Gov. Rick Perry doesn’t think Washington can or should pass an immigration bill — at least before it resolves tax and spending issues.
But it might be a big issue that is turned on its head, he said.
“The whole immigration debate I will suggest to you is going to change drastically in the next 12 to 24 months,” Perry said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.
If Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto succeeds in opening the country’s energy development to foreign investments, Perry believes it would create an economic surge, producing a massive array of new jobs.
The country’s oil is controlled by the state-owned energy monopoly Pemex. The Mexican constitution currently prohibits private investments in Pemex.
But if Pena Nieto is successful in lobbying for a change in the constitution and opening up the Mexico energy markets, it could change the immigration dynamic in the U.S., Perry believes.
It also could alleviate a divisive and troublesome issue for Perry and the Republican Party.
Perry in his 2011 presidential run famously defended the Texas law that allows undocumented teenagers who complete high school to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. He said during a debate that those who oppose such a measure must not have a heart. The other candidates, in particular Mitt Romney, blasted Perry for his position.
Now most Republican statewide candidates in Texas have come out for repeal of the tuition provision. Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott said he would like to change the law, but he has declined numerous times to say what changes he would make.
Many fear that while the repeal position might be popular with core Republican voters, it could further alienate the burgeoning Hispanic electorate.
But all that immigration debate might be old news, Perry suggested.
“The net migration into the U.S. from Mexico last year was zero,” Perry said.
If exploration and other energy fields open, “You’ll have a mass migration of those that came here to work who will go back into Mexico and pursue those jobs,” the governor said.
Perry said if that happens, it could be the U.S. that is scrambling to find workers to fill positions.
“There will be a really interesting dynamic in that Congress will be starting to be asked to take a look at immigration policy, but it will be immigration that identifies people who can legally come here and work and fill the jobs that we need instead of the very caustic conversation that occurred in the last few years,” Perry said.