Texas Gov. Rick Perry had hoped to assuage concerns about his views on illegal immigration by winning the backing of tough-talking Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., but at his first event with Arpaio in New Hampshire on Tuesday he was confronted by a voter who said his record on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in Texas had probably cost him her vote.
Arpaio, who backed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2008 race, told voters here he was supporting Perry because “he’s been fighting this battle as a governor.”
“He doesn’t just talk about it, he does something about it,” Arpaio said. “He is an honorable, ethical person with a great family. I’m here to lend all my support to ensure that he becomes president of the United States.”
The Texas governor argued that the U.S. needs “full-time surge operations on the border” and promised to be a “law-and-order president.” “I have made the commitment that within a year of being inaugurated that border will be shut down, that border will be secure,” he said, promising that he would immediately deploy thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico frontier while training additional Border Patrol agents.
But Alice Bury of Amherst, who said her grandchildren were considering attending college in Texas, told Perry she was troubled by what she views as “a double standard” for out-of-state students and illegal immigrants who would be eligible for in-state tuition. Perry defended that policy in a debate earlier this year by saying that Americans who would begrudge that benefit to children brought to the United States “by no fault of their own” didn’t have a heart.
On Tuesday, Perry said he regretted his remarks in the debate – calling his heartless comment “an absolutely inappropriate thing to say.” But he noted that “the people of Texas made that decision – by an overwhelming vote.”
“These are young people who came into this state by no fault of their own; they are working towards getting a U.S. citizenship and they pay full in-state tuition.”
After the event Bury she was surprised by Arpaio’s endorsement of Perry and that his answer was unsatisfactory. “He did not appear to be open to rethinking [his policy],” said Bury, adding that Arpaio probably would agree with her view. “You don’t give one group of people a break in tuition – I don’t care who the group is – it’s just not democracy.”
The 69-year-old retired nurse said she was not as troubled by Newt Gingrich’s view that lawmakers should consider a new system in which some of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay in the United States.
“I did not hear him supporting in-state tuition for the illegals and that’s a big difference for me,” she said. Given the large numbers of illegal immigrants in this country, she said, “Logistically as much as you say, I want every one of them sent back – I think it’s an impossibility.”
“I suspect that someone who has been maybe 25 years, [who has been] an upstanding citizen, no problems – that maybe we can look at them.”