According to Luntz’s focus group, this line by Perry was not only his worst moment in the debate, but perhaps the worst moment any Republican has had in any debate since he started doing these debate-watching focus groups.
I supported Arizona’s immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it. Every day I have Texans on that border that are doing their job. But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society. I think that’s what Texans wanted to do.
Hey, Governor, if we wanted to hear suggestions that folks on the Right are heartless, we would have tuned in to watch a bunch of Democrats.
If you want to alienate Americans concerned about illegal immigration, the quickest and surest way is to suggest that they have cruel, draconian, xenophobic, or racist motives for their focus on border security. And in the preceding debate, Perry said:
In the state of Texas, if you’ve been in the state of Texas for three years, if you’re working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there. And the bottom line is it doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that’s what we’ve done in the state of Texas. And I’m proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.
If every illegal immigrant were named “John Smith,” we would still have an issue.
If Rick Perry wants to argue that allowing children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates is better for the state, he can and should say so. But every time he suggests that those who disagree have cold-hearted or hateful motives, he alienates Republicans who might otherwise support him.