One of the things I found while in New Hampshire last week was the extent to which Texas Governor Rick Perry’s comments on immigration at the last debate alienated Republicans nationwide, including those in the Granite State, where Perry is trailing Romney by double-digits. “What he said at the debate, that we ought to pay for their college, I think it shocked people,” says New Hampshire State Representative Ken Hawkins.
Of course, Perry never said that Texans should subsidize the children of undocumented immigrants, only that they should be allowed to pay for college at in-state rates. Regardless, the position isn’t popular with Republican voters, which is why it’s a bit of a shock to see Perry double-down on his support the Texas law, as he did at a town hall on Saturday:
Perry offers the crowd a choice: “Are we going to have [undocumented children] on the government dole because they’re not educated, or are we going to have them in our institutions of higher learning, pursuing citizenship?” Not only is this a good answer, politically – it sets the choice in pragmatic terms, that should be amenable to conservatives – but it’s good policy outright.
Of the things Perry would have to defend himself for, it’s striking that it’s in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants. But it fits with the overall tenor of the GOP primary – insofar that any of the candidates are “weak,” it’s because they dared to show this kind of policy sense and basic human decency.