Rick Perry's 'heart' comment shows GOP shift on immigration
Rick Perry is under fire for his comment about those who oppose in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. But immigration is a complicated issue for a governor whose border with Mexico is more than 1,200 miles long.
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In a way, Perry’s stance is the more “compassionate conservative” one of his predecessor as governor, former president George W. Bush. And it certainly has bipartisan support in Texas, where all but four of 181 state lawmakers voted for the college tuition law Perry signed.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The scene at the US/Mexico border
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But as James Hohmann wrote this weekend in Politico.com: “The pendulum has swung significantly since then-President George W. Bush passed comprehensive immigration reform and then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush backed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Sen. John McCain, for example, took a much harder line on the issue last year than he had during his 2008 presidential campaign to head off a tough primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.”
That puts Perry in a bind regarding one of his key pitches, which is that his policies have helped create jobs in Texas.
“It is true that Texas is one of the only states where the number of people working has increased during the recession. What has not been acknowledged is that immigrants have been the primary beneficiaries of this job growth, not native-born Americans,” the Center for Immigration Studies reported this past week. “About 40 percent job growth went to newly arrived illegal immigrants and another 40 percent to new legal immigrants.”
Meanwhile, according to this report, “The unemployment rate and the employment rate … of natives in Texas show a dramatic deterioration during the recession that is similar to the rest of the country. Among the native-born, Texas ranks 22nd in terms of unemployment and 29th in terms of its employment rate.”
Perry and his supporters argue that the federal government – especially the Obama administration – is at fault for not taking a tougher stand on illegal immigration.
But there’s another reason why immigration is a tough issue for the GOP and not just for Perry.
In the 2008 presidential election, Hispanics voted 2-to-1 for the Obama-Biden ticket over McCain-Palin. Since then, immigration has become an even hotter issue – especially at the state level with Arizona and Georgia enacting tough enforcement laws now being challenged on constitutional grounds.
As the recent GOP presidential debate shows, it’s sure to be argued about right up until the 2012 election.