Rick Perry slips on immigration banana

Gov. Rick Perry was heckled Thursday in North Carolina over his stance on illegal immigrants attending Texas universities. Mitt Romney and Chris Christie joined the critical chorus.

Chuck Burton/AP
A member of the political action committee ALIPAC protests near a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. T

The Texas governor was heckled Thursday by protestors over his stance on immigration at a campaign stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. To be fair, it wasn’t like Rick Perry encountered throngs of angry masses - it was more like a handful of white folks holding up signs saying “Rick Perry: Endorsed by Mexico.” Still, the protest wound up on the local news (watch the video here), which is not the kind of story the Perry campaign wants to see.

Ironically, the protest - which was organized by the group Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) - probably received more attention than it otherwise would have because the Perry campaign had actually tried to remove a Facebook invitation promoting it.

ALIPAC is now vowing to continue showing up at other Perry events.

At issue primarily is Perry’s decision as governor to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. The measure, as he has pointed out, had nearly unanimous support from both parties in the Texas legislature. But it is a position that puts him squarely on the opposite side of many conservative voters, particularly in key early-voting states like Iowa and South Carolina, who strongly believe that illegal immigrants should not be "rewarded" with taxpayer dollars.

And Perry made it a whole lot worse when, defending his stance at the last GOP debate, he said his critics don’t “have a heart.” (He has since said that comment was “inappropriate.”)

Perry’s GOP opponents have been gleefully hammering him on the matter.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney’s campaign released a new video featuring former Mexican President Vicente Fox praising Perry for giving “access to Mexican migrants to universities in Texas.”

Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a shot at Perry, saying he personally did not support in-state tuition levels for illegal immigrants, and adding: ““From my perspective, that is not a heartless position. That is a common-sense position.”

Of course, should Perry survive all these attacks - and manage to win the GOP nomination - his position on illegal immigrants might actually put him in a stronger position for the general election. The Hispanic vote is likely to be critical in 2012, and while 67 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama in 2008, Republicans now see an opening there. The president’s approval rating among Hispanics has slipped to 48 percent in the latest Gallup poll, a low mark since he entered office.

Want to take action?
Join ALIPAC at a Perry protest.
Learn which issues are front and center for the Hispanic community, and how to promote Hispanic voting rights at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

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