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Las Vegas GOP Debate: Can Gov. Perry Reverse the Damage of his Past Immigration Statements?

author Published by Chris Chmielenski

Tonight, the GOP Presidential Hopefuls get another chance to make an impression on voters in an early primary state during a debate in Las Vegas. The Perry campaign team is already trying to get a jump on the immigration issue; throughout the day, stories have popped up across the news wires quoting his political strategists who are saying Gov. Perry will try to reverse opinions about his position on immigration.
Here’s what the Houston Chronicle wrote:

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry prepares for tonight’s Republican debate, he is trying to neutralize the immigration issue that has bedeviled his campaign for the past month.

Perry’s support for Texas legislation granting in-state tuition to children who were illegally brought into the United States has proven to be massively unpopular with his party’s conservative core, and rival Mitt Romney has hammered the Texan for his “liberal” position on the issue.

After entering the GOP Presidential race in August as the clear frontrunner, Gov. Perry has sunk in the polls because of his weak position on two key illegal immigration issues. He has stood behind his decision to sign a bill in 2002 that granted in-state tuition to illegal aliens. He’s also said that he doesn’t support a border fence, favoring instead the use of technology to patrol the border.

While illegal immigration remains a hot topic, we at NumbersUSA are hoping that at least one of the Hopefuls makes the connection between high immigration levels and America’s jobs shortage. Even though 103,000 jobs were created in September, it still falls short of the 125,000 work permits issued to new foreign workers each month by the federal government.

View a comparison of all the 2012 Presidential Hopefuls.

Once again, NumbersUSA will be running our jobs ad during CNN’s coverage of the debate. You can view the ad by clicking here.

We’ll also provide live updates on tonight’s debate in this blog. And, you can follow us on Twitter @NumbersUSA for updates. We’ll be using the hashtag #CNNDebate.


7:42 p.m. — Our television ad airs for the second time today on CNN. Also, watch for our ad in the first hour of tonight’s debate. The message – The federal government issues more than 1 million work permits to new foreign workers each year while 20 million Americans can’t find a full-time job. The immigration debate should be about the Numbers.8:00 p.m. — Debate is underway on CNN. Nevada primary could be as early as January 14 or as late as February 4. Bottom line is that it will be early in the nominating process, making tonight’s debate crucial for the Hopefuls. The Silver State has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 13.4%. Nevada has a ton of service jobs and could benefit from Chairman Smith’s H.R.2885 mandatory E-Verify bill that would free up any jobs currently held by illegal aliens. Six of the state’s 10 largest employers are hotels. 8:42 p.m. — Gov. Perry accuses Gov. Romney of hiring illegal workers on his property. Romney defends his record by touting his history of enforcing immigration laws as governor of Massachusetts and attacks Perry for his position on in-state tuition and the border fence. Perry responds by saying that he opposes amnesty and goes after Romney again for hiring illegal workers.Romney replies by saying that as President he will make E-Verify mandatory – something that Perry opposes. Also, Romney accuses Perry of supporting amnesty in the past.8:45 p.m. — Cain is asked about his statement on electrifying the border fence and if he supports a fence along the entire border. Cain says that he supports a combinition of a fence, technology, and boots on the ground. He says “I don’t apologize for trying to protect the American people.”8:47 p.m. — Perry is asked about the fence, and he says the better solution is to build a virtual fence. He also says the better way to stop illegal activity on the border is to put boots on the ground. Perry says he would put a lot of boots on the ground and use drones to patrol the border.8:48 p.m. — Bachmann is asked if she supports Perry’s position. She said the one who has a problem with their immigration policy is Pres. Obama. Bachmann says immigration is an economic issue and a jobs issue. She talks about how she signed a pledge in Arizona to complete the border fence and says she will make sure illegal aliens will not receive taxpayer services.8:49 p.m. — Perry says it takes too long to build a fence, and instead we can use that time to actually secure the border. He says he put $400 million of Texas taxpayer money on securing the Texas border with Mexico.8:50 p.m. — Romney says he loves legal immigration and respects those that come here legally. He says there’s so much passion from the Republican candidates on illegal immigration because there are 4.5 million people that want to come here legally and he thinks we need to support those people. He says you have to end illegal immigration by turning off the magnets like jobs and tuition breaks. Romney says over the last 10 years, Florida and California have had no increase in illegal-alien population, but Texas has had an increase of 60%.8:52 p.m. — Perry attacks Romney again for hiring illegal workers and crowd boos Perry.8:53 p.m. — A Latino member of the live audience asks the Hopefuls about how they would fairly treat the Latino community. Gingrich responds by saying that most Latinos are here legally and should be treated with respect and given the same opportunities as all Americans.8:54 p.m. — Paul says you have to remove incentives like educating illegal aliens. But says building a fence is not the answer. He says if we had a healthy economy we would not be having this discussion. 8:55 p.m. — Cain is asked about Birthright Citizenship, but instead dodges the question by plugging his economic plan. 8:56 p.m. — Perry is asked about Birthright Citizenship, and he too dodges the question by talking about his economic plan. 8:57 p.m. — Anderson Cooper asks Hopefuls if they support repealing the 14th Amendment. Perry says no. Bachmann brings up anchor babies and says this can be solved legislatively without having to change the Constitution. 8:59 p.m. — A very energetic immigration debate between the Hopefuls comes to an end. Anderson Cooper allowed 18 minutes on immigration — almost double the amount of time given to the issue in earlier debates.Perry brought up the immigration issue in an answer to a question about another topic. It was clear, especially from some of the news stories circulating today, that Gov. Perry wanted to address immigration tonight and try and change the perception of his position. Perry dodged a question on Birthright Citizenship, but did make some progress on the issue. FROM ROY: I think Perry DID break a little new ground.  Fairly early, he said
Texas is stuck with a lot of costs because so many illegals come in and
said the problem is they come for jobs and businesses should be
penalized.  Rep. Bachmann got a chance to chime in on Birthright Citizenship. Even though she’s not a cosponsor of H.R.140 this Congress, she has cosponsored the bill in the past. She understands that we can end Birthright Citizenship by changing existing laws rather than altering the 14th Amendment.Cain has opposed Birthright Citizenship in the past, so I’m not sure why he dodged the question when he was asked about the 14th Amendment. He didn’t offer anthing new to his prior statements, but showed a lot of passion while discussing the border fence.
9:18 p.m. — Our ad runs for a third time today. For more information, visit

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content and Activism for NumbersUSA

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