Rick Perry: No immigration reform until the border is secure

Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted on Thursday that all efforts to pass immigration reform in Congress should be put on hold until the border is secure. “Defending…

Texas Gov. Rick Perry greets National Review Editor Rich Lowry and Republican strategist and pollster Kellyanne Conway before delivering remarks about immigration and the crisis along the Texas-Mexico border at The Heritage Foundation August 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted on Thursday that all efforts to pass immigration reform in Congress should be put on hold until the border is secure.

“Defending the border is not a political option. It is a Constitutional obligation,” he said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. “And until the federal government meets that duty and secures that border, all talk of immigration reform is pointless because Washington has no credibility on the matter.”

He added: “To those who wait on comprehensive immigration reform, here’s my answer: How about we start with comprehensive border enforcement.”

Perry was initially invited to speak about the wave of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border and ways to deal with the crisis. But the Republican governor, who has been a vocal critic of Obama’s handling of the unaccompanied minors crisis, veered the conversation to border security and the recent events in the Middle East, including the recent beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic militants.

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He described the southern border as being “largely undefended” and said the cartels and undocumented immigrants “might be the least of our worries” in terms of people crossing the border unlawfully. He said the U.S. should be more worried about the possible threat of having Islamic militants cross the southern border to carry out terrorist attacks on Americans.

“What other bad actors are coming here or, for that matter, have arrived already,” he said. “Where do they come from? Who do they bring with them?”

Perry’s comments came several days after he was indicted for abuse of power after he vetoed funding for the office of a Travis County district attorney, a Democrat who refused to resign after pleading guilty to drunken driving. The Republican governor didn’t shy away from defending himself during his speech on Thursday.

“There are a few public officials in Travis County who have taken issue with an exercise of my constitutional veto authority,” he said. “These are fundamentally principles that are very important, namely a governor’s power to veto legislation and funding and the right of freedom of speech.”

“I am very confident in my case, and I can assure that I will fight this attack on our system of government and with my fellow citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, I will defend our Constitution and stand up for the rule of law,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Rick Perry’s indictment might be the break Democrats need in Texas