Tea Party activists are promising to hold Rick Perry‘s feet to the fire over illegal immigration.A group of them will stage a news conference at the Texas Capitol on Monday urging Perry to enact a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities,” municipalities where they say local police are required to take a lax attitude toward the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The activists will distribute a letter, signed by more 3,000 people, asking the governor to either call a special session of the Legislature or sign an executive order that would pull Texas law enforcement more into the business of arresting and detaining illegal immigrants, organisers said.
They’ll deliver the letters to the Texas governor’s office — and are planning to send a copy to his presidential campaign.
Perry had made the issue an “emergency item” during recently concluded legislative sessions, but opponents blocked it and the bill never passed.
It has sparked heated divisions in Texas, where wealthy business leaders — including one Perry’s most generous donors — have worked against passage of a harsh sanctuary cities bill.
Tea Party leaders say it’s not too late to get a sanctuary cities bill back on the rails.
“We’re just asking him to fight for his emergency legislation,” said JoAnn Fleming, who chairs the Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee of the Texas Legislature. “We understand that he’s running for president, but this is a serious matter in our state.”
Fleming said the bill could help the governor shore up support among conservative activists who want him to take a tougher stand against illegal immigration. Texas has, by far, the longest border with Mexico among the four states on the southern U.S. boundary. Texas also has deep cultural and business ties with Mexico.
Over his long career in Texas politics, Perry has reflected his state’s political mainstream by positioning himself as a relative moderate on immigration. He has been a vocal foe of a long border wall, and he said in 2001 he was “intrigued and open” to an amnesty proposal for Mexican workers made by George W. Bush in 2001. (Perry now favours securing the border before making any federal immigration policy changes).
The governor, at the risk of alienating a key constituency in the 2012 presidential race, still favours giving in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who graduate in good standing from Texas high schools. Perry signed the legislation in 2001 and says it’s the appropriate policy for children who are in this country because of choices their parents made.
Perry’s chief opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, vetoed a similar in-state tuition bill when he was governor of Massachusetts, saying it would provide incentives to illegal immigrants.
With his Republican base demanding action, Perry took a harder line in the 2011 session of the Texas Legislature by making a ban on sanctuary cities a top priority. He again took up the cause in a special legislative session, but the bill failed in late June after representatives of prominent businessmen, including home-builder Bob Perry (no relation), got involved with efforts to block or soften the legislation. Bob Perry, a wealthy Houston homebuilder and prolific political donor to candidates nationwide, is one of Rick Perry’s largest contributors.
GOP leaders engaged in a round of finger-pointing when the bill went down. In an unusual public spat with a fellow Republican, Perry blamed state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; then House and Senate leaders (in a not-so-unusual public spat) criticised each others’ chamber for allowing the bill to die before reaching Perry’s desk.
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