One constant criticism I see of Rick Perry’s policy positions is his stance on immigration. I’ve seen commentary on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere on the ‘net that he’s “soft” on the subject; that he favors ‘amnesty’ or something like it; these criticisms are absurd.
Let’s detail Perry’s position on illegal immigration:
He favors deporting illegal aliens who are arrested while committing crimes:
“The Obama administration has a ‘catch-and-release’ policy where nonviolent illegal aliens are released into the general public today,” Perry told patrons at a New Hampshire diner Tuesday morning. “My policy will be to detain and to deport every illegal alien that we apprehend. That is how we stop that issue.”
He proposed a law to prohibit ‘sanctuary cities’ in Texas, and allow law enforcement officers to ask questions about immigration status, while avoiding the problems of an Arizona-style immigration law:
“Texas owes it to the brave law enforcement officials, who put their lives on the line every day to protect our families and communities, to give them the discretion they need to adequately do their jobs”
He promises to secure the border within 12 months of becoming President:
“So putting that secure border in place with strategic fencing, with the boots on the ground, with the aviation assets, and then working with Mexico in particular, whether it’s putting sanctions against the banks, whether it’s working with them on security with Mexico, all of those together can make that country substantially more secure and our borders secure.”
He also realizes a vast border fence would be ineffective and cost-prohibitive, and recommends using “strategic fencing” (closing off certain areas to reduce the length of border to be patrolled), aerial surveillance using drone aircraft, and “boots on the ground”- National Guard troops and/or law enforcement officers to patrol the border.
Perry also came up with another idea- and a pretty creative one at that: Positioning webcams on the border, and live-feeding the video to the internet. People could watch, anytime, 24/7, and if the viewer spotted an illegal border crossing, they could phone in the sighting. I like this free-market approach as a supplement to border security, although (as the author points out at the link) it could be much better if a reward were offered for sightings.
Now, once greater security is in place on the border, sanctuary cities are eliminated, and deportation of illegals caught committing crimes is a fact, we still have a problem: What do we do about the millions of illegal immigrants already here? Pursuing as many as 15 million people, arresting, and deporting all of them is clearly impossible, from both a logistical and a budgetary standpoint.
This is where the “soft on illegal immigration” criticisms come into play:
Perry signed the Texas DREAM Act to allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rate at state colleges. Let’s be clear about this: It’s not “free education”, it’s not “education for illegals”, it’s a program for children who had no say in the decision to enter the country. As a condition of the program, the student must have attended high school in Texas for three years, and must apply for United States citizenship.
This represents a rational solution to a real problem: Illegal immigration is a drain on, among other things, our public welfare system. This program encourages the children of illegal immigrants to get an education (or a trade certificate, which is even more valuable these days), become citizens, and pay taxes, which is vastly superior to being a life-long drain on the welfare system.
Part of the border security issue is stemming the flow of people across the border. Perry’s answer to this is to distinguish between people who want to enter the country to work, and those who don’t, by issuing work visas. Perry is adamant that this is not a ‘path to citizenship’, which George W. Bush supported.
It’s amazing to me that some conservatives can ignore the opinions of a long-time border state governor. If a paramedic tells you to go to the hospital, you’d be wise to do so; if the ten-year governor of Texas has a solution to the problem of illegal immigration, we’d be wise to listen.
It should also be noted that the other long-time border state governor in the race, Governor Gary Johnson, has a similar plan with regard to illegal immigration- although Johnson’s plan doesn’t involve as much weaponry on the border (I’m a big fan of weapons).
And incidentally: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose stance on illegal immigration borders the extreme, endorses Rick Perry. For the ultra-hardcore among us, this should be all the endorsement Perry’s plan requires.
I think we can safely dispense with the hype about Perry’s plan being “soft on illegal immigration”. It’s a reasonable, workable plan, based on his extensive experience with border issues.