After starting off the GOP presidential candidate debate Monday night will big rounds of applause from the audience, GOP front-runner Rick Perry was booed by debate-watchers over a Texas law that gives in-state college tuition to children of illegal immigrants.
The Texas governor, who signed the bill during his first term in 2001, sparred with fellow candidates Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney over the issue.
“The American way is not to give taxpayer-subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws and are here in the United States illegally,” Bachmann said at the CNN/Tea Party Express debate.
Perry defended the law, saying it was a states’ rights issue.
“We were clearly sending a message to young people that, regardless of what the sound of their last name is, that we believe in you,” Perry said. “We are going to allow you to be contributing members of the state of Texas and not be a drain on the system.”
In the fall of 2010, about 12,00o undocumented-immigrant students, about 1 percent of all Texas college students, qualified for the lower, in-state tuition rates because of the law, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Romney said Perry’s in-state tuition law encourages illegal immigration by providing state assistance to people who have broken the law.
“Of course we build a fence, and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally,” the former Massachusetts governor said.
Perry disagrees with Romney over building a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, an idea he has said is “ridiculous.”
“The idea that you’re going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso … is just not reality,” Perry said at the debate.