Recent polling has confirmed what I’ve seen anecdotally: Rick Perry has dropped fast in the polls and conservatives have decided (at least for now) to throw their support behind Herman Cain. (Romney, too, is capitalizing on this.)
The primary reason that people have moved away from Perry is his stance on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, known as the Texas DREAM Act. If not for this issue, Perry would likely still be riding high in first place in the polls. Well, his mediocre debate performances didn’t help either.
First, let me acknowledge that I like Rick Perry. While I have not yet settled on a candidate, he’s my current favorite. Well, my favorite was Tim Pawlenty, but he dropped out in August. And my true favorite, Bobby Jindal, didn’t even run.
Nevertheless, there are many candidates from which pro-life and pro-family Catholics can choice. I just hope people will not automatically reject Rick Perry solely on the issue of in-state tuition for illegals.
Here are the six reasons why I think Perry’s support for the Texas DREAM Act shouldn’t be a dealbreaker:
1. It was for Texas only.
As Rick Perry said in the debate, he supports the Texas DREAM Act, which he signed into law in 2001. The law charges illegal immigrants tuition at the same rate as Texas citizens. When the Texas Legislature voted on this measure back in 2001, there were 177 yes votes. Only four voted no. The bill had strong and wide bipartisan support. Even a supermajority of conservatives supported the measure. But Rick Perry does not support the federal DREAM Act, which also included some amnesty provisions. He believes the decision on what to charge in-state tuition should be left to the states.
2. The charge “It’s not fair!” cuts both ways.
I’m sympathetic when people say, “Why do you charge me out-of-state tuition when I was born in Oklahoma, but you charge him in-state tuition and he entered this country illegally?” Yet, it’s important to note that this fairness argument cuts both ways. What if a child is born in Neuvo Laredo, Mexico, but he entered this country illegally with his family when he was just two years old? He’s been living in Texas for 16 years now and the federal government hasn’t deported him and his family. Truly Texas is all he has known. Had he entered the country a couple years earlier, the point would be moot as he’d be a citizen of the United States by birthright. The people of Texas have decided it’s fair to charge him tuition at in-state rates. If the people of Texas want to extend that in-state tuition rate to Oklahomans they can. But, for better or for worse, these illegal immigrants live in their cities and towns. Perhaps charging illegals in-state tuition helps keep the peace. After all, I don’t think Texans are worried about Oklahomans taking to the streets of Houston.
3. It is not welfare; they still pay tuition.
There are lots of Americans upset that our social safety net is being strained by the demands of people who are not U.S. citizens. America is perhaps one of the only countries that confers citizenship to every person born on U.S. soil. This definitely complicates the matter. Nevertheless, children of illegal immigrants do not receive a free college ride because of the Texas DREAM Act. They must still pay tuition.
4. Illegals pay a lot of taxes in Texas.
Like every time they buy anything. Yes, the state university system in Texas is subsidized by tax dollars. But Texas is one of only seven states that have no state income tax. That means the funds going to higher education come primarily through sales taxes, which every person living in Texas pays whether they are a citizen or not. If the people of Texas, through their elected officials, decide to charge all people (citizen or illegal) the same rate for tuition that’s their right. But illegal immigrants in Texas have been paying taxes in Texas while people in Oklahoma have not.
5. The impact has not been disruptive
The Dallas Morning News noted that in 2009, illegal immigrants using the in-state tuition rate counted for just 1% of the state’s one million college students. The Wall Street Journal discovered that adding illegal immigrants and charging them in-state tuition rates was budget neutral. So the Texas DREAM Act has not been a financial burden for the taxpayers of Texas.
6. Texas and Rick Perry are not to blame for immigration mess
Our elected officials in Washington have turned a blind eye to the consequences of having millions of persons enter our country illegally. There is reason to believe that both political parties are unwilling to solve this problem. Perhaps Republicans want cheap labor and Democrats want more votes. Either way, border states like Texas are forced to deal with the consequences more so than, say, states like West Virginia. So I’m sympathetic when Texans say they have chosen to deal with this issue differently than say Alabama.
Just like Rick Perry, I do not support the federal DREAM Act. But if I were a member of the Texas Legislature, I would have joined with the 177 Legislators that voted yes.
There are many reasons to support Rick Perry. And there are many reasons to not support him and choose Santorum or someone else. But if you were inclined to support Rick Perry for his strong 10-year pro-life and pro-family record as Governor of Texas, but changed your mind because of the Texas DREAM Act, I think you should reconsider.