MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – People attending a Rick Perry presidential campaign event Wednesday were asked to prove they are American citizens.
The town hall-style meeting at Granite State Manufacturing, the first of two events Perry was holding in New Hampshire, was open to the public.
But campaign officials said federal regulations required proof of citizenship because the company handles defense contracts. A Granite State employee sat beside a Perry campaign staffer at the door and asked attendees whether they were citizens.
The employee, who refused to give her name, said non-citizens wouldn’t be admitted.
While the Texas governor’s rivals have faced similar restrictions when they held events on the premises of federal defense contractors, the issue Wednesday brought unwanted attention to Perry’s complicated immigration record at a critical point in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
Some of his rivals privately seized on his decision to hold an event with such restrictions. The leader of a regional immigration advocacy group was more vocal.
“It’s disturbing, especially given his record on immigration,” said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.
Perry has faced sustained criticism over a Texas policy that allows in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants. He also has struggled to win over some conservatives for being against putting up a fence along the border with Mexico.
John Stephen, a prominent Perry supporter in New Hampshire and recent Republican gubernatorial candidate, defended Perry.
“This is a manufacturing business where the governor wanted to meet with workers,” Stephen said.
“There is no one that’s done more through action to oppose illegal immigration than Rick Perry.”
A Granite State employee, assembly manager Shawn O’Hagan, later said immigrants should not have been blocked from attending the event. But he said those without proof of citizenship would need to be escorted inside.
It was unclear whether any immigrants attended.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)