U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are both strong-willed Republicans, each representing a solidly conservative political base, so why are they so different in their solutions to the surge of illegal immigrants along the state’s southern border?Perry this week said he’s sending 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border to aid already-dispatched Department of Public Safety personnel in “combating criminal activity in the region.”A day later, Granger released the recommendations of a special House working group she has led — at the request of Speaker John Boehner — to address the crisis. She said what’s needed are solutions that are both “compassionate” and “tough.”She, too, would send National Guard troops, but in her mind they would not be crime fighters — a stretch of the guard’s peacetime role — but would “assist [the] Border Patrol in the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors” that have made up much of the immigrant surge.“This would free up the Border Patrol to focus on their primary mission,” Granger said in a news release describing her group’s recommendations.Does that mean Perry is a bold crime fighter/border protector while Granger is a touchy-feely caregiver?No, they have different target audiences.As University of Texas at Austin public opinion researchers Jim Henson and Joshua Blank pointed out Wednesday on the Texas Tribune website, Perry is tapping into public sentiment “where it matters most for his future ambitions” — which every day seem more likely to include another run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.A University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll in June showed 51 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Tea Party Republicans list immigration or border security as the most important problem facing the state, Henson and Blank wrote.Granger and her working group have to walk a more difficult political line. The House and Senate face a crucial need to respond to the border crisis in a meaningful way before the end of next week, the start of the scheduled August congressional recess.And unlike Perry, they don’t have the luxury of tailoring their plan to please Republicans and Tea Party Republicans. They need to get at least a few House and Senate Democrats on board, or they risk failure and promote the stigma of a Congress that can do nothing even in the face of an emergency.The working group’s recommendations cover the Republican bases, including revisions to a 2008 law to speed the process of sending unaccompanied immigrant minors back to their home countries. But the particulars are likely to bend before this is all over.The search for compromise in Washington, D.C., has been intense. Meanwhile, Perry is free to push his presidential prospects.Fortunately for him, he’s even free to play fast and loose with facts.At his news conference Monday announcing the National Guard deployment, Perry painted immigrants as a threat to Texans’ safety. Pointing to a colorful pie chart, he said more than 203,000 “criminal aliens” have been booked into Texas county jails since 2008.As the Department of Public Safety says on its website, the chart combines arrests of all foreign nationals, regardless of their legal immigration status.Perry blamed these “criminal aliens” for more than 3,000 homicides, based on arrests, not convictions.With the help of criminologists from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, PolitiFact Texas examined Perry’s homicide data and gave him a “Pants on Fire” rating on its Truth-O-Meter scale.At least Granger avoided that indignity.
Mike Norman is editorial director of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7830 Twitter: @mnorman9