MSNBC Anchor Calls Rick Perry's Moderate Immigration Record an 'Aggressive Stance'

August 16th, 2011 2:42 PM

For MSNBC, Gov. Rick Perry's (R-Texas) record of enforcing existing law, protecting the border, and implementing "only a limited version" of the DREAM Act constitutes an "aggressive stance" on immigration that "may cost him some votes" in the Hispanic community, even though Perry's position on the DREAM Act is considered moderate within the Republican Party.

MSNBC fill-in anchor Craig Melvin on Tuesday quoted a Democratic mayor in Texas who called Perry's record "easily the most anti-Latino agenda in more than a generation" and brought on an adviser for the National Council for La Raza (NCLR) to criticize the presidential contender.

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Revealing his political leanings, Melvin derided the Obama administration's Secure Communities program, which facilitates information-sharing between local and federal authorities, as a "very controversial program." In other words, equipping government with the tools to enforce existing immigration law is simply a bridge too far.

The NCLR's Lisa Navarrete spent most of the segment wondering which Perry will "show up" to the 2012 race, an implicit admission that Perry's record may not necessarily be as extreme as Melvin contended.

Hardly a right-wing measure, the version of the DREAM Act that Perry signed into law in 2001 gives foreign-born children of illegal aliens the right to apply for in-state college tuition.

To his credit, the daytime anchor pointed out that "Hispanic business in Texas has boomed by most accounts during Perry's governorship."

A transcript of the segment can be found below:

August 16, 2011

11:48 a.m. Eastern

CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC anchor: Texas Governor Rick Perry comes from a state where nearly 38 percent of the population is Latino, but his aggressive stance on immigration may cost him some votes in his own backyard, should he get the nomination. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, supports only a limited version of the DREAM Act, and he's also spent some $400 million reinforcing border security. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro called his initiatives "Easily the most anti-Latino agenda in more than a generation, without shame." Joined now by Lisa Navarrete, member of the National Council for La Raza. Would you agree with that characterization, Lisa?

LISA NAVARRETE, National Council for La Raza: Well definitely more recently. I think a lot will depend on which Rick Perry shows up in this presidential election. You know, last year he spoke, he was an important voice saying that Arizona-style legislation was not the right direction for Texas yet just earlier this year he introduced legislation in the emergency session which mimicked a lot of the provisions of that bill. You know, he's talked about, at our conference, and he's talked about, at the NALEO conference just a couple of months ago, about how integral Hispanics are to Texas' economy and its future. But, you know, on the other hand, he has a voter ID bill that will prevent a lot of them from being able to vote. So it's a question of who shows up.

MELVIN: Well the Perry campaign has also touted the fact that 37 percent of all new jobs in this country since 2009 have been created in Texas. Hispanic business in Texas has boomed by most accounts during Perry's governorship. Will Hispanic voters look at his record on jobs or will they look at his record on immigration when they head to the ballot box?

NAVARRETE: Well they're going to look at both and I think it will be an indicator on jobs. You know, Hispanic businesses are actually booming all over the country so Texas isn't necessarily unique in that regard. But for us, you know, for Latinos, like everyone else, jobs are the number one issue. But immigration is critically important and for the first time this year, because of Arizona and similar legislation across the country, immigration has vaulted to the top of the concerns of the Latino community. That has never happened before in the history of the poll-taking of this community.

MELVIN: Today protests scheduled in six major cities, including Chicago, calling for the end President Obama's Secure Communities program, a very controversial program, a federal immigration enforcement program that shares information between police and immigration officials. In an Obama-Perry match up, should that happen, who would come out on top in the wake of these protests and Perry's record on immigration, do you think?

NAVARRETE: You know, that's really still to be decided. I mean, I think certainly President Obama has supported the notion of comprehensive immigration reform. But as you mentioned, there are serious concerns about his administration's enforcement policies, the record number of deportations that have happened. But, you know, versus Perry who has not agreed to having a path to citizenship, a path to legal status, for the 13 million undocumented in this country. So it's a real question on immigration. We're not in a good place, unfortunately.

MELVIN: Lisa Navarrete, Lisa, thank you.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.