A lot of people think of Texas as the heart of red-state Republicanism. But even if it never secedes, Texas is still its own country. As the ticker number above illustrates, Rick Perry is governor of a state where non-Hispanic whites constitute a minority of the population -- only 45.3 percent. The national average is 63.7 percent -- and in a lot of reliably Republican states it's much, much higher.
You can't win statewide in Texas, which Perry has done five times, without Hispanic votes. Perry won about 38 percent of them in his 2010 reelection. Not coincidentally, as governor in 2001 he signed the Texas Dream Act, allowing illegal immigrant children to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid at state universities.
In a national Gallup Poll last December, 63 percent of Republicans said they opposed a federal Dream Act that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for immigrant children who attend college or serve in the military. That may explain why in this year's Republican presidential primary, Dream legislation is about as popular as single-payer health care. The Obama administration yesterday said it would not seek to deport young, illegal immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety. The new policy will help thousands of immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children, many of whom have graduated from high school or college. While the administration's move will not make them legal residents, as a federal Dream Act would, it will at least relieve them of the fear of deportation. And it could help shore up President Obama's support among Hispanic voters, many of whom have been upset by the administration's record number of deportations.
The move also raises the temperature on immigration as a 2012 campaign issue. Perry rivals such as Michele Bachmann may well find it beneficial to fan the flames. As a blog in the conservative Washington Times predicted back in June: "Governor Perry will have much explaining to do about his stance on the Dream Act."
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)