On immigration, a Democrat has kind words for GOP's Rick Perry (VIDEO)

Presidential candidate Rick Perry is right to back a Texas law that lets students who are illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition rates, said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at a Monitor breakfast.

Republican-bashing was the order of the day when Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, spoke with reporters Thursday – except when it came to GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry and one of his Texas immigration policies.

Governor O'Malley went out of his way to praise Governor Perry for supporting a 2001 Texas law that allows some illegal immigrants to attend college at in-state tuition rates.

But when O’Malley was asked about Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, he want out of his way to praise the Texas Governor for supporting a 2001 Texas law that allows some illegal immigrants to attend college at in-state tuition rates.

"One thing I do like about Perry, I do like the fact that he recognizes that fair is fair and if a family’s paying in-state taxes, they should pay in-state tuition. I agree with that and I think he’s right in making that assertion. I think the people of Texas are right,” OMalley said at a Monitor-hosted breakfast with political reporters. “Just because Congress can’t get things done and just because we can’t overcome our current affliction of xenophobia and have a rational immigration policy again, is no reason to condemn hardworking kids and people that are trying to play by the rules.”

O’Malley said he had met the Republican presidential front-runner just once. “He was a very affable, friendly, pleasant man. Our fathers both fought in the Second World War and both of them were aviators, I think his dad in a B-17 and my father in a B-24,” O’Malley said.

The praise allowed O’Malley to do at least two things. First, it let him highlight a policy of Perry’s that angers some of the Texan's tea party supporters. At Monday’s Republican debate, jointly organized by CNN and Tea Party Express, Perry was booed when he reiterated his support for the in-state tuition policy.

O’Malley also took a direct shot at the Republican Party on the immigration issue. “I do admire [Perry's] willingness to stand up to the immigrant-bashers and the thinly veiled racism and scapegoating that is so rampant in their party and directed at new Americans,” he said.

Maryland has a tuition law similar to the one in Texas, but it is under siege. Signed in May, it allows illegal immigrant students to attend state schools at in-state rates if certain conditions are met, including their parents paying Maryland state taxes. Opponents succeeded in suspending the law until it can be put on the ballot for a referendum in 2012.

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