Texas Governor Rick Perry found himself hard-pressed to defend his immigration policies during the Google/Fox News debate in Orlando, Florida, on September 22.
Most of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who were on the stage attacked Perry for allowing illegal immigrants who were brought to Texas as children to receive in-state college tuition.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said Perry is “soft on illegal immigration” and said the in-state tuition allowance amounted to “preferential treatment.” Congressman Ron Paul of Texas said he believes in “no free education” for illegal immigrants.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney both referred to the tuition policy as a “magnet” for illegal immigrants.
In response, Perry said all children must be educated or they wil become a “drag on society.”
“If you say we should not educate children who come into our state by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” Perry said.
The crowd booed Perry’s remarks. Participants in a post-debate focus group said his “heart” comment was “disgusting,” according to The New York Times.
Among other immigration matters addressed, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said he would modernize the U.S. visa system.