Rick Perry Defends Immigration Record in Iowa

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — In his first trip to Western Iowa, an area he described as “Republican country,” Texas Governor Rick Perry defended his immigration and border security experience, further explaining his support of legislation that provides in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

Perry stressed the legislation does not subsidize illegal immigrants’ education and was intended to create “taxpayers not tax wasters.”

“We wanted to make taxpayers not tax wasters,” Perry told a crowd at McCarthy and Bailey’s Irish Pub in Sioux City, Iowa when explaining the decision to provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrants is a state issue. “At the federal level I would never suggest that the federal government needs to be making that kind of policy across this country. If the people of Iowa do not want that, that’s their call. I respect that.”

Perry highlighted his experience as a border state governor, arguing it gives him a better outlook on how to deal with border security than the other candidates.

Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Rick Perry of Texas gestures during a speech at the Values Voter Summit, Oct. 7, 2011, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

“As the president of the United States, not only do I have the only experience on that stage, but I’m committed to securing the border by building that strategic fencing, by putting the boots on the ground by having the aviation assets and at that particular point in time you can secure that border and those issues that states have been forced to have to deal with start alleviating themselves,” Perry said.

Perry’s wife Anita chimed in towards the end of the question and answer session, reminding her husband to explain that illegal immigrants paying in-state tuition rates are on a path to obtaining citizenship.

The crowd laughed when Anita prompted him to discuss the topic, and Perry that’s something “she’s very good about doing,” when talking about her penchant for reminding him about things.

Chad Martin, a Texas A&M alumnus who traveled across the state border from Dakota Dunes, S.D., found Perry’s answers on illegal immigration suitable and agreed with the notion that educating the young illegal immigrant population, it will better serve the workforce.

“I was glad to hear that he had a united front in several different aspects of his plan because it is going to take a multi-faceted approach to cure the immigration problem or illegal immigration problem that came in, so I was pleased with what he said,” Martin said. “We need people that are trained, ready to go to work. We need a workforce in this country and then they become providers within this country to pay within the federal income tax in and then further support our country as a whole, so I am for that.”

A spokesman for Mitt Romney suggested Perry’s support of in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants and border fence stance are more akin to liberal policies. “Rick Perry has consistently supported liberal policies that encourage illegal immigration. He opposes a border fence and signed legislation that provides taxpayer backed benefits to illegal immigrants. His liberal immigration policies are out of step with Iowa values and wrong for our country,” Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Romney, said.

Perry touched on Social Security, explaining a few reforms he thinks hold promise for the entitlement program – increasing the retirement age, means testing, and creating a transitional system for mid-career workers, but Perry steered far away from using previous language, such as “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie,” when describing Social Security.

During a question and answer series, Perry indicated he will lay out ideas on how to spur job creation this coming week.

“There are some things that a president can do unilaterally. Over the course of the next week, I hope I’m going to be able to expose you to some of those as we lay out a clear direction that a president unilaterally can deal with the issue of job creation,” Perry said.

Mark Miner, a spokesman for Perry, confirmed the governor will deliver a policy speech focusing on jobs and energy later this week and will give a number of policy speeches in the weeks and months ahead.

Perry explained the “blueprint” for job creation in Texas and noted that a good indicator for determining what a politician will accomplish in the future is by judging their past.

“If you want to know what a person’s going to do, look at what they’ve done in the past, and I say that about everyone that’s on the stage with me that wants to be your president,” Perry said. “If you want to know fairly well how someone is going to perform in the future, look how they’ve performed in the past.”

Perry’s appearance in Sioux City marked the beginning of his first tour through the Western area of the Hawkeye state.

Perry has been to Iowa three times previously and remarked that he’s realized his values fall directly in line with those espoused by Iowans.

“I think my conservative values are pretty much in line with the Midwestern values. You measure a leader by how they walk, not how they talk,” he said.