Perry vs. Obama: Inside the politics of immigration

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 10, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The only question at this point is, why wouldn't the Texas delegation, or any of the other Republicans who are concerned about this, not want to put this on a fast track and get it on my desk so I can sign it and we can start getting to work.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is a problem of the president's own making. He's been president for five-and-a-half years. When's he going to take responsibility for something?

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS: I think you could have 1,000 National Guard troops on the border -- the message sent well before that -- but in 30 days actually have them in place, and the message would be overpowering back to Central America that you no longer can put your kid on a train, put them on a bus, send them up with a coyote, and have them come into the United States because that border is now secure.


DOUG MCKELWAY, GUEST HOST: One thing you can say about Texas Governor Rick Perry is that he succeeded in getting the president to have this meeting over the crisis at the border even if he didn't succeed in getting him to go to the border. 

But he brings himself front and center to the national stage over this issue again. And for a guy who's got his toe in the water of the 2016 presidential campaign, he brings some liabilities as well as a lot of benefits.

Let's bring in our panel now, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, Elise Viebeck, staff writer for The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Juan, let's start with you. Let's talk about some of those liabilities that he brings.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, obviously, he did not prove to be quite the tough candidate in the last go-around and fell out early, and actually fell out over this immigration issue, if you recall.  He was the Republican who said that he thought that there should be in-state tuition and the like for children of immigrants.

MCKELWAY: Juan, we have that sound bite from a debate 2011. Let's listen up.


PERRY: If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart.


MCKELWAY: Much like Jeb Bush's comment that this is an act of love.

WILLIAMS: Exactly. And, you know what, much like, remember, Marco Rubio, who, of course, is closely tied and somewhat damaged by his support for immigration reform in the Senate. That hurt him with some of the hard- liners who oppose immigration reform and see it as amnesty.


ELISE VIEBECK, STAFF WRITER, THE HILL: I think it's interesting. Rick Perry, what he needs to do is boost his policy and intellectual chops at this point. That was what was lacking for him in the last cycle. And if he can move in that direction that would benefit him as he seeks to either climb the establishment or the conservative ladder.

Now, I'm not sure what's going on at the border right now gives him those credentials, frankly. He is standing up to President Obama, which is popular with the base, but he has a lot more work to do, particularly to regain his credibility with the national media, which still has it in for him, we have to say.

MCKELWAY: Charles, to his benefit, there's a new "Harper's" poll that came out that said 71 percent of Republicans would rather vote for a presidential candidate that backs immigration reform to 15 percent who prefer a reform foe.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: First of all, I think what's really helped him the most are the eyeglasses. He looks like a male librarian. I think he's great.

Look, I don't think the poll means anything. Reform could mean anything. Reform could mean strengthening the border. So to say 70 percent of Republicans want to support a candidate who backs reform, unless you tell me the content of the reform I don't think it tells us much.

I do think that what we don't quite remember is that towards the end of the primaries after the implosion in that debate where he couldn't remember the three points, he did fairly well when the spotlight came off him and he was no longer the frontrunner. He conducted himself fairly well in the subsequent debates, and he came out not bad.

So I think he is positioned right now by at least being visually out there in a kind of a photo-op toe- to-toe with the president on immigration and defending the border. I think that's helped him a bit. If he wants, he could be one of the major candidates.

MCKELWAY: Back to this issue of the supplemental $3.7 billion that the president wants Congress to approve for the border security problem.  Listen to Senator Richard Shelby who commented on this and how this money will be divvied up.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, R-ALA.: While the president is seeking billions for the admission, detention, and care of illegal children and adults, only -- yes, only $45.4 million is my understanding is requested for the Department of Justice's adjudication and immigration proceedings.


MCKELWAY: Juan, that's a drop in the bucket of $3.7 billion.

WILLIAMS: Right. And so what you have to ask him, I think that's the concern up on the Hill, Doug, is what's this money going for? We don't want to write a blank check. And of course you're going to authorize the White House to make a lot of these decisions on this emergency basis. They say it's for not only added judges in terms of what the Justice Department would get, but you also need then people who would be court security, court personnel. You need people who would handle deportation, you need to transport people who are not being allowed to stay but are being deported back.

MCKELWAY: But there are so many skeptics who say even if the president devoted billions and billions of dollars for border enforcement, one wonders whether or not they would be used at all. I harken back to the testimony well over a year ago of Chris Crane who is the head of the ICE unit who said this about border enforcement. Again, keep in mind that this is well over a year ago.


CHRIS CRANE, NATIONAL ICE COUNCIL PRESIDENT: As our officers are investigated by ICE for enforcing U.S. immigration law, as they see other officers threatened with suspensions for making lawful arrests, increasingly the officers feel they have become the enemy of this administration which certainly is not a healthy sign for any law enforcement organization.


MCKELWAY: Charles, things have not improved since he said that.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think everybody here is missing the point, especially the president when he talks about this supplemental $3.7 billion. If you look at it, as Shelby indicated, this is almost entirely money that will be spent to absorb the refugees, or the illegal immigrants, if you like. This is going to do absolutely nothing to either reverse the influx, or to prevent further influx. You can get all the judges you want. These kids are not going to show up at the deportation hearings. Everybody understands that.

The problem is the 2008 law, which the president said he would get changed, that's the law that makes an exception of Central Americans. If you're a Mexican kid apprehended at the border, you get returned immediately. The Central Americans are treated differently because of an obscure law that was intended for sex trafficking. Unless that law is changed, this crisis will continue. Everybody understands that. This supplemental is a distraction, it's a red herring, it's a non-sequitur. The problem is change the law. Only the president has the power --

WILLIAMS: But I don't know how it could be a red herring, Charles, if at the moment you have 50,000-plus people now, who are making appeals. That's not a red herring, that's a reality.

KRAUTHAMMER: You have to deal with the --

WILLIAMS: That's why Republicans say there is a crisis at the border.

KRAUTHAMMER: You have to deal with the fact at the border of the U.S. and Mexico today has as much about reality as the border between Iraq --

WILLIAMS: It's not Mexican kids, as you just pointed out. These are Central American kids who are in a crisis. Rick Perry said to the president, he should act without congressional approval, which I thought politically was dangerous for Rick Perry to say, as you know, the Congress thinks that the president acts with an imperial manner anyway.

KRAUTHAMMER: He can't and he shouldn't, but he could propose a change in the law. He said he would.

WILLIAMS: He proposed comprehensive immigration reform.

MCKELWAY: And is the president going to let that stand as it is?

VIEBECK: I think he will. But in fact there are two efforts in Congress to reform the 2008 law that Charles alluded to. And in fact that's likely to be attached to the passage of the supplemental.

KRAUTHAMMER: Where is the president on that?

VIEBECK: He said last night that in fact he would support that.

KRAUTHAMMER: But why isn't it in the package then?

VIEBECK: Well, that's a good question. But Congressional Republicans are going to take care of that for him.

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