For Rick Perry, immigration is the issue that keeps on giving. This week in his first visit to New Hampshire in weeks, Perry held a campaign event at a facility owned by a defense contractor. Admission was free and open to the public, but proof of citizenship was required at the door.
At a Perry town hall-style meeting earlier Wednesday, those trying to attend what was billed as a public event were asked to prove they are American citizens. The forum was hosted by Granite State Manufacturing, a Manchester company that handles some defense contracts for the federal government.
There was some confusion about whether foreigners would be barred. Citing federal regulations, a company employee sat beside a Perry campaign staffer at the door and asked people for driver’s licenses or other identification to prove citizenship.
The employee, who refused to give her name, said non-citizens wouldn’t be allowed in.
A manager later said all should have been admitted. Too late: damage done.
“It’s disturbing, especially given his record on immigration,” said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “I find that discriminatory.”
Given the state of the Perry campaign, it’s hard to say if it even matters, but he may be the only Republican candidate who would stand a chance of contending for the Latino vote in a general election against President Obama.
He supported–and continues to defend–A Texas version of the DREAM Act, he has publicly said building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico is an absurd idea. For these positions, he is constantly under attack from within the Republican Party. Then he turns to hard-right anti-immigration enforcer Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for advice on immigration and requires proof of citizenship at a campaign event, thereby pushing Latinos away without equally attracting new voters from the right.
“Rick Perry getting aggressive on immigration repeats the same failed tactics that Senator John McCain used during the 2008 presidential election. Mitt Romney’s anti-immigrant extremism pushed McCain further to the right during the 2008 Republican primaries, and this ultimately caused Latinos to feel safer in voting for President Obama,” said DeeDee Garcia Blase, founder and co-president of the National Tequila Party Movement and founder and immediate past president of Somos Republicans.
“Rick Perry should show his compassionate side and talk about the economic contributions that Latino immigrants gave the State of Texas,” she told The Colorado Independent. “Perry should not allow anti-immigrant Republicans like Romney to dictate his immigration messaging. Romney will be lucky to get 9% of the Latino vote if he wins the GOP primaries. The 2012 Republican presidential candidates should learn from the mistakes of 2008, and from what occurred recently in November 2011 when extremist Republican Russell Pearce lost the special election to moderate Republican, Jerry Lewis. Extremism is a proven failure,” Garcia Blase said.
Stephen Rodriguez, Colorado director of Somos Republicans, said things like this event and the stories that followed from it detract from the debate.
“Far right-wing bullies enforcing their brand of politically correct ideas and speech upon presidential candidates is stalling the efforts to bring about much needed action at the federal level concerning a serious issue…
“Governor Perry must continue to show his leadership and the compassion that he has shown in the past concerning this issue,” Rodriguez said by email.
“Second-string politicians such as Mitt Romney and Herman Cain continue to use harsh rhetoric and political posturing to gain a minute of fame for denouncing commonsense debate.
“Political extremists such as former Arizona Senator Pearce are finding out that political rhetoric is no way to fix our dysfunctional, broken immigration system. Governor Perry in the past has shown the courage to not only show compassion but present commonsense solutions. We encourage him to resist the far-right wing bullies and do what is right for America.”