By Mallie Jane Kim
In sharp contrast to the national Republican Party line, Texas Gov. Rick Perry still supports his state's version of the so-called DREAM Act, which permits foreign-born children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. "To punish these young Texans for their parents' actions is not what America has always been about," the potential dark horse GOP candidate told the New Hampshire Union Leader in his first New Hampshire interview of the 2012 campaign cycle.
Perry has not yet announced whether he will run for president, but he polls well. Real Clear Politics's average of polls, for example, puts him in fourth place behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is also undeclared. Perry opposes passing such legislation on the federal level, but his stance on immigration could tarnish his star among conservatives, who have fought efforts in other states and the U.S. Congress to pass similar legislation. Critics see such laws as a giveaway to people who have broken the law and unfair to American citizens who have to pay out-of-state tuition to attend universities across state lines.[See a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP primary candidates.]
In 2001, Perry signed the Texas DREAM Act, which allows in-state tuition for students who have lived in Texas for three years and either have obtained a GED or graduated from the state's public or accredited private schools. The state legislature had passed the law with bipartisan support. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on immigration reform.]
The act is different from the nation version, which Republicans in Congress have battled. The national DREAM Act would provide a pathway to citizenship to some young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors but who demonstrate "good moral character" and who go to a four-year college or join the military. The act was reintroduced in May after it failed to pass in the last Congress--it passed the House late last year when Democrats were still the majority, but Senate Democrats did not have enough votes to get it through. Opponents call the federal DREAM Act amnesty.