Rick Perry on Immigration
Republican Governor (TX)
PERRY: For 30 years this country has been baited with this debate, and the border is still not secure. The American people are never going to trust Washington, D.C., and for good reason. There's not anybody on either one of these stages that has the experience of dealing with this as I have for over 14 years. We have to put the personnel on that border in the right places; you have to put the strategic fencing in place; and you have to have aviation assets that fly all the way from Tijuana to Texas--1,933 miles looking down 24/7, with the technology to be able to identify what individuals are doing, and ID when they are in obviously illegal activities, and quick-response teams come. Then Americans will believe that Washington is up to a conversation to deal with the millions of people that are here illegally, but not until.
PERRY: Well, I don't think he understands the challenge, obviously. I was the governor of Texas for 14 years. The governor of that state with the 1,200 mile Mexican border. When it became abundantly clear that the president wasn't going to deal with this immigration issue, we acted last summer. We surged our law enforcement and our National Guard there. And as a result we saw a 74 percent decrease of apprehensions in that region of the border where the real challenges were.
Q: Should the government offer immigrants already living in the United States illegally a pathway to citizenship?
A: Unclear. While the former Texas governor has been a staunch defender of the DREAM Act in his state, he has been less clear-cut about a general path to citizenship. In 2011, Perry said he could "envision some sort of path to citizenship for people who are here illegally" (the interviewer's words, not his). But he didn't all-out support it, either. "We have a pathway to citizenship in this country today: It's get in the line and do what it takes to get here legally," he said.
(VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If, in fact, House Republicans are concerned about me acting independently of Congress, despite the fact that I have taken fewer executive actions than my [predecessors], then the easiest way to solve it is pass some legislation. Get things done.
Q: So, is that the solution?
PERRY: Well, here's what I think is very important for Washington to understand: You're not going to have comprehensive immigration reform until the border is secure. The American people do not trust Washington to do these two things at the same time. They expect the border to be safe & secured. They want to be able to live in their communities and feel like they're safe. And if this president does not do what's required to secure the border first, I will suggest to you: whatever he does is going to be a failure.
PERRY: What we are concerned about are the 80%-plus of individuals who don't get talked about enough that are coming into the US illegally, and committing substantial crimes. Since 2008, we have seen 203,000 individuals who have illegally come into Texas, booked into Texas county jails. And these individuals are responsible for over 3,000 homicides and almost 8,000 sexual assaults. That's the reason that we are deploying 1,000 National Guard troops, to try to make communities safer, and that is my goal.
Q: Governor, a number of fact-checkers have said that that 3,000-homicide figure is wildly off.
PERRY: Let me go back to those numbers. I do stand by them, by the way, but what are the number of homicides that are acceptable to those individuals? How many sexual assaults do we have to have before Washington DC acts to keep our citizens safe? That border is not secure. It's time for us to secure that border.
PERRY: Well, I think there's plenty of blame to spread around, but when you're the President, you are at the tip of the spear. I go back multiple years in the past: we've drawn attention to the problems on the border. We've asked for 1,000 National Guard troops for over four years from this administration. As a matter of fact, in May of 2012, I gave the President a heads-up on what was happening with these unaccompanied children, these alien children who were coming in on the tops of trains. And we laid out exactly what we felt was going to happen if we didn't address that, and now we're seeing that become reality. It could have been stopped years ago, had the administration listened, had the administration been focused on the border with Texas.
PERRY: It is a problem of monumental humanitarian impact. This is like a triage, if you will. If you have a patient that is bleeding profusely, the first thing you have to do is stop the bleeding, and that's the reason we have been so adamant about securing the border. Very quickly, that message will be sent to those Central American countries that you cannot send your children up here; you cannot catch a train or a bus or be coyoted up here, as you will, to walk across the border and you're freely going to be able to stay in the US. That was the message for years and months from this administration, that's what they saw and that was the message that went back.
PERRY: They could help push forward a show the force, if you will. The president was not even aware that his border patrol was 40 miles away from the border. They need to be right on the river. They need to be there as a show of force, because that's the message that gets sent back very quickly to Central America.
Q: But national guards are not allowed to apprehend any of these children that are crossing, are they?
PERRY: Well, the issue is with being able to send that message, because it's the visual that I think is the most important. Their conversations are being monitored with calls back to the Central America, and the message is, "hey, come on up here, everything is great, they're taking care of us." My point is, you bring boots on the ground to send that message clearly, both visually and otherwise. At that particular point in time, I think this flow from Central America gets staunched by a substantial margin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: The federal government is just absolutely failing. We either have an incredibly inept administration, or they're in on this somehow or another. I mean I hate to be conspiratorial, but I mean how do you move that many people from Central America across Mexico and then into the US without there being a fairly coordinated effort?
(END VIDEO CLIP) Q: Governor, do you really believe there's some sort of conspiracy?
PERRY: I have written a letter that is dated May of 2012, and I have yet to have a response from this administration, I will tell you they either are inept or don't care, and that is my position. We have been bringing to the attention of President Obama and his administration since 2010, [about the] huge problem on our southern border--I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept, or you have some ulterior motive of which you are functioning from.
PERRY: I disagree that the idea that there's one piece of legislation is going to decide--that's a little bit out of the realm of reality. Let's secure the border. We have talked about this for a long time. It's interesting. I have been the governor for over 12 years now, [with a] 1200 mile border with Mexico. We have a great deal of experience of dealing with border security and Washington in any form has not come to Texas and sat down with us. I don't think the will is in Washington D.C. to secure the border. So until that happens I'm not sure the American people are going to trust Washington to come up with some immigration bill until they secure the border.
PERRY: Well, let me kind of broaden it out. I think it's time for a 21st century Monroe Doctrine. What we put in place in the 1820s, we then used it again in the 1960s with the Soviet Union. We're seeing countries start to come in and infiltrate. We know that Hamas and Hezbollah are working in Mexico, as well as Iran, with their ploy to come into the US. The idea that we need to have border security with the US and Mexico is paramount to the entire western hemisphere. So putting that secure border in place with strategic fencing, with the boots on the ground, with the aviation assets, and then working with Mexico in particular, all of those together can make that country substantially more secure and our borders secure. As the President, I will promise you one thing, that within 12 months of the inaugural, that border will be shut down, and it will be secure.
Other leaders had bombarded Obama with mail on both sides, illuminating little more than the divisiveness of the immigration debate. Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, wrote that SB1070 would promote "intolerance, hate and discrimination." Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, hand-delivered Obama a four-page memo advocating tough immigration laws because, he wrote, "on any given day, the Mexican border region is now beset with vicious murders, tortures, kidnappings and armed confrontations."
But lately, Obama's most frequent mailer had become Gov. Jan Brewer herself, the architect of SB1070. Obama never responded, so Brewer made each letter longer and more indignant than the last.
ROMNEY: It's an argument I just can't follow. If you're an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount of $22,000 a year. That shouldn't be allowed.
PERRY: If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society. I think that's what Texans wanted to do. Out of 181 members of the Texas legislature, when this issue came up, only four dissenting votes. This was a state issue. Texans voted on it. And I still support it greatly.
SANTORUM: Yes, I would say that he is soft on illegal immigration. I think the fact that he doesn't want to build a fence --in 2001 he talked about buying national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don't even think Barack Obama would be for buying national health insurance. So I think he's very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration, yes.
PERRY: The idea that you are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles, and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana, does not make sense. You put the boots on the ground. We know how to make this work. You put the boots on the ground; you put the aviation assets in the ground.
SANTORUM: But putting the assets--it's not working, Governor.
PERRY: No, it's not working because the federal government has not engaged in this at all.
PERRY: We basically had a decision to make. Are we going to give people an incentive to be contributing members of this society or are we going to tell them no, we're going to put you on the government dole? In the state of Texas, and this is a states right issue, if in Massachusetts you didn't want to do it, that's fine. But in the state of Texas where Mexico has a clear and a long relationship with this state, we decided it was in the best interest of those young people to give them the opportunity to go on to college and to have the opportunity. They're pursuing citizenship in this country rather than saying, we're going to put you over here and put you on the government dole for the rest of your life. We don't think that was the right thing to do. And it's working. And it's working well in the state of Texas.
As a result, we continue to deal with violent Mexican drug cartels who work closely with transnational gangs on our side of the border operating with no regard for the law or respect for life.
The bad actors in Mexico are getting worse, and the risks to our citizens continue to rise along the border and in communities across this country where drugs continue to flow. We need 1,000 National Guard troops to support current law enforcement operations on our border until they can provide those 3,000 more border patrol agents. We also need Predator drones flying along the Texas-Mexico border providing real time intel to our state and local operation centers.
Of course, those living in Texas illegally also provide income to the state because of increased economic activity, sales tax, and property taxes (either directly or through rent subsidizing the property owner). But adding the estimated revenues and costs to both the state and local governments, Texas taxpayers were out $928 million in 2005.
After revelations that a Dallas man had set up a cottage industry procuring Texas driver licenses for illegal aliens hailing from countries around the world, I am an even stronger supporter of the DPS initiative to issue specialized, vertical driver licenses, to identify those who have overstayed their visa.
I also support an end to the notion of sanctuary cities. Local government sends the wrong message when they pick and choose what laws they want their peace officers to enforce.
We should also track the citizenship status of those receiving state-funded services so we can get our hands around the financial impact of Washington's failure to handle the immigration challenge. Some may oppose these efforts, but they are commonsense approaches to protecting our citizens' lives and resources.
While the vast majority of people who come here illegally are economic migrants simply seeking a better life, the small percentage seeking to cause us harm don't dress differently. Nor do they put out press advisories in advance of their arrival. They don't want us to know they are here until they have done mortal damage to our people.
I support strategic fencing in urban areas along the border. But I also believe, like border sheriffs, that the best solution involves added manpower, not unmanned walls.
Q: Should the children of undocumented immigrants be offered a pathway to citizenship?
A: Yes. After a 2011 presidential debate, Perry received a considerable amount of conservative blowback for comments he made in support of the Texas DREAM Act, which gave in-state tuition to undocumented students.
It's a decision Perry says he sticks by: "There are two options here: You're either going to send the message that young men and women who ended up in this state, in most cases by no action of their own, we could either say, 'You have worked hard, and you're going to pay in-state tuition--this isn't a subsidy, you're paying the same thing as anyone else--and you're going to get in line to become an American citizen. That made economic sense to us, considering all of the other options that we had. I still think that in 2001, that was the right decision to make."
Perry ignored the protesters, who were escorted out of the building by police. "Here is what I say: If Washington refuses to enforce the border, Texas will. This problem has dragged on long enough," Perry said.
Perry got enthusiastic applause and cheers for his criticism of President Barack Obama's administration and his calls for lower taxes, less government regulation and tougher border security.
PERRY: Well, here's what I know is happening. Almost six weeks ago, we surged into that area of operation with our Department of Public Safety, our Texas Ranger Recon Teams, our Parks and Wildlife. We brought real attention to the issue. We're sending messages back to Central America that you should not send your children hereby. They're not going to be able to walk across the border. We talked powerfully about surging the National Guard into that area as well. So, I would suggest to you that the issue here really goes back to that rule of law, if you will. We're not securing the border as the Constitution calls for us to.
PERRY: I feel pretty normal getting criticized by these folks, but the fact of the matter is this: there is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working on border security than I have. For a decade, I've been the governor of a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. We put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. We've got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now. I supported Arizona's immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it. Every day I have Texans on that border that are doing their job.
PERRY: If you've been in Texas for 3 years, if you're working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship, you pay in-state tuition there. And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.
Q: Is that basically the DREAM Act?
PERRY: I'm not for the DREAM Act that they are talking about in D.C.; that is amnesty. What we did in the state of Texas was clearly a states right issue. We were clearly sending a message to young people, that we believe in you. That if you want to live in Texas, that we're going to allow you the opportunity to be contributing members.
PERRY: Well, the first thing you need to do is have boots on the ground. We've had a request in to this administration since 2009 for 1,000 border patrol agents or National Guard troops, and working towards 3,000 border patrol. That's just on the Texas border. There's another 50% more for the entire Mexican border. So you can secure the border, but it requires a commitment of the federal government of putting those boots on the ground, the aviation assets in the air. We think predator drones could be flown, that real-time information coming down to the local and the state and the federal law enforcement. And you can secure the border. And at that particular point in time, then you can have an intellectually appropriate discussion about immigration reform. For the President to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it's ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel in history, or he was an abject liar. It is not safe on that border.