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Vegas debate: Romney, Perry trade jabs over immigration

October 18, 2011|By Kim Geiger
  • Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, and Rick Perry, right, participate in the CNN-Western Republican Leadership Conference debate at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, and Rick Perry,… (Michael Nelson / EPA )

Things got heated in Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate when Rick Perry, who seemed determined to pick a fight with Mitt Romney, steered the conversation to immigration and Romney's ties to a company that employed illegal immigrants.

"The idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you're strong on immigration, is on its face the height of hypocrisy," Perry said as he turned to face Romney.

The accusation -- based on a 2006 Boston Globe report that Romney had hired a landscaping company that employed illegal immigrants -- sparked a heated exchange between the two.

"It's been a couple of tough debates for Rick," Romney said. "And I understand that. So you're going to get testy."

Turning to the immigration topic, Romney accused Perry of luring illegal immigrants to Texas by allowing their children to pay in-state tuition at Texas colleges.

"You said I don't want to build a fence," Romney said. "You talk about magnets -- you put in place a magnet."

Perry fired back: "You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property.? The idea that you can sit here and talk about any of us having an immigration issue is beyond me. I've always been against amnesty. You, on the other hand, were for amnesty."

Returning to the issue of the landscaping company, Romney said that when it was pointed out to him that the company had hired illegal immigrants, "we let them go."

(The Boston Globe, however, reported in Dec. 2007 that Romney was still using the company.)

Romney went on to lecture Perry on debate etiquette: "You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking," he said. "And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you got to let both people speak."

Back to the immigration issue, Romney got candid: "So we went to the company and we said, look, you can't  have any illegals working on our property. That's -- I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals. It turns out that once again they hired someone who had falsified their documents -- and therefore we fired them."

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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