(Further down are Roy's live blogs while listenting to the Tea Party/CNN-sponsored debate tonight in Florida. First, though, is Roy's overall analysis at the end of the debate. As always, our only interest in this debate is immigration.)
Gov. Perry was booed as he painted himself into an even tighter corner tonight as a candidate who boasts of offering incentives for illegal immigration and who apparently can't imagine illegal aliens ever going home. Attacked by several candidates for his position, he didn't back off a bit.
Quite a number of mainstream media commentators and editorialists have lauded Perry for supposedly appealing to Hispanic voters by rejecting rank-and-file Republicans' distaste for illegal immigration.
Former Sen. Santorum opened the in-state tuition issue when asked what candidates would do to seek Hispanic votes. He said it appeared that Perry thought the answer was offering in-state tuition for illegal aliens, with which Santorum made it clear he does not agree.
Perry responded that he was proud that Texas offers in-state tuition to illegal aliens regardless of how they got here because that is the "American way."
That brought the most direct attack on his position by Rep. Bachmann. She suggested that rewarding illegal behavior most decidedly is NOT the American way and was similar to Pres. Obama's own promotion of DREAM Act types of rewards for illegal immigration.
Perry objected that what he did in Texas did not involve amnesty, which is what the DREAM Act is. He was right about that. In-state tuition is part of the DREAM Act but a rather small part of a bill that would provide citizenship and permanent work permits to a couple million illegal aliens. He would have been wise to let it go at that, but he came back a couple minutes later and painted himself in a much worse light.
Perry claimed that what he did on in-state tuition was a state's rights issue. If another state wants to do something different, then that is fine with him. Well, actually, Congress has long made it against federal law for a state to offer in-state tuition to illegal aliens . . . UNLESS that state offers in-state tuition to U.S. citizens who live in other states. Texas does not treat legal citizens of other states as well as it treats illegal aliens in this regard and, thus, is in violation of federal law. Neither the Bush nor Obama Justice Departments has been willing to go after outlaw states like Texas on this account.
But it got worse.
Perry said Texas had a choice of either helping illegal aliens who want to contribute to get a college education or have to pay for them on the public dole. His statement indicated that the public has no choice but to subsidize these illegal aliens either through college tuition or on some form of welfare. Nowhere was there a recognition that another option would be for illegal aliens to go home.
As usual, former Gov. Romney provided the broadest view on immigration, saying that of course you don't give in-state tuition and other rewards to people who have broken immigration laws. He scolded GOP candidates who don't recognize that a central tenet of the Republican Party is a support for the rule of law. He said that appealing to Hispanic voters by supporting law-breaking is the wrong approach. Instead, Romney said, the appeal should be to what Hispanic Americans already know and that is that they are looking for opportunity.
Thus far, about the only positive thing on immigration that we have heard from Perry is his support for border security -- as long as it doesn't require too much fencing. But we've seen no recognition that nearly half of illegal aliens came to the country legally. No amount of border security can deal with them. Perry has bad-mouthed E-Verifying new hires to keep from employing illegal aliens. It is disheartening that even though commentators for weeks have suggested that Perry has a big job to persuade Americans that he is not another George Bush on immigration, he really hasn't provided any reason to believe otherwise.
But the rest of the candidates tonight provided little reason to be hopeful, either.
No candidate showed any sign of being able to use the immigration issue to appeal to 22 million Americans who are unable to find a full-time job. Nobody brought up the massive foreign-worker importation currently underway when asked how they would improve the economic circumstances of Americans. In fact, former Gov. Huntsman again talked about wanting more immigration. And Santorum again bragged about his immigrant roots and "immigration is an important lifeblood of this country . . . I believe in immigration."
When asked from the audience how they would move illegal aliens out of the country, not a single candidate thought to mention attrition through enforcement, especially by taking away their jobs.
Wolf Blitzer did throw the candidates off soon after the question was asked by inserting a tweet question about how to appeal to Latino voters. It almost seemed like Blitzer wanted to make sure nobody gave a serious answer about reducing the illegal population. But no candidate was able to stay focused on the fact that there is an answer for the 11 million illegal aliens that is not mass amnesty and that is not mass deportation -- and that is attrition through enforcement.
We did not hear from Paul, Gingrich or Cain on immigration. If they had felt strongly and wanted to be known as having a position, they could have spoken up and demanded a chance to answer. None did, that I could see.
On immigration tonight, Perry and Huntsman lose big. Santorum seems all about "illegal bad but lots of legal immigration good." Bachmann and Romney stand out as champions of the rule of law. The others appeared to not care. All of them failed to show real compassion for the millions of unemployed Americans by relating immigration policy to jobs.
LIVE BLOGGING DURING THE DEBATE
9:45 p.m. Monday -- Well, every candidate failed to either say -- or interject -- that the answer to the question about how to get illegal aliens out of the country is to first take away their jobs and have a credible threat of deportation when encountering law enforcement.
9:37 -- Huntsman says the problem with immigration is that Homeland Security makes it too hard to get greencards and work visas. He complains about not enough H-1B visas.
9:36 -- Perry comes back to defend even harder in-state tuition. Says it was a state's rights issue. His view is that illegal aliens who are students must either be educated in college by state tax funds or they will go on the public dole -- no chance that they would ever leave.
9:34 -- Romney: Way to attract Latino voters remind them of what they know that they are here for opportunity.. ... Of course, we don't give in-state tuition to those who came illegally. Driver's licenses creates a patina of legal status. I got my state into a program for state police to enforce the law. We are the party of the law.
9:33 -- Huntsman: (Told that he gave licenses to illegals) Illegal aliens were getting driver's license before and under me they got licenses that identitifed them as not a citizen and couldn't be used for identification purposes.
9:32 -- Perry: That was not the DREAM Act. It didn't include amnesty. We said if you want to contribute, you can get the education.
9:32 -- Bachmann: (Perry's instate tuition) was not the American way. Very much like DREAM Act. Similar to what Obaa would do.
9:31 -- Perry: (defends in-state tuition) That is the American way. No matter how you got here, if your parents paid taxes you are treated the same. I'm proud of that. (boos from the audience.)
9:30 -- Santorum: Perry I guess decided to try to attract Latino voters with in-state tuition to illegal aliens.
9:28 -- Perry: Nobody has hyad to deal with more on immigration than me in Texas. Feds have done a terrible job. Strategic fencing in metropolitan area absolutely has a role to play. But building fence from Brownsville to El Paso just isn't practical. Have to have aviation assets.
9:27 -- Santorum: I believe in immigraiton. Unlike Perry, we need to build the fence. We shouldn't have storm troopers to throw people out or have amnesty. We need to secure the borders and then decide what to do with illegal aliens here. Immigration is an important lifeblood of this country.
9:22 -- Great!! Wolf just said immigration is one of the topics coming up after the commercial break.
9:13 p.m. -- Getting concerned that out of all these Tea Parties across the country and the Tea Party Express sponsorship that immigration is not allowed to come out in any way thus far. Hopefully, my concern will be allayed by the end of this.
9:06 p.m. -- Question from a Tea Partier about Executive Orders. Wish she had mentioned immigration.
Paul says "executive orders should never be used to legislate." Great. That definitely relates to the Obama executive order for amnesty for some 300,000 illegals awaiting deportation. I have no doubt that Paul would never do that.
8:50 p.m. -- Cain had a very nice answer on being able to be pro-biz and pro-worker at same time but missed a golden opportunity about why mandatory e-verify serves both.
Colleague Andrew notes: "The biggest thing we can do to be pro worker is to tighten the labor market to make the incredible skill and productivity of the workers in America worth more. And we can do it just by stopping the importation of immigrants who are coming in even though there are no jobs available. "
See how intelligent and rational our argument sounds? But apparently not a single candidate knows how to do it, even if perhaps he/she knows it.
8:39 p.m. -- Now we are on the economy. Gingrich, Perry, Romney, Bachmann are missing an opportunity to bring up immigration reduction as a way to improve the economy for large numbers of Americans. I don't expect immigration to be the top of their list on this. But the fact that nobody ever seems to talk about immigration unless asked specifically about immigration indicates a lack of any deep thinking or understanding of the issue. Don't expect leadership on this issue unless candidates are pressed so much that they feel they have to bring up immigration.
8:24 p.m. -- While the debate focuses on Social Security, my colleague Andrew says: "They should be talking about immigration in the same way that they're talking about entitlements. We're not going to take away green cards, but we need to reform the system to secure America's future. Our immigration system is just as unsustainable as the current Social Security program. "
8:03 p.m. -- CNN Tea Party debate in Florida has begun. Interesting that members of Tea Party movement will be playing a part in this debate, linked with CNN.
Wolf Blitzer says some questions will come from Arizona where he says immigration is really a hot topic.
7:56 p.m. -- Erick Erickson of RedState on CNN says immigration is a really big problem for Perry. CNN's John King runs a clip of it coming up at Heritage today.
Erickson doesn't think Romney wants to "get to the right of Perry on immigration." Hmmm, I wonder.
7:48 p.m. -- The PAC ads touting Bachmann's immigration credentials hopefully will inject the issue into the debate tonight. The ad says: "Michele Bachmann believes employers should be required to check the legal status of people they hire with E-Verify. Perry doesn't, so illegals take jobs." Our Prez Grades give Bachmann credit for generally supporting mandatory E-Verify, gaining her a GOOD. But she hasn't been upfront enough to get an EXCELLENT. We would love to see her be as aggressive on the issue as this PAC has done.
This ad was sponsored by Keep Conservatives United, a Super PAC. It isn't allowed to coordinate with a candidate, so we can't assume that Bachmann agrees with it.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Sep 13th 2011 @ 1:02pm EDT