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Rick Perry Apologizes Over Immigration, In-State Tuition GOP Debate Comments

First Posted: 09/28/2011 5:52 pm Updated: 11/28/2011 4:12 am

Texas Gov. Rick Perry apologized in an interview with Newsmax Wednesday for saying that opponents of providing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants do not "have a heart."

During the Fox News/Google GOP primary debate in Orlando, Fla. last week, Perry said, "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart."

Wednesday morning, Chuck Todd asked Perry Communications Director Ray Sullivan on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" whether the governor regretted his remarks. "No," Sullivan replied. "The fact of the matter is that the state of Texas does not subsidize. Every student in Texas who is a resident for three years, who's graduated from a Texas high school, and who is admitted to college can pay in-state tuition. This is a residency issue. These are Texas students; kids who have been here for a long time."

However, in the interview with Newsmax, Perry sounded apologetic. "Well I probably chose a poor word to explain that. For people who don't want their state to be giving tuition to illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, that's their call, and I respect that."

He added, "I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word, and it was inappropriate."

Perry's Republican rivals, including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have seized on his comments. Romney Senior Adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown," "When Mitt Romney was governor, the Democrats in his legislature sent him a bill to provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. Gov. Romney vetoed that bill. When that same bill was sent to Rick Perry, he signed it."

The 2001 law passed with only one dissenting vote in the Texas House and three in the Senate. Nobody testified against the bill. Just over 12,000 undocumented immigrants received in-state tuition in 2009.

Perry opposes a federal version of the DREAM Act, but says that states like Texas can choose whether to give undocumented immigrants in the state the same tuition breaks as other residents.

WATCH Rick Perry's comments about immigration at last week's GOP primary debate:
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Filed by Luke Johnson  |