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The Irony of Rick Perry's "Immigration Problem"

09/28/2011 11:42 am ET | Updated Nov 28, 2011

Pundits have been falling over themselves to praise Texas Governor Rick Perry's principled stand on the DREAM Act. Many go so far as to note that this is creating an immigration problem within his own party. This is nonsense.

Governor Perry is a pragmatist and did what was best for his state by allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to apply for state subsidized tuition breaks for college. This was and remains a good thing for the state of Texas. Beyond that, to say that his current stance on the DREAM Act is anything other then smart politics, is a bit of a stretch.

When the Governor passed the state version of the DREAM Act way back in 2001, the DREAM Act was incredibly popular with the Republican base. People forget that the original version of the legislation was co-written by a Republican. Before that, in a Republican primary debate way back in the 1980's Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush fell over each other to praise immigrants who went to school in the United States despite not being citizens. Fast forward to today and ask Perry if he would pass a national DREAM Act and his answer is an emphatic, "no."

Let's be clear here, Perry may be taking heat on this issue from the right flank of his party now, but he is also doubling down on his maverick/stick to your guns image. Which in this Republican primary contrasts nicely with his main rival Governor Mitt Romney. If Perry survives to the general election (which is looking increasingly likely,) he will be the only GOP candidate to appear even remotely moderate on immigration issues.

This is a shame because Governor Perry's immigration stance is marred by his habit of lazily using the most intellectually dishonest immigration talking point in the GOP arsenal: we must secure the border before we can do anything on a national fix for our broken immigration system.

If fact, when Governor Perry is on the national stage and gets attacked about his stance on the DREAM Act, he always pivots to his strong stance on border security. Texas shares 1,200 miles with Mexico, and to Perry's credit he has rightly said that closing the U.S. Mexico border in his state is a bad idea. Yet this stance has not stopped him from repeatedly saying that the border is a dangerous war zone.

This is problematic when you realize that Texas exported $72 billion of goods to Mexico last year. That is a lot money and jobs for his state.Which begs the question: how could Texas do $72 billion dollars of business with Mexico through the border if it is a war zone? The answer is simple, the Texas-Mexico border is not a war zone. In fact, when Governor Perry is not in front of national cameras he is much better about acknowledging that Mexico is a great friend to Texas.

Despite his rhetoric, cities along the border in Texas are among the safest communities in the country -- border cities are much safer then Governor Perry's capital city of Austin.

I would wager that Governor Perry knows all of this. Which brings me to the great irony about Perry's perceived "immigration problem": if there is one, it is entirely of his own creation. By engaging in tough guy posturing, the governor and by extension the Republican party, have boxed themselves into a rigid ideology which has no basis in reality.

It is true that Governor Perry's view on the border and the DREAM act is much more evolved then those he is running against. Dare I say that at this point, they are also not that far from many moderate Democrats. But really at this point, who can take anything Governor Perry says seriously? The fact remains he is in the political fight of his life and like any other politician is just trying to get elected. The sad thing is, as he continually reminds us, he is a border governor, and as such should know better.