But his more recent conservative positions carry a risk as well, imperiling his standing among Latinos, an important voting bloc in national battleground states such as New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. In June, Perry got a chilly response when he spoke at a conference of the National Assn. of Latino Elected Officials in San Antonio. Outside the conference, a coalition of Latino and civil rights groups staged a protest against him.
Like all the 2012 candidates, Perry is already being pressed for details on how he would handle illegal immigration. Since he entered the race a little over a week ago, Perry has offered voters in New Hampshire and Iowa a stock response: that it’s pointless to talk about immigration reform until the border is secure. That position, essentially pushing the difficult issues off to the future, has become a common response among many Republican candidates.
“He is avoiding the issue, definitely,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, which played a leading role in defeating the sanctuary city ban. “There is no other way to talk about immigration than to talk about immigration reform. That is the No. 1 issue for Latinos, even more than the economy and housing, because it has to do with their families, no?”