Rick Perry town hall attendees asked to prove citizenship
Presidential hopeful Rick Perry has had a rough week, and it may have just gotten worse for the Texas governor. (Getty Images)
As the 2012 primary season nears, GOP hopefuls such as Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney continue to ramp up their efforts to reach out to voters by doing interviews on major networks and making appearances around the nation. Yet, as was made glaringly clear during Herman Cain’s recent interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, increased public exposure can be a double-edged sword.
The most recent GOP candidate to find himself in hot water on the campaign trail is Rick Perry, the much embattled Texas governor.
Perry held a town hall-type meeting in New Hampshire on Wednesday, which was open to the public and presumably intended as an opportunity for the governor to gain back some of the support and goodwill that he has steadily lost since hitting an all-time high in the polls in September. However, the meeting, which was held at Granite State Manufacturing, received much more attention than Perry’s camp anticipated when Steve Peoples, a journalist for the Associated Press, reported that a Granite State employee, seated next to a Perry campaign staffer at the entrance to the venue, was asking attendees for proof of citizenship.
“The employee, who refused to give her name, said non-citizens wouldn’t be admitted,” reported Peoples. When he inquired as to why such restrictions were being imposed, Perry campaign officials explained that federal regulations require proof of citizenship since Granite State Manufacturing handles defense contracts.
The Perry campaign later explained that the Granite State employee was mistaken and the company’s facilities manager, Shawn O’Hagan, explained that, per company regulations, non-U.S. citizens must be escorted by an employee of the facility, but “[n]o one would have been refused.”
The backlash from Peoples’ story is already being felt, as many have taken to Twitter to criticize the policies enforced at the town hall meeting, and individuals such as Eve Millona, the executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, referred to the restrictions as “disturbing.”
With immigration policy already a significant thorn in Perry’s side - many conservatives criticize a Texas law that the governor signed which allows some children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates - a controversy like the one arising out of New Hampshire today is the last thing he needs. A recent Univision News/Latino Decisions poll showed that immigration is one of the most important issues to Latino voters, and as Perry and the rest of the GOP candidates know, they cannot win without significant Latino voter support.