The Google/FoxNews Republican debate last night created some fireworks when Texas Governor Rick Perry reiterated his support for a program that allows illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition when attending college in Texas. He said that it was to the state’s benefit to give illegal immigrant children access to education so that they don’t become a liability later on. He pointed out that his record as being tough on immigration is unassailable and as a governor of a state that has the longest border with Mexico, he takes border security extremely seriously. Yet he felt that the college program is a positive step to improving Texas’s future.
To those who oppose it, he said, “I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children because they will be a drag on our society.”
Although it seemed like Perry’s handling of the issue was straight-forward, AllahPundit, who analyzed the debate for HotAir.com, agreed with Rick Santorum when he called Perry’s answer “a dodge.” Since in-state tuition amounts to a taxpayer subsidy, Santorum claimed that Perry’s answer meant that he supported spending government money to educate illegal aliens. AllahPundit also accuses Perry of casting aspersions on people who criticize the Texas program, referring to the last debate when Perry explained that he supports the program because “it doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is.”
The surest way to antagonize immigration hawks is to accuse them of nefarious motives yet he seems intent on doing so, again and again. That’s a fine strategy for appealing to Latinos in the general election and poisonous as a strategy for consolidating tea partiers in the primary, especially with Drudge now bannering these comments for the benefit of everyone who didn’t watch tonight. I don’t know what he’s thinking.
According to the Weekly Standard, Santorum wasn’t the only one on the attack. Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich also attacked Perry over his handling of immigration issues. Bachmann said that the in-state tuition program would act like “a magnet” for illegal immigrants with children, and would put bigger burdens on Texas taxpayers.