POLITICS

In pre-debate, Rick Perry vows to secure the border, expand fence

Republican presidential candidate former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, speaks during a pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015,  in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the primetime debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republican presidential candidate former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, speaks during a pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the primetime debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made it clear late Thursday afternoon that he believes that he is the only presidential candidate that has the experience and the plan to secure the United States' southern border.

Speaking during Fox News Channel's pre-debate forum alongside six other candidates who didn't make the cut for the prime time debate, Perry said that Americans are tired of hearing candidates being asked what they are going to do about immigrants entering the country illegally and instead wants to hear about solutions to that problem.

"The border is still not secure," Perry told the small crowd gathered inside Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. "If you elect me president of the United States, I will secure the southern border."

Perry outlined a series of steps he would take to secure the U.S.'s border with Mexico, including stepping up security along the border, expanding the fence along the border and having aerial surveillance from "Tijuana to El Paso to Brownsville, Texas."

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also voiced his opinion on immigration reform in the U.S. – taking what could arguably be described as the most hardline stance of any Republican candidate by saying that  he did not mind breaking up immigrant families if some of their members had come to the country illegally.

"We're going to do something about reducing immigration by 25 percent," Santorum said.

The former Pennsylvania lawmaker's came alongside a personal anecdote about his own father, who had to wait in Italy while his father worked in the U.S. before being allowed to enter the country.

Early in the debate, Fox News Channel moderators tackled an issue that is perceived by many as the white elephant in the room: Donald Trump.

Trump, who is currently the front-runner in the packed Republican field and has dominated headlines since he made comments about undocumented immigrants during his campaign launch in June, has helped shape many of the talking points in the GOP field.

Perry, who has sparred more than other Republican candidate with the real estate mogul, admitted that he had his issues with Trump and added that Trump seems to be running his campaign more on his household name status than on the issues.

"He's an individual who uses his celebrity rather than conservatism," Perry said.

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, also questioned Trump's apparent flip-flopping on issues such as abortion and immigration and his close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton," she asked jokingly of her fellow candidates.

But Fiorina also said Trump has tapped into an anger felt by voters sick of politics as usual.

Trump will be at center stage during the prime time debate starting at 9 p.m.

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

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