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Immigration Border Crisis

Rick Perry in the Spotlight on Immigration - Again

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

On the national stage once again, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is getting a bit of a do-over on a major issue that tripped him up in the 2012 presidential election: immigration.

Perry, a former and perhaps-future GOP presidential contender who’s become a top critic of the White House on border security, will meet with the president Wednesday to discuss the surge of unaccompanied minors streaming into the U.S.

The conservative governor, who is not running for re-election, has still made national headlines since Sunday, when he berated Obama as being “inept” or having an “ulterior motive” for border policies that have allowed the influx of Central American migrants.

Action Trumps Obama Border Photo-Op, Says White House 0:35

On Monday, Perry refused a meeting with Obama upon the president’s arrival in Austin, saying that “a quick handshake on the tarmac will not allow for a thoughtful discussion” on the issue. That prompted the late invite from White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett for a longer meeting in Dallas, which Perry has accepted.

But Perry’s confrontation with Obama over his immigration policies – and of the federal government in general – could also serve to obscure his relatively pragmatic past approaches to the problem of undocumented immigrants, one that was fairly uncontroversial in his home state but earned him the ire of his conservative competitors on the national stage.

If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart.

Most notably, in 2001, Perry signed legislation making Texas the first state to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates for public universities. The bill passed almost unanimously, but vehement opposition to the measure stunned Perry advisers a decade later during his run for the White House.

Questioned about his support for the so-called ‘Texas DREAM Act’ during a 2011 presidential debate, Perry shot back at critics: “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart.”

That comment – especially when contrasted with eventual nominee Mitt Romney’s boasts of vetoing similar legislation – helped send his campaign into the early stages of its tailspin into failure.

Romney Accepts Party Nomination At The Republican National Convention
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30: Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauds during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) Win McNamee / Getty Images, file

Nearly three years later, though, Perry’s hammering of the Obama administration’s border policies has made him a go-to Republican voice as pressure mounts for the White House to stem the tide of new illegal entrants into the country.

Saying this weekend that he’s been asking the administration to address the border issue since 2010 to no avail, Perry doubled down on his suggestion that the president has deliberately ignored the flow of undocumented migrants.

“We have been bringing to the attention of President Obama and his administration since 2010, he received a letter from me on the tarmac,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept, or you have some ulterior motive of which you are functioning from.”

Perry hasn’t said whether he will pursue another run for the White House. But being set up as a sparring partner with the current holder of the job is a place any wannabe contender would like to be.