Have The Glasses Changed Rick Perry’s Stance On Amnesty?

Scott Greer Contributor
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Get ready, America. Another Republican is running for president.

And this one should be a familiar face.

Rick Perry has apparently read the signs for a 2016 bid and seen a more favorable outcome than his disastrous 2012 run. So what’s changed over the last three years for the former Texas governor?

Well, he now wears glasses … all the time. The formerly spec-free Perry is now as tied to his eyewear as to his thick Texas drawl in what is clearly an attempt to transform himself from a swaggering bro into a knowledgeable policy wonk.

This Hollywood trick might’ve done wonders for the Texas politico as he has managed to convince some that he’s read up on foreign policy, worked on his weaknesses and appears as a viable candidate for 2016 in more than a few eyes.

While Perry appears to be banking on foreign policy to carry him to victory, it seems that issue is shaping up to be everyone versus Rand Paul and it will be difficult for the governor to separate himself from the pack.

With that in mind, the answer to his viability might lie with an issue affecting his home state rather than another part of the globe.

Back in the 2012 primary, immigration served as one of the primary thorns in Perry’s side and he was hit hard for previously signing into law a DREAM Act that gave in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

In one of his many debate lowpoints, Perry defended his 2001 decision by saying that if you who don’t agree with him on granting this benefit to illegals, “I don’t think you have a heart.”

That didn’t go over well with conservatives and the previously resolute governor apologized for his comments a few days later.

Along with his new glasses and foreign policy tutoring, Perry has worked hard to portray himself as a border warrior. During last summer’s surge in illegal border crossings, the governor took off his glasses, donned a flak jacket and patrolled the border in a gun boat with Sean Hannity. He deployed 1,000 National Guardsmen to guard Texas’s border with Mexico and in turn became a prominent voice demanding that the federal government secure the border.

The Texan’s speech at CPAC 2015 was heavily focused on the issue of border security and he said that it must be enforced before the the country deals with the issue of immigration reform. He’s gone on to reiterate this position during media appearances and his campaign website carries an entire section dealing with his record on the border, yet there’s no mention of his support of the DREAM Act anywhere on the site.

Perry has, so far, been unwilling to say what he would do in regards to illegal immigration after the border is secured, as evidenced by this appearance on Fox News’ “The Kelly File.”

But when it comes time for primary debates, he’s likely not going to be able to deflect on it. So it’s worth revisiting his most recent views on immigration reform. During a 2011 primary debate, Perry intimated that he would be in favor of a pathway to citizenship. In April 2013, the then-governor said that America has to bring illegals “out of the shadow of illegality” and indicated he would be in favor of a path to legal status.

But, as my colleague Jamie Weinstein has pointed out, pretty much all of the candidates have at one point or another expressed support for some kind of path to legal status for illegals — even though that idea is opposed by a strong majority of Republican voters.

The problem for Perry — and not for other candidates who have changed their tune on amnesty — is that he actually passed legislation on the matter, campaigned on it and told Republicans that if they oppose it, they don’t have a heart.

Furthermore, he didn’t always take a hardline stance on securing the border, which almost seems to be a requirement of Republican presidential contenders. During the legislative amnesty fight of 2007, Perry said that building a border fence was simply “idiocy” and it “absolutely would not work.”

While a significant number of voters have come to accept candidates changing their positions over time and forgiving past statements they find disagreeable, this former 2012 candidate is going to have a harder time overcoming this obstacle due to the bad impression he made the last time he was on the national stage.

With immigration lurking around as one of the crucial factors in the GOP primary and the party base taking a hawkish stand on it, Perry may have more to worry about than his past difficulty with math.