In one of the more heated moments of the Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla., last week, several of the candidates took turns criticizing Texas Gov. Rick Perry for giving undocumented immigrants college tuition breaks.
“If you say that we should not educate children that have come into our state for no other reason that they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” he said, defending the bill he signed in 2001 that allows undocumented students who’ve graduated from a Texas high school and who have lived there for three years to pay in-state tuition at the state’s public universities.
Rep. Michele Bachmann is among the chorus of critics, and she’s using aspects of Perry’s immigration record to fundraise.
“Perry was the first governor in America to give in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants and said to America that if you disagree… You don’t have a heart,” Bachmann wrote in a fundraising email over the weekend, according to the Huffington Post. “For too long, Washington has turned a blind eye to immigration and as President I will put an end to that.”
It turns out that Bachmann voted for a similar measure in 2005 while serving in the Minnesota Senate. The language, which was included in a larger higher education funding bill, would have allowed students who had attended a Minnesota high school for three years or more, had graduated and had enrolled in public Minnesota college to pay in-state tuition.
During debate of the bill, Bachmann spoke in support of an amendment that would have required such students to be legal residents as well.
“Is citizenship a privilege, or is it a right?” she asked on May 5, 2005, the day the chamber debated the bill. “It seems like the understanding we’ve always had in this nation is that citizenship is a privilege for those who are not born in this nation… This [bill] is affirmatively having our state make a new decision about citizenship. And really by doing this, we are answering that citizenship is now a right as opposed to a privilege.”
She voted for the amendment, which failed.
But when it came time to vote on final school funding bill, Bachmann was one of 63 senators who voted in favor of the legislation; three lawmakers, including two Republicans, opposed the bill.
Later that day, the Senate replaced the House’s bill – which did not include the tuition language – with its version of the legislation; again Bachmann voted in favor of the bill.
Ultimately, the language was stripped in conference committee, so it never became law.
The following year, Bachmann voted against another bill that would have allowed undocumented students to get in-state tuition.
Perry and Bachmann appeal to similar voters, namely those who are evangelical Christians and those who identify with tea party ideals, making the Texas governor Bachmann’s most obvious opponent during the primaries.
So, Bachmann’s been highlighting other aspects of Perry’s record on immigration to set herself apart.
For instance, Perry’s opposed to building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. For her part, Bachmann says she “would build a fence… on every yard, on every foot, on every inch of the southern border.”