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Rick Perry had a better option on in-state tuition for illegal aliens

In 2001, Rick Perry signed a law letting some illegal aliens get in-state tuition. That law undermines the concept of citizenship: it lets illegal aliens deprive some U.S. citizens of college (see the DREAM Act page for an illustration of how that works).

Now that the law is coming up in the the GOP primary, Perry likes to pretend that he had to choose between giving illegal aliens in-state tuition and those illegal aliens going on the dole. That's a false choice, as I'll explain below. Perry had another option which would have been better not just for the U.S. but for countries like Mexico. So far, few have suggested that option in the Perry case and - of course - no one in the mainstream media or at debates is going to bring it up because their agenda isn't oriented towards what's best overall.

First, here's one example of what Perry says about the bill he signed, from yesterday in New Hampshire (link):

"In 2001, we had this choice: Are we going to kick these children over to the curb and say you cannot have access to college? Because the fact of the matter is there’s no way they could pay the out-of-state tuition. And are we going to have them on the government dole over here because they’re not educated? Or are we going to have them in our institutions of higher learning, paying in state tuition, pursuing citizenship?"

One unworkable alternative (both as policy and politics) is what Perry mentions: to say that illegal aliens should remain in the U.S. but they should just be required to pay the out-of-state rate [2]. Problems with that include:

* those illegal aliens would remain in Texas,
* it would encourage more illegal immigration rather than discouraging it,
* some of them would be able to pay the full rate and would take college slots from U.S. citizens,
* most of them would probably not be able to pay the full rate and would end up in a potentially restive permanent underclass of some kind.

So, if Perry were truly forced to choose between educating illegal aliens and keeping them out of college, then he made the better choice.

However, Rick Perry didn't have to make that choice: he had another option.

The barely-mentioned other option would be related to attrition: encouraging those illegal aliens to return home and get educations in their home countries. Those home countries may offer them low-cost or even free educations, and that way they won't stay here and deprive some U.S. citizens of college.

Attrition might also be augmented with some form of very tightly-controlled repatriation program if necessary: giving illegal aliens a small amount of money towards their educations in their home countries provided that they stay there. If it includes a repatriation program there would be a certain amount of fraud, so it would have to be designed correctly and by those who aren't conflicted by economic, political, or ethnocentric issues.

Perry could have pressured his friends in the Mexican government to take back their citizens. At the same time he could pressure Washington DC to do their job just as Jan Brewer does today. He could have made the arguments on the DREAM Act and skilled immigration pages to discredit those who enable illegal immigration and who supported Texas' bill. If he and his proxies had forcefully made those arguments, it would not have been difficult at all for him to marginalize those who'd oppose him over the issue.

Some of the benefits of the policy idea most haven't heard of include:

* Perry would have prevented illegal aliens from depriving some citizens of college and showed his support for the U.S. Constitution, specifically the parts relating to citizenship.

* Perry would have helped foreign countries (such as Mexico) which need all the smart people they can get. Rather than continuing to brain drain Mexico and other countries, Perry could have helped reverse the flow.

* Perry would have helped reduce illegal immigration rather that doing what he did: encourage more of it by giving illegal aliens yet another benefit.

As for why Perry did what he did rather than choosing the better policy, a small part of it might be because actually coming up with good policies isn't his forte. However, a major part of it is probably political: he was pandering to illegal aliens and any of their voting relatives. Plus, opposing illegal immigration would put him in conflict with George W Bush; Perry became Texas governor when Bush won the election in 2000, and surely Perry was aware how much of a supporter of immigration from Mexico Bush is. And, of course, a major part is no doubt money: massive immigration is good for those who back people like Rick Perry.

Whatever the reason, Perry had another option. It's one that neither he nor the media will mention, so it's up to you to do that. When you see a reporter simply repeating what Perry says about this issue, call them on not calling Perry on other options he had in this issue. Even better, find an experienced lawyer and have them use the question authority plan to really press Perry on this at one of his public appearances.

Sun, 10/02/2011 - 10:34 · Importance: 5