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Rick Perry: Border Security Before Immigration Reform

In what resembled a presidential campaign speech, the recently indicted Texas governor called for increased federal controls against illegal immigration before Congress considers immigration reform.

In what resembled a presidential campaign speech, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for increased federal controls against illegal immigration and stronger military action in Iraq.

Before Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform, “how about we start with comprehensive border enforcement,” Perry said Thursday amid two dozen cameras at the headquarters of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

“Defending the border is not a political option. It is a constitutional obligation. Until the federal government meets that duty and secures that border, all talk of immigration reform is pointless because Washington has no credibility on the matter.”

The Heritage event was billed as a discussion about federal immigration policy and the unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Much of Perry’s speech, however, veered into other foreign policy areas. He said the United States must not let the Kurdish stronghold of Erbil fall to the terrorist group, ISIS. He also criticized the Obama administration’s decision to only launch limited airstrikes against ISIS, which has been seizing towns and infrastructure in northern Iraq.

“This terrorist army must be confronted with overwhelming force,” Perry said. “Nothing less than a sustained air campaign to degrade and destroy ISIS forces is required.”

Perry ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, ultimately bowing out to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Recent national media coverage about his new, hip glasses and overall image overhaul suggests that Perry, who is finishing his third and final term as governor, is preparing for another run at the White House.

Perry’s path to the presidency became more complicated last week when a grand jury indicted him on allegedly abusing the powers of his office by threatening to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption. “I am very confident in my case,” Perry said in his opening remarks. “I can assure you that I will fight this attack of our system of government.”

Before Perry's speech, a conservative panel ruminated over the state of immigration reform. Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, said Republican elites and the GOP establishment have become "over invested in the entrepreneurial idea," catering more to businesses that want inexpensive labor than American workers who do not want to compete with undocumented immigrants for jobs. "The next time that I meet a Republican strategist or a Republican politician who says there are jobs that Americans won't do," he said, "that person should be shot, he should be hanged, he should be wrapped in a carpet and drowned in the Potomac River."

Pollster Kellyanne Conway explained how findings from her new national survey of likely voters should persuade Republicans to embrace a tougher stance on border security. She noted that about 65 percent of respondents said they supported sending the children "back to their home countries to convince parents to stop sending their children here."

Conway also said that Republican elected leaders should avoid thinking of Hispanic voters as a monolithic group and immigration reform as the only way to win their support. For example, about 63 percent of Hispanic respondents agreed with the statement that "government has a responsibility to adopt immigration policies that protect its own unemployed or low-wage American workers from competition with illegal immigrants for jobs."

J.B. Wogan is a Governing staff writer.
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