The topic of immigration garnered more attention Thursday night than during previous presidential debates. Perry’s stance on border security has been attacked by some conservative critics as soft, because he does not support building a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. Perry also implemented a program as governor allowing children of undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at state universities.
Romney and several of the other candidates blasted Perry over the program during the debate, although Perry stood his ground on the issue.
“The fact of the matter is this: There is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working on border security than I have. For a decade I’ve been the governor of a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. We’ve put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border,” Perry said. “But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason that they’ve been brought there, by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.”
Romney called the program a “magnet” for immigrants to enter the U.S. illegally.
“I want the best and brightest to come and ultimately become legal residents of the United States of America,” he said Friday. “But for that to happen, we have to stop illegal immigration, because illegal immigration is the enemy of legal immigration.”