Gov. Rick Perry endorsed and signed the Texas DREAM Act, a law that was both compassionate and good social policy.
The law allows young people, brought to this country as children by their illegal immigrant parents, who have successfully completed high school in Texas and stayed out of trouble to be eligible for in-state tuition and scholarships at Texas colleges.
Although many of these young men and women will go on to become full-fledged citizens, the act does not provide a path to citizenship, only an education in a state that badly needs a better educated workforce.
At the GOP debate last week in Orlando, Fla., the deeply conservative audience of voters, heavily laced with tea party supporters, booed lustily. If these people had been in charge of immigration from, say, 1850 to World War I, not to mention the refugees from the Nazis in the '30s, it is frightening to think how many scientists, medical researchers, inventors, builders, craftsmen and all-purpose visionaries we would have lost.
The boos must have stung Perry because this audience would seem to be his natural constituency.
True, the debates, caucuses and early primaries tend to attract party extremists and true believers, but boo-wise, Perry was in good company.
A GOP crowd in Simi Valley, Calif., Sept. 7, happily cheered the disclosure that, under Perry, Texas had executed 234 people, since elevated to 235. One has to wonder why the crowd found the death of individuals, whom they surely didn't know, a cause for rejoicing. Perhaps the religious conservatives were absent that night or perhaps they want to repeal "Thou shalt not kill" along with certain provisions of the Constitution.
In a debate in Tampa Sept. 12, Ron Paul was asked a hypothetical question about an uninsured young American in a coma: "Are you saying society should just let him die?" The tea party crowed cheered, shouting, "Yes!"
In the Orlando debate, a gay Marine in Afghanistan asked a question of Rick Santorum. Cracked Politico, "The crowd, knowing it was several thousand miles away, felt courageous enough to boo." The Politico reporter said there wouldn't have been a peep from the tea partiers if they had gotten a look at the size of this Marine.
Here's hoping Perry sticks to his guns on the Texas DREAM Act. The governor told his audience that, by wanting to refuse to educate children brought to this country through no fault of their own, "I don't think you have a heart."
Not only a heart, but a brain.