Updated, 10 a.m. 11/29/11:
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry, hoping to win back voters who think he's weak on illegal immigration, is promising to detain and deport every illegal border crosser if elected president.
Perry made the remarks right after picking up the endorsement of Joe Arpaio, the tough-talking sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Texas Democrats attacked Perry for campaigning with Arpaio, calling him "one of the most xenophobic figures in the country."
But Perry isn't worried about Democrats right now. The governor has come under fire from conservatives for his moderate views on immigration, and his campaign is hoping that Arpaio's support will help erase their doubts.
Appearing with Arpaio at Joey's Diner in Amherst, the Texas governor took aim at a "horrific policy" that he says allows nonviolent immigrants to be released.
"My policy will be to detain and to deport every illegal alien that we apprehend. That is how we stop that issue,” Perry said. "And we’ll do it with expedited hearings, so that millions of illegal immigrants are not released into the general population until a hearing date’s set several weeks or months later, as we see today."
Perry said he was against any type of "amnesty" for illegal immigrants already here, but he held out the possibility that Congress would enact reforms that offered some type of legal status to them.
“We have to identify everybody that’s here, and there’s going to be an appropriate discussion in Congress on how to deal with an individual who has been here maybe for some long period of time," Perry said. "Amnesty is not on the table period. ... The idea that we’re going to tell people that somehow or another that that’s all forgiven is not going to happen. How we deal with them is a conversation. I don’t know if I know all the answers. I want to talk to the American people.”
Perry found himself on the defensive when retired nurse Alice Bury of Amherst, N.H., asked him about his support for providing in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants who do well in high school. Perry told Bury he would not seek to impose that policy on other states.
And he apologized profusely — again — for suggesting previously that opponents of the policy had no heart.
"I said in a debate something that was very inappropriate and I said people were heartless, and that was an absolutely inappropriate thing to say," Perry said. "I understand your concern about the issue of illegal immigration and that was absolutely an incorrect thing for me to say."
Bury said after the event that Perry's support for the policy disappointed her and that she was leaning toward former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Arpaio heaped praise on Perry during their first joint appearance in Amherst.
"One reason I like him [is] because he’s been fighting this battle as the governor. He doesn’t just talk about it," Arpaio said. "He does something about it."
Arpaio was asked if he agreed with Perry's position on in-state tuition. Arpaio said Perry had adequately explained his views, but the sheriff signaled he had a different one.
"My philosophy is that if you are in this country illegally, you should be deported," Arpaio said. "I've been keeping that promise and taking a lot of heat for it, but I'm not changing. I'm going back to Phoenix tomorrow to lock up some more illegal aliens."
He said it made no difference how long immigrants have resided in the United States: "If you're here illegally, then you're here illegally," he said.
Arpaio was met with cheers and support at the event in Amherst. But later, at a town hall event at Saint Anslem College in Manchester, he was greeted with a boo from one member of the audience when he began speaking.
Arpaio seemed surprised by the reaction.
"Is someone booing out there?" he said.
After the event was over, Arpaio, a controversial figure who has sparked a federal civil rights investigation over conditions in his jails, shrugged.
"I got one boo," Arpaio said. "I usually get 100 boos. This is nothing."
Texas Democrats attacked Perry for campaigning with Arpaio. Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said Perry was "getting in bed with one of the most xenophobic figures in the country."
"This reeks of desperation from Rick Perry," Acuña said. "Perry's made it clear he's willing to do anything to appease the extremists in his party even if it means throwing Hispanics under the bus."
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry, after riling conservatives with his moderate stand on illegal immigration, will hit the campaign trail Tuesday with the Arizona's immigration hardliner who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff.”
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will endorse Perry in the morning and appear at town hall gatherings later in the day, officials say. The events are aimed at shoring up flagging support from rank-and-file Republican voters and from
Tea Party activists who think he’s out of step with their views on illegal immigration.
For most of his career in statewide elected office, Perry has taken a relatively soft approach to dealing with illegal immigrants once they have crossed into the United States.
Perry famously broke with Arizona, for example, on that state’s proposal to require local police officers to inquire about the immigration status of people they detain. He has also opposed the border fence and has expressed support in the past for guest-worker programs that would allow Mexican nationals to legally work in the country.
But Perry’s support of giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements has cost him the most during the 2012 presidential race. Perry made Texas the first state in the nation to adopt such a policy when he signed a law establishing it in 2001.
That made the governor vulnerable on the issue from the outset, but then Perry doubled down during a televised debate in Orlando in September, when he suggested that opponents of the policy were heartless. He later apologized, but the remarks contributed to his downward slide in public opinion polls, and he has never recovered.
Perry was among several presidential candidates who had courted an endorsement from Arpaio, who is known for making inmates wear pink panties and suffer the stifling Arizona heat in makeshift tent jails. Arpaio is no stranger to his own controversies at home, but he has endeared himself to anti-immigration hawks who like his tough approach.
Arpaio endorsed Romney in 2008, and he threw his support behind another Texas governor, George W. Bush, in 2000.
In a September interview with The Texas Tribune, Arpaio signaled he was open to endorsing Perry in the 2012 race, saying, “I kinda like the guy.” Arpaio spent the early part of his career in federal law enforcement in San Antonio and said he could identify with elected officials who have hands-on border experience.
“I kind of have a soft spot for Texas,” Arpaio said.
But the sheriff also indirectly criticized Perry’s oft-repeated stand on immigration reform — that there’s no reason to talk about it until law enforcement stops illegal traffic along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“You have to talk about immigration reform at the same time you’re talking about the border,” Arpaio said.