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September 13, 2011

Rick Perry And The Texas DREAM Act

Let me start by saying, I want to like Rick Perry. Of all the candidates he's the one I'd support at the moment but he hasn't closed the deal for me. In fact, his first two debate performances have given me pause to say the least.

One of my biggest problems with him to date is his inability to concisely explain some of his more controversial decisions like Gardisil and the Texas DREAM Act. I'm not going down the Gardisil rat hole, it's just not a giant issue for me. YMMV.

The DREAM Act stuff on the other hand could very well be a big issue, even a potential deal breaker.

Here's how Perry addressed it last night.

In the state of Texas, if you've been in the state of Texas for three years, if you're working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there.

And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that's what we've done in the state of Texas. And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.

That, in short, is an awful answer.

First, "And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is", is dangerously close to Lindsay Graham territory. People can disagree about how to deal with border security and how to approach illegals already here with it coming down to "the sound of your last name". Perry needs to lose that talking point really fast.

Second, the only options are college or a life on "the government dole"? Does the Governor not know that illegal immigrants aren't eligible for welfare? (Correction: They do.)

Even with those problems I still think there might be some chance of this being reasonable policy, at least at the state level (where the amnesty element isn't on the table) But Perry's answer was still lacking.

Perry said eligibility was based in part on students being in college and, is "...working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas,". Now, I take that to mean US citizenship because he already said you had to live in Texas for 3 years. Despite the all the Texas pride, there's no special requirements for Texas citizenship.

Even to a hardliner like me, kids who were brought here as minors and are working on getting their status regularized seems like a fairly narrow class and a reasonable one to work with. As always though, the Devil is in the details. What does it mean under Texas law to be "pursuing citizenship"? If it's an active process that's likely to lead to a successful outcome, fine. If it's more nebulous, well, that's a problem for me.

A little research shows it's not a very strict standard at all (pdf).

In addition, if the student was not a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident, he/she had to file an affidavit with his/her institution, indicating an intent to apply for Permanent Resident status as soon as able to do so.

That's from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board handbook and a huge problem for me. There's no sort of control or requirement that shows that the student is in the process of getting their status regularized, let alone that it is likely to succeed. Just a promise that they will try someday. What if the law isn't changed at the federal level are never eligible to apply for Permanent Resident status? That's just not good enough for me.

As I've said before, every candidate has a problem or two in their record. That's just reality. This isn't a deal breaker for me but it certainly is a big question mark.

It does at least answer one question for me. Now I get why Perry sticks to talking points on this and doesn't want to get into how the policy works because it's a lousy policy.

Added: For a defense of Perry's support of the Texas DREAM Act, see this post by Kathleen McKinley.


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posted by DrewM. at 11:28 AM

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