Rick Perry on Immigration

Last Updated : Dec 12, 2011


Governor Perry supports open borders, sanctuary city policies, benefits for illegal aliens, and amnesty for illegal aliens through a comprehensive immigration reform plan. During election times, Governor Perry has spoke about the need to secure the border and occasionally speaks out against sanctuary cities. However, outside of the election, Governor Perry has signed legislation to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens, kept in place guidelines to prevent law enforcement from finding illegal aliens, and opposed efforts from other states to enforce immigration laws. He has stated that there are jobs that people from Mexico will do but US citizens will not. 

One of the first pieces of legislation that Governor Perry supported and signed after taking office was the Texas version of the DREAM Act. The law allows illegal aliens to pay in state tuition rates at Texas colleges.  In a question during the BELO debate in 2010, Governor Perry stated that other US citizens could "move on down to Texas and become a citizen and they'll be ready for it," when asked why he would support in-state tuition for illegal aliens but not for other citizens. In 2009 Governor Perry stated that punishing children by not allowing them to pay in-state tuition because their parents brought them to the US illegally was not what the US was about. Around this same time, Governor Perry proposed the idea of bi-national health insurance between Mexico and the US.

Governor Perry has spoken often about the need to secure the border. He has written numerous op-eds and given several speeches noting that border security is a responsibility of the federal government and that it is failing in it's responsibility. He has also criticized the movement of criminal aliens through Texas to be released in Mexico, and has criticized the lack of funds for incarcerating illegal aliens.

In 2004, Governor Perry stated that he supported efforts by President Bush to establish a guest worker program to allow aliens to enter the country legally and then work and return home. In support of this plan, Governor Perry noted that bringing the labor of illegal aliens off the black market legitimizes the labor of those people and removes the incentive to enter illegally. Governor Perry proposes the plan as a better method of securing the border and preventing illegal immigration - a guest worker program that legally allows anyone who desires to enter the country to do so legally.

When Arizona enacted legislation to allow law enforcement officers to inquire about immigration status of those it was already in contact with, Governor Perry opposed the move and called it the wrong direction for Texas. He stated that turning law enforcement officers into immigration officers removed them from their task of protecting the people. These statements are counter to those made numerous times by Governor Perry when he asserted the success of multiple cross-bureau operations involving crime along the border and illegal immigration. Governor Perry stated that no matter what the color of the uniform, increased law presence and enforcement decreased crime.

During the 2010 election and the run up to a possible 2012 presidential bid, Governor Perry spoke against and threatened to move on sanctuary cities. However, the Texas Department of Public Safety policy mirrors the policies that define a "sanctuary city" in which officers are forbidden from inquiring about immigration status.

In August of 2011, Governor Perry sent a letter to the federal government asking for $349 million in funds to repay the state for incarcerating illegal aliens. 


Texas DREAM Act

In May of 2001, Governor Perry signed House Bill 1403. This legislation allowed illegal aliens who graduate from a Texas public high school to attend a Texas college at the in state tuition rate.


Veto of Driver's License Legislation

In 2001, Governor Perry vetoed legislation that passed through both the state House and Senate with wide support. The measure would have changed Texas law to allow the Department of Public Safety to accept whatever it deems appropriate as valid identification to receive a driver's license. Proponents claimed that a driver's license represents knowledge of motor vehicle rules and not proof of citizenship or valid immigration status. Opponents stated that it was an obvious attempt to assist illegal immigrants and avoiding the law. In vetoing the legislation, Governor Perry stated that Texas already possessed a mechanism for legal immigrants and ambassadors to drive legally in the US and no further methods were necessary. The summary from the digest and the reason given there for Governor Perry's veto are show below.


Southwest Border Registration Education Project

In June of 2001, Governor Perry spoke at the Southwest Border Registration Education Project. During that speech, he noted his view that illegal immigrants should be educated in Texas colleges at in-state tuition rates not available to American citizens.


Border Summit Remarks

In August of 2001, Governor Perry spoke at the border summit. He noted Texas's move to allow illegal aliens to pay in state tuition rates. He also states that any view of Texas's future must include the children of illegal aliens. He uses the term "Si se puede" to note his support for illegal alien rights in the US. He also states that he support Mexico President Vicente Fox's view of an open border.


Support for President Bush's Plan

In January of 2004, Governor Perry released a press statement noting his support for a guest worker plan put forth by President Bush.


A Better Way to Secure the Border

In December of 2006, Governor Perry released a press statement noting his views on securing the border. He states that he opposes amnesty for illegal aliens as it rewards illegal behavior, but that he opposes enforcement of US laws through deportation or punishment for those who violate the laws as that would harm the US economy. He proposes a guest worker program to allow those here illegally to continue that work on a legal basis but without citizenship.


Increased Border Enforcement

In January of 2007, Governor Perry issued a press statement noting the need for increased border presence. He announces the commencement of operation wrangler.


Texas is Securing the Border

In a January 2008 editorial, Governor Perry notes that local law enforcement in Texas is working with immigration officials to help fight crime and illegal immigration in Texas.


Securing Our Border

In February of 2008, Governor Perry issued a press statement noting a speech on securing the border. He states that by focusing on entry points, Texas has been able to slow in inflow of illegal immigrants.


Moving Aliens through Texas

In April of 2009, Governor Perry released a statement calling for an end to the practice of transporting illegal aliens through Texas to be released in Mexico. He notes that this cause a great deal of those aliens to reenter illegally into Texas.


State Payment for Incarceration

In December of 2009, Governor Perry released a press statement noting the need for higher reimbursement for the imprisonment of criminal illegal aliens.


Common Sense Debate


Border Security


Opposition to Arizona Immigration Law

In April of 2010, Governor Perry was quoted by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal as stating the following when asked about the Arizona immigration law:

That same month, Governor Perry issued a statement noting his opposition to the Arizona law on numerous grounds. He states that the law would turn law enforcement officers into immigration officers and remove their ability to do their job.


Support for Amicus Brief

In July of 2010, Governor Perry issued a statement noting his support for an amicus brief filed by the Texas Attorney General in that he supports the right of the states to pass their own laws in the tenth amendment.


Sanctuary Cities

In June of 2011, Governor Perry added legislation to end sanctuary city policies in Texas to items to be considered as part of a special session of the Texas Legislature.

In June of 2011, Governor Perry released a press statement noting his disappointment in the failure of the state legislature to pass legislation that would prevent cities from establishing sanctuary cities by limiting officer power.

In January of 2012, Governor Perry was asked a number of questions regarding his efforts to secure sanctuary cities by the Texas Tribune. The governor responds by stating that the legislation has not been written yet, but that he does consider numerous Texas cities to be out of agreement with US immigration laws.


Texas DPS Policies

It is the policy of the Texas Department of Public Safety to not question the immigration status of those it comes into contact with and not to seek out those who violate immigration laws. These practices are commonly referred to as sanctuary city policies when put in place by city police. This policy effectively makes Texas a sanctuary state.


Continued Support for Texas DREAM Act

In July of 2011 Governor Perry asserted that he still supported the Texas version of the DREAM Act. When asked in an interview for the New Hampshire newspaper, Governor Perry states that he cannot support punishing people for actions committed by their parents.


Request for Reimbursement

In an August 10 letter to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janey Napolitano, Governor Perry asked the federal government for $349 million in reimbursement funds for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens.


CNN National Security Debate

On November 22, 2011 Governor Perry participated in a debate on CNN focusing on national security. In two separate questions, Governor Perry addressed immigration. He promised in one question that if elected, he would secure the border within 12 months. In a second question, he stated that he agreed with Congressman Gingrich on the need to grant amnesty to law-abiding immigrants who broke US immigration laws.


2010 Campaign Website Statements


Huckabee Forum

In December of 2011, Governor Perry participated in a forum that was moderated by Mike Huckabee. He was asked about border security and stated that he was committed to secure the border with 12 months of taking office.


The Western Debate

In October of 2011, Governor Perry participated in the Western Debate in Las Vegas. He speaks about his desire to end illegal immigration and the need to turn off the magnets. He also disusses his support for a virtual fence.


Official Website Statements



[1] Website: House Research Organization Article: Vetoes of Legislation 77th Legislature Author: NA Accessed on: 07/25/2011

[2] Website: Union Leader.com Article: Perry gives first NH interview Author: JOHN DiSTASO Accessed on: 07/26/2011

[3] Website: Texas Monthly Article: Rick Perry: for sanctuary cities before he was against them Author: Paul Burka Accessed on: 07/27/2011

[4] Website: ABC News Article: Perry Bills Feds $349M for Illegal Immigrants Author: APRIL CASTRO Accessed on: 08/27/2011

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