Texas Governor Perry caused a sensation last week when he told Americans who oppose in-state tuition for illegal aliens, “I don’t think you have a heart.” Perry’s vigorous defense of this policy in Texas opens up serious questions about his position on the federal DREAM Act and his support for amnesty. Some pundits see Perry’s “lenient” attitude toward illegal immigration (he also opposes a border fence and E-Verify) will prove to be an advantage in a national Presidential race, particularly among Hispanic voters, if Perry can make it through the Republican primary.
The supposition that granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens is popular with the general voting public, however, is not supported by polling data. A February 2011 poll by the University of Texas at Austin found that registered voters in Texas oppose in-state tuition for illegal aliens 59% to 27%. That includes 43% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans, and 55% of Independents. Nationally, the situation is even worse for Perry. A Rasmussen poll, taken only a month ago, revealed that 81% of likely U.S. voters oppose in-state tuition for illegal aliens with a paltry 12% in favor.
Perry signed the in-state tuition bill into law a decade ago, and he has not had to answer for it much since then. But Governor Perry had to know that this question would be put to him in a presidential race, yet, he seemed ill-prepared to answer and apparently unaware that his position was so unpopular with American voters. Denigrating those who disagree with you is impolitic, but alienating the vast majority of the electorate is not smart politics. As Politico noted after the fallout from his comments became clear, Governor Perry’s campaign has hit an immigration roadblock.