Texas Governor Rick Perry, Republican, reportedly being pushed by Texas lawmakers to throw his hat into the GOP presidential ring, very often touts his background on border security,but what about the Mr. Perry’s past remarks and actions about immigration and the border? He is currently supporting a bill that was just passed by the Texas Senate that would give greater power to police officers to question those who are detained about their legal status. The AP reports:
The 19-12 vote early Wednesday came after nearly eight hours of emotional debate in which Democrats railed against the bill as racist and a tool to harass Latinos.
The bill pushed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry now goes to the House for consideration, where it is expected to easily pass. The Republican super-majority in the House passed a similar version during the regular session.
Perry and supporters say the bill will help police fight crime committed by illegal immigrants. But opponents, including law enforcement chiefs in the state’s largest cities and immigrant rights activists, say the measure will allow rogue officers to target Hispanics.
However, Governor Perry appeared to be talking differently about the border when he first came to office. In a 2001 Border Summit speech, Governor Perry described to fellow border governors and others in attendance the amount of poverty :
President Fox’s vision for an open border is a vision I embrace, as long as we demonstrate the will to address the obstacles to it. An open border means poverty has given way to opportunity, and Mexico’s citizens do not feel compelled to cross the border to find that opportunity. It means we have addressed pollution concerns, made substantial progress in stopping the spread of disease, and rid our crossings of illicit drug smuggling activity.
Clearly we have a long way to go in addressing those issues. At the same time we must continue to deepen our economic ties, expanding opportunities for Mexican and U.S. companies to do business on both sides of the border. The outlook is promising, even if the road to prosperity is a long one. We share a bond as neighbors, and we find our culture north of the Rio Grande to be increasingly defined by the strong traits of people of Hispanic descent. Texas has long enjoyed a unique identity, an identity forged by an independent spirit, and the convergence of many different peoples. We must welcome change in the 21st Century as we have in every century before it.
Perry’s press office responded Tuesday to my inquiry about his 2001 remarks above saying:
“Texas has a rich history with Mexico and shares a border of more than 1,200 miles. Mexico is Texas’ largest trading partner and our cultures our inextricably tied together. As the governor has continued to say, in Texas, we have a shared interest with our counterparts in Mexico to securing the international border between our countries in order to protect our citizens and the legitimate cross border trade and travel that will help bring jobs to each of our economies. Gov. Perry will continue to urge the federal government to secure the international border from the growing threat of drug cartels in northern Mexico, and equally as important, we will work to maintain and strengthen our economic relations with our neighbors to the south.”
In a 2004 Washington Times article with the headline “Fox seeks to open U.S. borders” Mexican President Vincente Fox said:
“We are not looking for an amnesty [for] Mexico. It’s not that we’re looking for these Mexicans working productively in the United States to become U.S. citizens. They like tacos, they like their families, they like their community, they like Mexico. Unfortunately, they don’t have the opportunities that they would like to have as persons, so that’s why they move.”
The article goes further:
Mr. Fox said all immigration barriers should be removed to allow people to live and work in the country of their choosing, whether it be Mexico, the United States or Canada.
“On the long term, this North American bloc can be the leading bloc on the world and be the most competitive bloc on the world by working together and, through that, be able to keep increasing the quality and the level of life of our citizens,” Mr. Fox said.
Mr. Bush heads to northern Mexico today to participate in the Summit of the Americas talks in Monterrey. A key subject will be his proposal allowing millions of Mexicans in this country illegally to remain for three years if they have jobs that citizens don’t want.
Mr. Bush began lobbying Congress to pass a new alien work program in 2001, but the issue was sidelined after the September 11 terrorist attacks and renewed concerns over border security.
While Governor Perry is currently going the legislative route first started by fellow border governor Jan Brewer, Arizona Republican, his past remarks and actions regarding immigration and the border will remind many conservatives and Republicans of George W. Bush’s failed strategy on immigration as well.
If Mr. Perry wants to be a national candidate for office, his handling of these issues over the years will be tough obstacles for the Texas governor to overcome with not only primary voters but also the national electorate. Similar to the circumstances Governor Mitt Romney faces when he must answer questions about why he continues to support his Massachusetts health care plan, Mr. Perry may very well have to deal with his own legislative baggage about the border.