Bachmann Takes Aim at Perry's Immigration Record

Having fallen behind him in polls, the Minnesota congresswoman held a rally dedicated to blasting the Texas governor

Michele Bachmann - Jonathan Ernst Reuters - banner.jpg

PERRY, Iowa--In a campaign event billed as the "Bachmann Takes it to Perry Rally," the Minnesota congresswoman did just that - focusing sharp criticism on Texas Governor Rick Perry for his position on illegal immigration and what Rep. Michele Bachmann called "a pattern of issuing executive orders."

Bachmann, who has fallen in the polls when Perry entered the race, acknowledged that today's event was orchestrated to highlight the differences between she and the Texas governor, particularly on the issue of illegal immigration.

"This is Perry, Iowa, and we're taking this issue to Perry, Iowa," she said. "But obviously also it's tongue in cheek, because the governor of Texas had also brought this issue up and was proud of the fact of offering in-state tuition credits to illegal aliens."

Quoting numbers that she said came from the conservative Heritage Foundation, Bachmann told the crowd that illegal immigrant students cost the taxpayers of Texas a total of $44 million dollars, a figure that came from adding up the amount those students would have paid in out-of-state costs, plus the cost of financial aid packages they were given.

"That took very valuable, financial aide away from citizens of Texas who were here legally," Bachmann said.

The issue of illegal immigration has become a flash point in the 2012 election and has tripped up Governor Perry, who continues to stand behind the Texas law and has said that those who disagreed with the plan don't "have a heart" -- a statement he's since said he regretted making.

Bachmann, who told the press that her campaign has heard from several Iowans who are upset about "taxpayer subsidized benefits to illegal aliens," made a point of attacking Perry directly on the issue, something she rarely does on the campaign trail.

"The Mexican government praised the governor of Texas," she told the crowd. "The Mexican government praised Texas for providing these taxpayer subsidies to illegal immigrants. Well, of course they would. Because the American taxpayer was paying for this benefit."

She also went after Perry for the amount of executive orders he has issued while governor of Texas and for his plans to use them as president. Perry has said he would use an executive order to get rid of Obama's health care plan, and recently said he would use executive orders to put his energy plans in place.

"With all due respect to Governor Perry," Bachmann said, "it's naïve to think with an executive order, you can get rid of Obamacare. You can't. Plus it's unconstitutional. And so whether he wants to do an executive order to get rid of Obamacare, which would be ineffective, or an executive order to implement his energy plan, he's wrong."

Prior to speaking to the crowd, Bachmann signed "The Pledge," a declaration of support for the construction of a border fence across the entire U.S. border with Mexico by the end of 2013. She is the first presidential candidate to sign the pledge, which was created by Americans for Securing the Border, a national advocacy group dedicated to stopping illegal immigration into the United States. The group's chairman, Van Hipp, praised the congresswoman for taking the action and called on all of the presidential candidates to follow suit.

Bachmann appears ready to continue pushing the issue of illegal immigration on the campaign trail. On Monday she will travel to Arizona where she'll meet with members of the Arizona legislature and law enforcement. According to reports, she asked for the meeting to learn more about the state's proposed border fence initiative.

Image credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Sarah Huisenga covers the 2012 presidential race for CBS News and National Journal.

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