Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that the first step in any new immigration policy must ensure that the border is secure, and said that it is not realistic to deport the millions of illegal immigrants already living in the United States.
Mr. Perry said during an appearance on Fox News the nation’s immigration system cannot be fixed as long as there is a “revolving door” along the US-Mexico border.
“You cannot have an immigration policy until you first secure the border,” Mr. Perry said. Asked whether illegal immigrants living here should get a pathway to citizenship, Mr. Perry answered, “I think the idea that we are going to deport 12 million people — that is not reality.”
Mr. Perry said the nation’s immigration laws must balance the need to bring people “out of the shadows of illegality” with ensuring that doing so does not hurt those who have followed the law.
“I am sure there are wise people in Washington DC that can come up with a way to do that,” Mr. Perry said.
Mr. Perry came under fire in the GOP presidential primary after signing a law in 2001 that gave in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants.
“If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” Mr. Perry said in a debate in 2011.
Some Republicans also knocked him for arguing that it is more important to increase the manpower along the southern border than building a fence. “The idea that you are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles, and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana, does not make sense.,” Mr. Perry said in that same debate. “You put the boots on the ground.”
There are some signs, though, that the political landscape has shifted on immigration since the 2012 election, where President Obama bested GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters by a 71 percent to 27 percent margin.
The Republican National Committee’s post-election “Growth and Opportunity Project” autopsy warned that “if Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence.”
Meanwhile, a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday showed that 57 percent of all poll respondents support granting some sort of path to citizenship to illegal immigrants — though the respondents were deeply divided along partisan lines.
Republicans opposed by a 60 percent to 35 percent margin, while Democrats supported it by a 73 percent to 25 percent margin. The poll showed that Independents also support a pathway to citizenship by a 58 percent to 39 percent margin.