Texas Gov. Rick Perry with his wife, Anita, at a Black Hawk County Republican… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
Reporting from Clive, Iowa — Texas First Lady Anita Perry launched a vociferous defense of her husband, Rick Perry, on Tuesday evening, arguing that he was being unfairly castigated for his immigration stances.
Perry has faced fire in recent debates about his support for in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants and his opposition to a border fence.
Anita Perry said she had heard much of such criticism in Iowa, and she felt she needed to clarify her husband's position on the matter, saying the state offers the benefit to residents of Texas who have attended a state school for a minimum of three years, have earned a high school degree and are pursuing citizenship.
"It is not a subsidy when you consider Washington has failed to secure the border, has shown no signs of dealing with the millions here illegally," she said, speaking to about 50 people at a Polk County Republican Central Committee gathering. "States like Texas are left with one of two choices -- whether we take care of those populations or they get on welfare, which is greater cost to our taxpayers, or we give them an opportunity to graduate from Texas schools, the opportunity to be a contributing member of society."
She noted that the law passed virtually unanimously, and that her husband had opposed granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, fought against sanctuary cities and just billed the federal government $350 million for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants.
"No one has done more to secure the border, and as president, he is committed to stopping the tide of illegal immigration," she said.
She also asserted that although her husband did not have as "polished" a performance as other candidates in recent debates, he is genuine.
"We have a debater-in-chief right now," she said.
Speaking to reporters afterword, Perry acknowledged that her husband had not fared well in recent debates.
"I think he would tell you the other night was not his best performance, but he's only going to get better," she said. "When you have seven arrows being shot at you and you're one person in the middle, 30 seconds of rebuttal doesn't give you a lot of time."
Perry denied that she was referring to her "good friend Mitt" when she described polish, but she added that comparisons between her husband and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were not fair.
"Gov. Romney's been running for president for four or five years, and that was my husband's third debate … on a national stage. I think it's really unfair to compare them to each other," she said.