Perry on Financial Aid to Illegal Immigrants

by Shannen W. Coffin

Not to pile on Perry, since I haven’t picked a horse in this race, but one statement he made in Monday night’s debate smacks of demagoguery and has gone undiscussed here (at least, if it was discussed, I didn’t notice). When defending his support for a measure granting financial aid to the children of illegal immigrants, Perry’s response, in part, was: “The bottom line is it doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way.” This sort of defense may play very well with a large swath of voters. But it seemed to brand as racist those who argue that the government should not take steps to encourage illegal immigration. And it sounds a lot like Obama’s implicit criticism of those who think he has a “funny name.” 

I don’t know all the details of the Texas law in question. But if, as some reports suggest, the bill in question provided direct financial aid to illegal immigrants, then it is well within the bounds of serious debate to question whether the state should incentivize the violation of U.S. immigration law by providing financial aid to those who don’t abide by those laws. And that opposition has very little to do with what the sound of the last names of those recipients of financial aid is. 

Perry may well have a principled view toward more open immigration, but challenging the racial motivation of his opposition doesn’t strike me as a welcome part of the debate. 

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