Gov. Rick Perry
Gov. Rick Perry

Updated:  

For the first time in three debates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's decision to sign the Texas DREAM Act was challenged by the debate moderator and the other GOP Presidential Hopefuls. During Monday night's Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, Fla., Gov. Perry was forced to defend signing an in-state tuition bill for illegal aliens, while former Utah Gov. John Huntsman had to defend his decision to sign a bill allowing illegal aliens access to driver's licenses.

CNN anchor and moderator of Monday's debate Wolf Blitzer asked Gov. Perry to explain his decision to sign a Texas bill that gives in-state tuition to illegal aliens.

(Read Roy's blog for full analysis)

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.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was running ads throughout the day in South Carolina attacking Gov. Perry's decision to sign the bill, said that the Texas DREAM Act is similar to the national DREAM Act.

I think that the American way is not to give taxpayer subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws or who are here in the United States illegally. That is not the American way. Because the immigration system in the United States worked very, very well up until the mid-1960s when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws.

Gov. Perry responded by saying that the Texas law is different from the federal proposal because it doesn't grant amnesty to the illegal aliens who benefit from the bill. Blitzer failed to ask Gov. Perry about whether he felt the bill was legal under fedreral law since the 1996 Illegal Immigration Control and Immigrant Responsibility Act authored by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith made it illegal to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens without granting the same benefit to all U.S. citizens.

Blitzer then asked Gov. Huntsman about signing a bill as Utah governor that allows illegal aliens to get driver's licenses.

[T]hey were given a driver's license before and they were using that for identification purposes. And I thought that was wrong. Instead we issued a driver privilege card, which in our state allowed our economy to continue to function. And it said in very bold letters, not to be used for identification purposes. It was a pragmatic local government driven fix and it proved that the tenth amendment works.

Gov. Romney, whose immigration grade recently got a bump after consistently making positive statements with regard to both illegal immigration and legal immigration, had a chance to respond to the actions taken by both governors.

[O]f course we do not give instate tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America's great beneficence.

And with regards to giving driver's licenses to people that are here illegally, that creates a patina of legal status. There are sanctuary cities in some parts of the country.

One of the things I did in my state was to say, look, I'm going to get my state police authorized to be able to enforce immigration laws and make sure those people who we arrest are put in jail, to find out they're here illegally, we're going to get them out of here.

We have to recognize that this is the party that believes in supporting the law. We're going to enforce the law. We're the party of opportunity, we're also the party of legal law abiding citizens. And that's something we're going to attract people of all backgrounds. 

To view our 2012 Presidential Hopefuls comparison grid, click here. For a full transcript of Monday's debate, see CNN. Also, read Roy's blog for full analysis.

Illegal Immigration
elections 2012