LAREDO, Texas—As Donald Trump’s private jet headed here for a Thursday afternoon visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Rick Perry stepped up his attacks on his Republican presidential rival.
“As a known employer of illegal immigrant labor, Donald Trump’s record on border security is non-existent at best and a farce at worst,” Perry said. “It’s going to take more than a day trip for him to convince the American people he is anything but a hypocrite when it comes to border security.”
Trump promised in his campaign announcement speech to build a fence across the southern border of United States and to make the Mexican government pay for it.
“After weeks of talk, today Donald Trump will finally make his first trip to the Texas-Mexico border to see Texas’ work to fill in the gaps left in border security by the federal government,” Perry said in his statement, sent from the state capital in Austin.
“While he is there, I hope he will explain to the people of Laredo why he thinks they should be on the hook to secure our country’s border with Mexico, rather than the federal government," said perry. "I hope he will explain to the Hispanic Americans he meets why he thinks they are rapists and murderers. And I hope he will apologize for ridiculing the selfless work of the men and women of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers, Texas Game Wardens and Texas National Guard to protect our communities in the face of the federal government’s failure to secure the border.”
Trump attacked Perry for not doing more to secure the border while in office, said publicly that the former Texas governor should be required to take an IQ test, and on Wednesday called Perry a hypocrite for seeking out his support when he ran in 2012 only to criticize him now.
A day after Perry's speech blasting Trump, his campaign is offering surrogates up to reporters to tout his record on border security. The back-and-forth has helped elevate Perry’s profile, as he teeters on the edge of qualifying for the first GOP presidential debate next month, which is open to the candidates who place in the top 10 in recent national polls.
Perry’s full statement highlights his own work on border security in the final years of his 14-year governorship. he also defended his decision to spend resources on the Rio Grande Valley, rather than the area around Laredo.
“Unlike Donald Trump, I have been battling the federal government over border security for years,” the ex-governor wrote in his statement. “Border security is a federal responsibility, but when it became clear Washington wouldn’t act, I told President Obama if he wouldn’t secure the border, Texas would. During my time in office, Texas dedicated nearly $1 billion to border security, and we focused our resources on the areas that needed it most – like the Rio Grande Sector, which accounts for more than 50 percent of illegal crossings on the entire U.S.-Mexico border, and more than 70 percent of illegal border crossings in Texas alone.”
A Trump spokeswoman declined to comment on Perry’s statement.