PERRY, Iowa -- In an event Saturday billed as the “Bachmann Takes it to Perry Rally,” Michele Bachmann took her anti-illegal immigration message to the small town just outside Des Moines that carries the last name of her GOP opponent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
But Bachmann only mentioned Gov. Perry by name once, and it came during the question-and-answer period. Instead, she focused on detailing the case for a major initiative Perry opposes: building a fence along the United State's border with Mexico.
“I will secure that border,” Bachmann said inside the ballroom at the historic Hotel Pattee. “That will be job No. 1. And it will be every mile; it will be every yard; it will be every foot, because the portion that you fail to secure will be the highway into the United States.”
The event marked the introduction of a new advocacy group exerting pressure on GOP presidential candidates to sign a pledge to secure the border. Bachmann’s signature on Americans for Securing the Border pledge binds her to completing a fence along the Southern border by the end of her first year in office. She is the first candidate in the Republican field to sign it.
“The politicians every election cycle always pay lip service to securing the border but nothing ever gets done. So we believe it’s time to have a pledge,” Americans for Securing the Border Chairman Van Hipp told NBC News. “We have issued the challenge to all the major presidential candidates and Michele Bachmann is the first one to step up to the plate.”
The Minnesota Congresswoman has staked her candidacy, at least in part, on the message of a fiscal discipline -- and as she made the case for the fence this afternoon, she framed it in fiscal terms.
“I want to talk to you right now a little bit about some of those very real costs that come across along with illegal immigration,” Bachmann told the crowd of roughly 75 people. “It’s actually $113 billion a year,” she said, citing research by a conservative non-profit group, Federation for American Immigration Reform. “That’s the cost of illegal immigration.”
Illegal immigration has been a continued point of contention in the 2012 presidential race, specifically the DREAM Act, which, in Texas, allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities. While Bachmann did not mention the Texas governor’s name, she harshly criticized Perry for the Texas law.
“In 2009 in Texas, there were 12,138 students that benefited from that,” she said. “That cost the taxpayers of Texas $25.9 million.”
Bachmann’s message did not please everyone in the room. After interrupting the congresswoman mid-speech, Eddie Diaz, a 32-year-old Perry resident and first-generation Iowan, was given the first question following her prepared remarks.
Diaz and Bachmann went back and forth on arguably the most sensitive element of the whole immigration debate -- the fate of the children of illegal immigrants.
“Under our system of government you cannot punish the children for the actions of their parents,” Diaz forcefully told Bachmann. The congresswoman countered that laws like these only encourage more illegal immigration.
Following the “Bachmann Takes it to Perry Rally,” the Perry campaign responded, touting Perry’s 10 years experience as governor of a border state.
“Governor Perry has been hard at work at this,” Perry’s Iowa Chair, Bob Haus, said in a statement. “Iowans will trust someone who's actually done the work to secure our border."