ABC’s Arlette Saenz and Michael Falcone report:
NASHUA, N.H. — Rick Perry got into an intense exchange this afternoon about his views on border security and illegal immigration with an invited member of the audience at a business roundtable here.
George Katis, the owner of Nashua Wallpaper, repeatedly pressed Perry on what he was going to do about those dual problems in what was otherwise a low-key conversation.
Perry, who was on his second trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, criticized President Obama for his assertion during a speech in El Paso, Tex. in May that his administration had “strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible.”
“Six weeks ago the President went to El Paso and said the border is safer than it’s ever been,” Perry said. “I have no idea, maybe he was talking about the Canadian border.”
Perry noted that his state has asked the federal government for additional National Guard troops to assist with security until more border agents could be traind, but repeated his view that a fence running the entire length of the U.S.-Mexican border was not a viable option.
“You’ve got strategic fencing in some of the metropolitan areas — that’s very helpful — but the idea that you’re going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso is just — it’s ridiculous on its face,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is that 1,200 mile border is too much for even the state of Texas, as substantial as we are, to defend. Perry added, “I will assure you one thing, if I’m the president of the United States, the border will be secure.”
Katis, the Nashua businessman followed up, asking Perry again what exactly he would do about illegal immigrants.
“You’re not going to ship 12 million people back to whatever country they come from. But you’ve got to come up with a way that clearly stays away from this issue of making individuals legal citizens of the United States if they haven’t gone through the proper process,” Perry said. “I think we can sit down and have a, you know, an adult, grown up conversation with business men and women who understand the need to have available workforce but also this very important issue of the rule of law. We’re a country of laws and you’ve got to live within these laws.”
At the end of Perry’s remarks Katis spoke directly to him.
“Governor,” he said, “you came across very moderate.” He added that was a different impression than some have of Perry — that he is “to the right of Attila The Hun,” Katis said.