Erika Johnsen

Of course, Rick Perry has a somewhat shoddy record on illegal immigration, and he knows that he needs to prove his mettle on the issue in order to improve his chances in the GOP presidential race. But if you must campaign-monger, you can make the decision to do so stylishly - and Perry just did. The impudence! The audacity!

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reimburse the state $350 million to cover costs of imprisoning illegal immigrants.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the top-tier Republican presidential candidate blamed the federal government for not securing the border with Mexico, allowing illegal immigrants to cross over and use taxpayer-funded resources. He said resources for county jails are being depleted as a result.

Perry included in the letter the formula he used to determine the costs and included a memo from state Comptroller Susan Combs supporting his calculations.

The letter was dated Aug. 10, three days before Perry formally announced his campaign for president. Perry is combatting criticism from conservatives that he has been too lenient on illegal immigrants.

I am almost always a proponent of federalism, and I have to applaud states like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama for taking matters into their own hands in the face of a federal government that willfully neglects the enforcement of illegal immigration laws. But on this issue, states shouldn't have to take such actions. Securing the border and monitoring immigration (a.k.a, national security and not gifting away free money) are some of the few items on which our federal tax dollars actually should be spent. And even worse, individual states' laws often penalize private citizens and businesses for aiding/hiring illegal immigrants. Private entities should not be forced to use valuable resources determining whether or not a person is an illegal alien. That's the federal goverenment's job (again, this is one of the handful of instances in which such a sentence shall ever escape me).

Since the federal government brazenly refuses to do that job, even suing states that try to run their own operations, Perry was spot-on in billing the Homeland Security Department. Place your bets: will the feds pay up?


Erika Johnsen

Erika Johnsen is a Web Editor for Townhall.com and Townhall Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @erikajohnsen.