Gov. Perry and The Texas Dream Act

I’m sure Gov. Perry will get some heat from this piece in The Washington Times by Kerry Picket:

In the midst of a number of conservatives believing Governor Rick Perry, Texas Republican, is the GOP’s answer to taking on President Barack Obama, squishy aspects of Mr. Perry’s background are being overlooked. As a border state governor, Mr. Perry signed state immigration law in 2001 known as the Texas DREAM Act. Here is an excerpt from a speech Governor Perry gave during the border summit in August of 2001: (bolding is mine)

“As a compassionate state, we know that for our children to succeed, they must not only be healthy, but educated. The future leaders of our two nations are learning their fractions and their ABC’s in classrooms all along this border. Immigrants from around the world are being taught in Texas classrooms, and our history is rich with examples of new citizens who have made great contributions. We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, “we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.” And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers. That’s why Texas took the national lead in allowing such deserving young minds to attend a Texas college at a resident rate. Those young minds are a part of a new generation of leaders, the doors of higher education must be open to them. The message is simple: educacion es el futuro, y si se puede.”

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Picket goes on to say that Perry has a lot to answer for here. I know many conservatives outside of Texas will be upset to learn this, but they shouldn’t be.

It’s important to point out that there is a huge difference in the Texas Dream Act and the The Dream Act that was pushed in Congress and failed. The Dream Act in Congress was full of all kinds of goodies other than allowing children of illegals to receive in state tuition. The Texas Dream Act was focused only on that. I happen to agree with The Texas Dream Act, and so did everyone in the Senate in Texas. It passed with ZERO “no” votes. Add to that, it has been proven to be successful.

These are a few things you need to know about the Texas Dream Act. The child has to have lived in Texas the three years leading up to high school graduation. These students are given no special treatment in getting into Texas colleges and universities. They must get in on their own merit. They are paying the tuition (with or without financial aid). It’s estimated that these students make up about 1% of those entering college.

As I have said many times here, the GOP has long failed to address the illegal immigration issue. It drives me crazy. The GOP has for too long let the most extreme voices in the illegal immigration debate dictate what we DON’T do to solve these problems.

I understand the feeling of unfairness. I understand the frustration that we have to deal with an issue that involves people that are doing something illegal. But these are children, brought here by their parents at great risk, for a better life. They did not choose to come here. But they have been raised here. They do not know Mexico as their country. They know America as their country. It is our government’s fault that we did nothing of substance for decades, and these children should not have to suffer for our failures. The children of illegals not only deserve the right to a higher education, but it’s better for all of us when they achieve that.

I’ll go even further. I think we should allow these children to get in the back of the line for citizenship, and allow them to remain here as they go through the process. I also feel the parents should be allowed to join a guest worker program that allows them to get into the back of the line for citizenship as well. The GOP needs to get behind this idea. They need to be the ones proposing it. Hispanics are natural conservatives. We do great harm to the future of the GOP by alienating them. Don’t think that Hispanic Americans don’t follow closely what we do on this issue. It affects their relatives and friends.

Most of us agree that border control MUST be dealt with first. The problem with all other efforts on this issue in the past is that the borders were not sealed. If there is anyone who we can trust to do that it is Gov. Perry (if he decides to run for President). He knows what goes on down at the border. He has gone there many times. He knows what needs to be done. There is no doubt in my mind that if he were President, he would seal our borders. But Perry also understands Hispanic outreach. Not only was his Press Secretary, Alejandro Garcia, Hispanic, but he was also the man behind Perry’s Spanish-language website and the mostly Spanish-language Twitter feed and Facebook group. You don’t like the spanish language stuff? Well, guess what? You can’t reach out to someone and bring them in, if you don’t reach out in their language. Yes, they need to learn english. Don’t you think they wish to? We cannot ignore what needs to be done just because some things about it irritate us.

The bottom line is if the GOP doesn’t deal with the millions of illegal immigrants in this country in a humane and compassionate way, we will lose generations of voters. But we shouldn’t do it just for that reason. We should do it because it’s what is right. Seal the borders. Deal with illegal immigrants that are here now once and for all. This is our window of opportunity.

Update: I have to add this. It’s a piece in the NYT by a pulitzer prize winner writer who has lived his whole life as an illegal immigrant. Read his story and you can begin to understand what these kids go through.

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