At Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas engaged in vigorous debate with his GOP rivals over immigration and defended his record and views on border security. During the exchange, he specifically mentioned his support for Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which drew national attention.
“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 put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. We’ve got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now. I supported Arizona’s immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it.” – Texas Gov. Rick Perry
An April 29, 2010, a news release from Perry’s office was much less supportive of Arizona’s law: “I fully recognize and support a state’s right and obligation to protect its citizens, but I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas.
“For example, some aspects of the law turn law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe.”
But on July 14, 2010, Perry issued a news release clearly supporting the legality of Arizona’s fight: “I join Texas Attorney General (Greg) Abbott in opposing the Obama Administration’s effort to undermine the right of states to protect their citizens and govern themselves.”
The verdict: True, but incomplete. Perry did indeed declare “we must protect the 10th Amendment and right of states to legislate public safety” but didn’t mention his stated opposition to parts of the Arizona law.
CNN’s Amy Roberts and Forrest Brown contributed to this report.