CEDAR RAPIDS — America needs to have a conversation about how to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants living in this country, but “it will not be amnesty in any form or fashion,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry promised Iowans Nov. 29.
The border state governor’s hard line on illegal immigration won him the endorsement of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has built a reputation for rounding up thousands of undocumented visitors to Arizona for deportation.
Arpaio, who is referred to as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” called Perry “the only governor that really knows about the border.” He praised Perry’s commitment of $400 million in resources including deploying Texas Rangers, Department of Public Safety and National Guard troops along the Texas-Mexico border to stop trafficking in people, drugs and weapons.
Perry, who asked for Iowans’ support in the Jan. 3 first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, said he is the “only candidate with a record of addressing border security.”
Arpaio went further, calling Perry “the only one running for president who knows where Mexico is.”
Arpaio, who campaigned with Perry in New Hampshire Tuesday, made his comments in a conference call with what the campaign said were 15,000 “likely Iowa caucusgoers,” both Republicans and independents.
The Arpaio endorsement was Perry’s attempt to capitalize on an opening on the issue of illegal immigration. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s recently suggested the need for a legalization process for immigrants who have been in the country at least 25 years. Local panels would decide who was a good citizen and who should be deported, he said.
Perry, who got into trouble with conservatives for supporting tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants, pounced on Gingrich’s comment. Perry said he supports tough state laws that give local law enforcement new powers to combat illegal immigration.
He also drew a sharp contrast with President Obama’s policy on illegal immigration, which Perry characterized as “catch and release,” and promised to detain and deport any illegal immigrant apprehended by law enforcement.
During the call, Perry also talked about the need to overhaul Washington. Replacing one “Washington insider with another Washington insider” won’t get the job done, he said.
He took a handful of questions from Iowans and promised to be back in the state soon.
Perry state chairman Bob Haus said Perry’s wife, Anita, will be in Iowa next week and a December bus tour will be announced soon.
“We’ll be all over the state regardless of rain sleet or snow,” Haus promised.
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