Perry, Romney engage in fiery exchange over illegal immigration

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney got into a fiery exchange over illegal immigration during Tuesday night’s CNN/Western Republican Leadership Conference debate in Las Vegas.

“Mitt, you lose all of your standing from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year and the idea that you stand here before us and talk about your strong record on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy,” Perry said.

“Rick, I don’t think that I ever hired an illegal in your life,” Romney responded.

As Romney attempted to finish his answer, Perry pounced, preventing Romney from completing his rebuttal.

“You just going to keep talking or are you going to let me finish what I am trying to say?” Romney asked, appealing for debate moderator Anderson Cooper to step in.

Romney then jabbed Perry on what many perceive has his poor debate performances to date.

“It’s been a tough couple of debates for Rick and I understand that,” Romney said. (RELATED: Candidates attack Cain and his ‘9-9-9’ plan)

When given the opportunity to speak, Romney attempted to draw a comparison between his record on immigration to Perry’s.

“I took the action of empowering our state police to enforce immigration laws,” Romney said. “When you were governor you said, ‘I don’t want to build a fence,’ you put in place a magnet… that draws illegals into the state, which is giving $100,000 of tuition credit to illegals.”

“If there is someone who has a record as governor with regards to illegal immigration that doesn’t stand up to muster, it’s you, not me,” Romney added.

Perry said Romney was lying.

“You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property and the newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention and you still a year later had those individuals working for you,” Perry replied. “The idea that you can sit here and talk about any of us having an immigration issue is beyond me. I’ve got a strong policy, I have always been against amnesty. You, on the other hand, were for amnesty.”

Romney attempted to explain that he hired a lawn company that hired illegals when Perry attempted to inject himself again.

“You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking,” Romney declared.

After the other candidates weighed in on the immigration debate, Romney took another jab at Perry, saying that his argument that his experience of dealing with immigration as governor of Texas prepared him for doing it on the federal level was like a college coach who lost 40 games arguing that he now has the experience to go to the NFL.

Perry hit back, again brining up Romney’s past hiring of illegal immigrants as the crowd booed.