Immigration sparks war of words between Romney, Perry at debate

In an already testy debate, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry got into an all-out squabble over Romney's use of a lawn-mowing company that had hired undocumented immigrants in the past.

"Those people that hire illegals ought to be penalized, and Mitt, you lose all of your standing in my perspective because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year." Perry said. "The idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you're strong on immigration is, on its face, the height of hypocrisy," he said at the CNN debate in Las Vegas, Nev., an early-voting state that Romney won big in 2008.

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Romney, laughing with chagrin, began a response denying the charges, asking Perry rhetorically for his evidence. Perry went to respond, and the debate devolved into bickering.

"This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick and I undersand that you're going to get testy, but I'll tell you what — let me take my time and then you can take your time," Romney responded.

"You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property and the newspaper came to you, brought it to your attention and you still a year later had those individuals working for you. The idea that you can sit here and talk about any of us having an immigration issue is beyond me," Perry said, repeating a charge that was made against Romney the 2008 presidential debates.


When Romney went to respond Perry interrupted him once again, triggering a flash of anger from the usually even-tempered Romney.

"You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking," Romney said pointedly, to laughs and applause. "And I would suggest that if you want to become president of the United States you've got to let both people speak."

The audience in Nevada hooted at the remark.