Texas Governor and prominent GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry is getting bad advice from his campaign managers. Worse, he's listening to it. After three debates during which Republican audiences roundly booed Perry for his DREAM Act support, he refuses to budge an inch.
Doesn't Perry know that few bills in Congressional history have been more unpopular and more consistently defeated than the DREAM Act? Since 2001 when it first appeared in the 107th Congress, the DREAM Act has been re-introduced in the House and Senate multiple times. In 2006 and 2007, the legislation that would provide instate tuition to illegal aliens was written into two different comprehensive immigration reform bills, both ultimately defeated in part because of the DREAM Act provision. Illinois Senator Richard Durbin tried to bury the DREAM Act in a 2007 Department of Defense Authorization bill; it failed.
Then in 2010, after dozens of alien students' high profile national protests, intense, spare-no-expense lobbying and a stacked Democratic deck led by majority leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the Senate nevertheless quashed the bill during a lame duck session. In total, over a decade, Congress defeated the DREAM Act 12 times.
A Rasmussen poll taken during the heated arguments over Durbin's measure found that only 22 percent of Americans supported the Illinois senator. Given the DREAM Act's horrible track record and resounding public opposition, if ever there were a time for a candidate to resort to doublespeak, one of their favorite forms of communication, today is Perry's day. If he hopes to gain the Republican nomination, Perry has to immediately temper his DREAM Act advocacy.
Instead, at every opportunity Perry reaffirms his commitment to the Texas DREAM Act, legislation he advanced in 2001. Alien students who graduate from a Texas high school or pass the GED test and have lived in the state for three years are eligible. The student must also have lived in Texas for three years and sign an affidavit affirming that he is seeking legal residency.
Aside: What does "seeking legal residency mean"? Perhaps that someone in the family sent away for the appropriate forms to begin the process? That, under Perry's definition, would be enough to qualify.
Insisting that Texas, or any other state, should educate aliens at taxpayer expense as Perry does is a tough sell in today's economy.
During last week's debate, challenger Mitt Romney pressed Perry hard. Said Romney: "I don't see how it is that an illegal alien gets a discount to the University of Texas. If you're a U.S. citizen you have to pay $100,000 more for a four-year education. That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that $100,000 break."
After Romney spoke, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum made other valid arguments against the DREAM Act. Santorum wondered why illegal immigrants should be given preferential treatment over American citizens.
Not surprisingly, one post-debate exit poll showed that Perry scored the lowest among all candidates.
Perry may have self-inflicted the fatal wound on his campaign when he vilified Americans who, for legitimate reasons, oppose the DREAM Act. According to Perry, if you don't agree with him about subsidizing illegal aliens' advanced educations, "I don't think you have a heart."
A seasoned politician like Perry should know that you can't insult your base and still expect to win its vote.
Joe Guzzardi is a syndicated columnist and Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization. He can be reached at JoeGuzzardi@CAPSweb.org.