Texas Republican Lawmaker Leo Berman Claims Rick Perry Broke His Promise on Immigration

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Governor Rick Perry and State Representative Leo Berman have a history on the issue of immigration, and it ain't pretty. I've got a detailed timeline below — here's the short version so we can get to the recent news:

Months ago, Berman had said he would run for governor unless Rick Perry met four of his demands, including at least two specific ones on immigration. Perry agreed to Berman's demands, and Berman stepped out of the Governor's race on July 4. The two held a press conference together, and stuck side-by-side throughout the primary. At one point, Berman went out of his way to attack Debra Medina on Perry's behalf, to help Perry shore up his conservative base. It is very likely that, had Leo Berman stayed in the race, Perry would have never made it out of the Republican primary without a runoff.

And now, Leo is angry. And you don't want to see Leo angry.

Berman is claiming Rick Perry broke his promise on immigration. From Capitol Inside “Key Legislator Says Perry Going Back on His Word with Stand Against Illegal Immigration Reform Plans” (subscription only):

State Rep. Leo Berman told Capitol Inside that Perry had pledged to him personally last year to take a tougher stand on illegal immigration in a move that prompted the Tyler Republican to cancel a race for governor that he'd been planning and to endorse the incumbent instead

Berman, an 11-year House veteran who decided to seek another term after dropping his plans to run statewide, said Perry had vowed before the legislator pitched his support to him to issue an executive order instructing all state agency heads to clear the rolls of all immigrants who were in the country illegally. Berman said that Perry had yet to live up to that specific promise while suggesting that the governor had gone back on his word in general by coming out against legislation to crack down on illegal immigration into the state.

“That really disappoints me because he made a pledge to me,” Berman said in a telephone interview from Switzerland where he's vacationing when told about the governor's opposition to legislation in Texas that would mirror the new Arizona law. “It's hard for me to imagine that the governor would say something like that.”

Perry went back on his promise when Berman was out of the state? Harsh. Remember, it was no more than five days ago that Perry appeared alongside Berman to present an “Honorary Texan” award to Glenn Beck — someone who once pretended to pour gasoline on John Q. Public and light a fire to protest the idea that President Obama would consider immigration reform.

Rick Perry's hypocrisy is nothing new, of course. Courtesy of the TDP's Microsite, The Other 49%, we get a video from the Perry-Hutchison campaign that reminds us of Perry's history of talking out of both sides of his mouth. From “Hutchison on Perry Hypocrisy”:

With the primary over, is Rick Perry once again talking out of both sides of his mouth? This time, about immigration?

To see a full timeline of the Leo Berman and Rick Perry back-and-forth, click below the fold. Additional resources below:

  • May 25, 2009 – Rep. Leo Berman gives a video interview to the Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe announcing his intention to file for Governor on July 4. (Source: Houston Chronicle, “Anti-illegal immigration lawmaker to run for governor”). In the video, Leo lays out why he'd run:

    “I want to run for governor because there's one major problem in this state that no one seems to be addressing, and in of fact they are completely avoiding it, and that was quite evident in this legislative session as well, and that's the question of illegal aliens in Texas.”

  • June 11, 2009 – Berman lays out specific terms for which he'd drop his consideration of running for Governor and endorse Perry. (Source: Austin American-Statesman, “UPDATED: Berman could drop bid for governor if Perry embraces ideas combating illegal immigration.” Those terms included:

    —Take steps to ensure that Texas police officers are offered training to have the legal ability to ask detainees if they’re legal U.S. residents. Berman said such training through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could take place in Austin.

    —Join forces with other states whose legislatures have approved resolutions stressing state sovereignty in accord with the U.S. Constitution in committing to go to federal court against any federal laws in violation of states’ sovereignty as soon as such laws win congressional approval.

    —Commit to Texas filing a friend-of-the-court brief in what Berman described as a lawsuit Montana is expected to file later this year combating federal regulation of intra-state commerce. As an example of why he believes this is a concern, Berman recapped legislation he unsuccessfully offered during the 2009 regular legislative session intended to bar federal interference in the sale of guns and ammunition made in Texas exclusively for use in Texas.

    —Send out an executive order or memo to state agencies directing them to ensure that no illegal residents receive state benefits. Berman said he recognizes that public school, in-state college tuition and health care couldn’t be denied without changes in law. But, he said, other benefits such as Food Stamps and job-training offerings could be leashed.

  • June 12, 2009 – The following day, writing in First Reading, Statesman writer Jason Embry made the following observation about Perry and Berman's potential deal:

    It will be interesting to see how Perry responds here. Nobody wants to be seen getting told what to do by a state rep who, at best, is a longshot to win the governor’s race. On the other hand, if Berman does get in the race, at this point he appears more likely to take votes away from Perry than from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. And so I would think it’s in Perry’s interest to keep Berman out of the race.

  • July 4, 2009 – Berman officially drops out of the race and endorses Perry. From the Tyler Morning Telegraph, the story, “Berman Drops Governor Bid, Swaps Endorsements With Perry” Perry's praise for Berman comes through loud and clear:

    “I’ve told him many times I would follow him anywhere, be in a foxhole any time he needs,” Perry said. “He has been a wonderful spokesperson for the people of Tyler and the state and nation.”

  • January 24, 2010 – The Tyler Morning Telegraph carries a “reader response” from Berman as he warns Republicans to stay away from upstart grassroots candidate, Debra Medina. At this point, Berman is clearly trying to help Perry lock-up the conservative base and avoid a runoff. (Source: “Berman Urges Caution With Medina”)
  • April 24, 2010 – Berman appears on-stage with Rick Perry and right-wing radio conservative Glenn Beck to name Beck an “honorary Texan.” During the appearance, the two lawmakers sounded in perfect harmony:

    “Americans can take their country back and send a message to this administration, to this Congress and I consider myself proud to be in that army,” Perry said.
     
    Berman told the crowd, “I believe that Barack Obama is God's punishment on us today, but in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president.”
  • April 29, 2010 – With Berman out of the country in Switzerland, Perry issues his most recent position on immigration policy.
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About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

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