HAMPTON, N.H. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, facing stepped up criticism about his immigration record, has begun trying to counter a perceived weakness by portraying himself as the presidential candidate with the most credibility on the issue.
The aggressive turn to offense on immigration, both by the candidate and campaign surrogates, stresses Perry’s decade of experience as a border-state governor to bolster his credentials on immigration and border security.
The question, he said, was whether undocumented immigrants would be on the “government dole” using state social welfare programs or a subsidized education program that would allow them to become productive members of society.
“In Texas, we made the decision that it was in our best interests as a state, economically and otherwise, to have those young people in our institutions of higher learning and becoming educated as part of our skilled workforce,” Perry said. “If you don’t want to do that in your state, I absolutely respect that right.”
The push-back on immigration was evident also at a town hall meeting Friday night in Derry, where former GOP gubernatorial nominee John Stephen said that none of Perry’s rivals “has through action, not just words, but action, delivered more and stopped the influx of illegal immigration” than Perry. “We’re going to keep talking about that.”
He said he vetoed a Texas bill that would have given undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses, helped pass a bill requiring voter identification at the polls, spent $400 million on security measures to help secure the state’s border with Mexico, and strongly opposed granting amnesty to people who illegally entered the United States.
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