizona immigration bill that incensed immigration advocates and is currently facing legal challenges from the Justice Dept. “That’s not the right direction for Texas,” Perry said at the time. But yesterday, (Sept. 4) the bill’s biggest proponent, Maricopa Co. (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, tweeted that Perry had personally called him to talk immigration, a move that highlights Perry’s slow and steady lurch right on immigration issues since he launched his presidential campaign.
“We are angry,” said Dee Dee Garcia Blase, executive director of Somos Republicans, a national group of Latino Republicans that supported Perry as governor and had expressed hope that he would continue to be a friend of Latinos as a candidate for president.
“Governor Rick Perry consulting Sheriff Joe Arpaio is reprehensible,” she said by email. “Perry consulting Arpaio is like showing up to a barbecue with a dead skunk. Arpaio is the dead skunk factor that will cause Latinos to flee the GOP after it makes us sick. There was no need for Perry to go to Arpaio for advice particularly when he has been advancing in the polls.
“Unfortunately, we see Perry making the same mistakes that Sen. John McCain made when he ran against Mitt Romney in 2008. Romney’s anti-immigrant rhetoric caused McCain to move further to the right which eventually made it easier for Latinos to (leave) the GOP. In 2007, Romney made a similar fatal and political mistake with Latinos when he consulted Arpaio as an honorary chair of his Arizona campaign. It is unfortunate that candidates cannot learn from history.
“GOP Presidential candidates need not see the immigration issue as a toxic one… As we continue to see the GOP presidential candidates say things that will alienate the Hispanic vote, one can only hope to see a true Reagan presidential candidate. Reagan was never afraid to deal with the immigration issue head on and it was Reagan who was responsible for increasing Latino GOP voters because of the amnesty he gave to immigrants. Latinos are looking for a Reagan on steroids,” she concluded.