Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, was attacked by opponents in a debate Monday night for signing into law a bill that gave in-state tuition rates to some students who lack documentation to reside legally in the United States. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said, "Well, I mean, what Governor Perry's done is he provided in-state tuition for -- for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote -- I mean, the Latino voters." And Rep. Michele Bachmann said, "I think that the American way is not to give taxpayer subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws or who are here in the United States illegally. That is not the American way," according to a CNN transcript.
Perry defended the legislation. "In the state of Texas, if you've been in the state of Texas for three years, if you're working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there," he said. "And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that's what we've done in the state of Texas. And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole." (The audience booed him.)
Bachmann also said that the legislation Perry signed was equivalent to federal legislation backed by President Obama (but blocked in Congress by Republicans) that would create a path to citizenship for such students. (Both state and federal bills have been commonly called DREAM acts, but state laws cover tuition policy.) Perry stressed that he does not back the federal law. "I'm not for the DREAM Act that they are talking about in Washington D.C. that is amnesty. What we did in the state of Texas was clearly a states right issue."
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