According to recent polls, Rick Perry has moved ahead of Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican nomination.
Could immigration be the ace in the hole Romney needs to defeat Perry? A look at their records would appear to give Romney a huge edge if he chooses to make illegal immigration a key issue; however, as a Mormon, Romney would have to go against his Church's recently voiced support for illegal aliens.
In the past, while Perry was busy following a generally pro-illegal immigrant agenda, Romney was drawing a line in the sand both as governor of Massachusetts and as a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2010, Texas had the second-largest illegal alien population in the United States – between 1.45 million and 1.85 million illegal aliens. In addition, illegal aliens made up 9 percent of the state's total population and 6.7% of the state's workforce.
Perry has been a strong supporter of benefits for illegal aliens, has opposed efforts to enforce immigration laws, and has supported legalization of illegal aliens.
Gov. Perry proudly touts and defends Texas taxpayer-subsidized in-state tuition program for illegal aliens, which he signed into law in 2001, although only 12 percent of voters nationwide support this program. And, he has done little to protect local taxpayers and hospitals who shelled out a net $928 million in 2005 for illegal aliens, according to a 2006 study by the Texas Comptroller.
Since illegal immigration and identity theft go hand-in-hand, one would think that Gov. Perry would take a leadership role in fighting this devastating crime (Texas had the fourth-highest rate of identity theft in the nation in 2010 and 21 percent of all identity theft in Texas was employment-related). However, even though illegal aliens prefer the fraudulently obtained Social Security numbers of children and thus victimize millions of American children, Perry says that E-Verify, which stops virtually 100 percent of job-related child identity theft, "wouldn't make a hill of beans difference."
In addition, unlike Arizona, which attempts to protect its citizens through tough enforcement of laws impacting illegal aliens, Gov. Perry pushes back against enforcement. Rather than using the 10th Amendment rights he has at his disposal, he calls for federal action to secure the border in order to look like he is doing something while at the same time calling proposals to build a fence along the Mexican border "idiocy." Then he asks the federal government to reimburse Texas taxpayers for the $349.2 million dollars that they spent to incarcerate illegal aliens although he knows that the feds won't pay up any more than they responded to his calls to enforce the border.
Perry further takes a Chamber of Commerce, Utah Compact approach to illegal aliens who have violated United States laws. He supports automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S. of illegal alien parents and he would forgive illegal aliens for their violations of immigration law, sacrifice millions of Americans by turning a blind eye to massive illegal alien felony identity theft, and give illegal aliens work permits.
Thus, Perry has consistently avoided taking any action to protect Americans from the negative impacts of illegal immigration and has consistently tried to find ways to make it look like he is doing something, when in reality he is doing his best to ensure that the status quo continues.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney was governor of a state that had between 140,000 and 230,000 illegal aliens. Romney vetoed in-state tuition passed by a legislature controlled by the opposition party and his veto was upheld. The next year, he fought in-state tuition again and it never got out of the Democrat-controlled legislature.
Romney also ensured that illegal aliens were not granted Massachusetts driver's licenses, opposed amnesty of any type, and enrolled the state police in the 287g program.
During the 2008, campaign Romney reiterated his opposition to amnesty and said that all illegal aliens should be given a period of time to get their affairs in order and then return to their home countries.
Based on their records, Romney can legitimately portray Perry as a politician who turns his back on American children who are victims of illegal alien identity theft in order to protect illegal aliens, who is comfortable with using taxpayer funds to subsidize the college education of illegal aliens who cannot legally work in the United States once they graduate, and who encourages ever more illegal immigration by refusing to support the enforcement of laws, opposing the use of E-Verify and supporting the issuance of work permits for illegal aliens already in the United States.
Perry is vulnerable. Romney has a strong record. But will Romney aggressively go after Perry on illegal immigration or will he temper his attacks in order to comply with the Mormon Church's recent calls for what amounts to amnesty for illegal aliens?
Only time will tell.