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Perry: 'There will be no amnesty'

Last modified: 11/30/2011 12:00:00 AM
Texas Gov. Rick Perry yesterday said he would "detain and deport" every illegal immigrant apprehended on his watch, as the candidate beat back criticism that he's soft on immigration with the endorsement of one of the nation's most contentious voices on the issue, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz.

"Amnesty is not on the table, period," Perry said yesterday in Amherst, shortly after officially receiving Arpaio's nod. "There will be no amnesty in the United States. We're a country of law."

But Perry stopped short of supporting the deportation of long-term illegal immigrants, saying that the nation would need to address those individuals only after the border with Mexico is secure.

"I don't know all the answers," Perry said. "I want to talk to the American people, I want to have a conversation with Congress and say, 'How do we deal with these individuals?' But all of that, all of that is just an intellectual discussion until we secure that border. Securing that border is the issue at hand."

Perry promised he would do just that, shutting down illegal activities on the border with Mexico within a year of taking office. He laid out a plan yesterday that includes "strategic fencing," high-tech surveillance and rapid-response teams. Perry said he would deploy a substantial number of National Guard troops to the border while increasing the coordination between federal and local agencies.

In bringing immigration to the forefront yesterday, Perry was forced to address the controversial Texas legislation that allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition when attending a state university.

"Our legislature made that decision and that is a state-by- state decision," Perry said.

Perry again apologized for saying in an earlier debate that anyone who did not support the legislation was heartless.

Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., and a coveted endorsement courted by candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, campaigned with Perry at stops in Amherst, Manchester and Derry yesterday. The sheriff, an outspoken supporter of his state's own controversial immigration policies, has been investigated by a federal grand jury for alleged racial discrimination in his county.

Arpaio, who seemed unfazed when an audience member at Saint Anselm College booed him as he took the podium, said Perry won his endorsement because of his on-the-ground experience dealing with immigration. Arpaio, who campaigned with Mitt Romney in 2008, said Texas's tuition legislation didn't weigh heavily on his endorsement.

"It was nothing big when you balance out everything he's done against illegal immigration," Arpaio said. "I presume - I don't run Texas, I'm concerned about my county - but I presume that was passed by the legislature. It wasn't his bill."

Alice Bury of Amherst yesterday said she was not satisfied with the response Perry gave to her question regarding in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. Bury, 69, said the issue has become a deal-breaker, and that while she is a fan of Arpaio, his endorsement is not enough to get her support behind Perry.

"(Perry) did not appear to be open to rethinking. He just reinforced what is happening in Texas, and I was hoping to hear that I understand your concerns (and the concerns) of many people in this country who reacted to my statement in the debate and it's causing me to look at it," said Bury, an independent voter who now plans to support either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich.

Some yesterday said Arpaio's endorsement won't make a difference for Perry in New Hampshire, where the candidate pulled in 4 percent in one recent poll.

"A hard-line on immigration is not especially popular in New Hampshire, even among likely Republican primary voters," Fergus Cullen, former state GOP chairman, said in an email. "It is unclear why Gov. Perry would think campaigning with Sheriff Arpaio would help him."

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com.)


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