Residents grill Perry on immigration at Hampton forum

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By Patrick Cronin

Herald Sunday, October 2, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Herald Sunday and Seacoast Online.]

Rick Perry in Hampton

HAMPTON — Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Rick Perry of Texas came to town Saturday to talk about the economy, but couldn't dodge two issues that have plagued his campaign in recent weeks.

Perry was asked at a town hall-style meeting about his stance that global warming is not man-made and how he could allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at Texas universities and colleges.

"I don't understand why any government would give preferential treatment to a child of somebody who does not belong here, rather than these guys here and his grandchildren," said Dave Connors, 67, of Hampton.

Perry's GOP presidential rivals, including Mitt Romney, criticized him lately for being "soft" on immigration. Perry said there is no one stronger on securing the border or dealing with illegal immigration than him. He said he vetoed a bill to allow driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and put $400 million in state funds to protect the Texas border.

The in-state tuition bill, he said, was in response to a bigger issue that "the United States has failed in its constitutional duty to defend our border." Perry said the federal government forces states to provide public education to people even if they are in the country illegally. "Are we going to have them on the government dole over here, because they're not educated?" he asked. "Or are we going to have them in our institutions of higher learning, paying in-state tuition, pursuing citizenship ...?"

Perry said the Texas Legislature decided it was best to have illegal immigrants get educated and be part of a skilled work force. "If you don't want to do that in your state, I absolutely respect that right," he said.

Perry said that as president, he would protect the borders and would not support amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Connors, who came to the forum against in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, said he was satisfied with Perry's answer. "Send these kids to jail? Or are you trying to make them productive members of society? And I guess from that point of reference, I agree with him," he said.

Another resident asked how he could rebut the National Academy of Science position and say that fossil fuels don't contribute to global warming.

"There is a substantial group of scientists that are skeptical global warming is due mainly to man's involvement," he said. He claimed China and India will not agree to "cap and trade" legislation to limit greenhouse gases.

"Are we, as Americans, going to jeopardize the future of this country economically by putting into place a program that there are still enough skeptics in my book, that say 'I don't believe man-made global warming is settled in science,' for us to justify an economic impact on this country that could be devastating to the future?"

Perry spoke on his record as governor where he said Texas created 40 percent of all jobs in U.S. since June 2009. He criticized President Barack Obama's jobs plan. "The billions of dollars we spent on the first stimulus did not work," he said. "Why would we think a second one would work?"

Perry said he would use the same guiding principals as president that he has used as governor. "I am going to bring back prosperity to this country by enlisting America's greatest economic advantage, and that is freedom," he said. "Freedom from too much government, freedom from too much spending, too much borrowing and too much regulation."

Perry promised two things, if elected. On his first day in office he would eliminate "ObamaCare" via executive order. The second is that he would work every day to make Washington as "inconsequential in your life as I can make it."

The event was the first of several meetings hosted by "We the People: A First In The Nation Freedom Forum." The nonprofit organization promotes the founding principles of freedom, limited government, personal responsibility and unlimited opportunity.

The organization was founded by former N.H. congressional candidate Jennifer Horn, a radio talk show host/newspaper columnist. Horn said the goal of the forums is to spotlight economic issues including spending, debt, balanced budgets, health-care reform, entitlement reform, immigration reform and other economic issues.

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