Candidate won't say if he still supports DREAM law

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on February 23, 2013 at 11:17 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 23 at 11:57 PM

After Gov. Rick Perry was harshly criticized during his presidential run for supporting the Texas law giving an in-state college tuition break to illegal immigrants, many Republican candidates decline to embrace the law.

And that includes Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who's running for lieutenant governor in next year's GOP primary. He just wrote a book on immigration and border security –– but the reader wouldn't know he voted for that law.

The 2001 law some call the "Texas DREAM Act" passed the legislature overwhelmingly and Perry signed it. In his book, "Broken Borders, Broken Promises," Staples writes it was approved as an education bill but now calls it "wrong."

However, as he runs for lieutenant governor in next year's Republican primary, Staples declined to take a stand during an interview for Inside Texas Politics.

When asked if he supports the law or would like to see it repealed as bills currently filed in the Texas House would do, Staples replied, "You're trying to make this a 'yes'or 'no' answer about an issue that requires a federal, a federal action." 

But Staples never mentions in the book that as a state senator in 2001 he voted for the bill, HB 1403. When asked if he still stands by his Senate vote, Staples said, "I am standing by the fact that Texans are going to demand Washington act. And I'm here to tell you today I'm not going to let anyone sidetrack us on where we need to go."

When reminded that asking him about his record is not sidetracking an issue, Staples replied, "It really is sidetracking it." After 2012 Republican primary opponents and many voters criticized Perry's support, the law has become somewhat of a litmus test where a candidate stands on immigration.

Both Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Ted Cruz opposed it in last year's primary.

Staples says omitting his Senate vote doesn't put his book out of context. 

"I don't think it does whatsoever. I've been in many public forums and many debates where I've discussed that I was in the legislature at that time when we discussed that as an education bill through the education committee." 

Regarding the book's accuracy on the passage of HB 1403, Staples writes the bill passed "with unanimous approval in the Senate."

Yet the Texas Senate Journal for May 21, 2001 shows the vote was 27-3 with 12 GOP and 15 Democratic senators for it and three Republicans opposing. Asked to explain the discrepancy, Staples said, "That was my recollection that there was no dissent in the senate when that bill occurred, that there was four dissenting votes in the House. So I'll be glad to take a look at that." 

Along with Staples, Dewhurst and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson say they are also running in the primary for lieutenant governor. 

The full interview with Commissioner Staples can be seen this Sunday on Inside Texas Politics at 9:05 a.m.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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