How Would Rick Perry Handle Immigration Differently At Homeland Security?

Perry is a possible replacement for former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. But as Texas governor, he opposed building a border wall and supported educating children who live in the country illegally.

By Rhonda FanningApril 9, 2019 11:55 am,

On Sunday, Kirstjen Nielsen resigned her position as Secretary of Homeland Security. Shortly after, news outlets speculated about who might replace her; one guess was former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry has experience dealing with immigration policy, and Sherri Greenberg, clinical professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, says Perry’s approach as governor could portend how he’d approach leading the Department of Homeland Security. But she also says Perry’s immigration policies evolved during his governorship, which lasted from 2000 to 2015.

“He had a famous quote, saying, you don’t have a heart if you don’t educate immigrant kids, when he was talking about the DREAM Act here, in Texas,” Greenberg says. “He also, at one time, said … that a 2,000-mile fence makes no sense.”

Greenberg says Perry, instead, advocated for “boots on the ground” to manage immigration; he launched the $18 million-per-month Operation Strong Safety in 2014, in which he installed National Guard troops at the southern border.

But Greenberg says Perry may now be more amenable to erecting a border wall.

Perry is currently the Secretary of Energy, and his tenure has been relatively scandal-free compared to those of other members of the Trump administration. If he moved to Homeland Security, though, that could change, Greenberg says.

“Rick Perry has had a rather low profile in an administration where many people have had profiles that have been somewhat inflamed,” Greenberg says.

She says Perry would likely relish the opportunity if Trump offered him the post because he could “get back to his roots”; he could focus on immigration, which was an issue central to his governorship. She says it could also be a chance for Perry to step into the spotlight once again, in the latter part of his career.

Written by Caroline Covington.