Concord, New Hampshire (CNN) - Don't call Texas Gov. Rick Perry soft on immigration, said the chair of his state's Democratic Party.
"His anti-Latino record, I think, speaks for itself," said Texas Democratic leader Boyd Richie during a visit to the New Hampshire Democratic Party headquarters Friday. "To say that he's soft on immigration is just flat wrong."
The Texas governor has been soundly pummeled by conservatives for his support of a 2001 bill that granted in-state college tuition to the children of some illegal immigrants.
Perry's GOP opponents have seized on the issue in a series of presidential debates, and in a swing through New Hampshire last week several voters pressed Perry on his support for the bill.
Richie said in an interview Friday that he gave the governor credit for passing the bill - a move which, as Perry has repeatedly told audiences, would keep those students "off the government dole" and which received overwhelming support in the state legislature.
But Richie pointed to Perry's push earlier this term to censure so-called "sanctuary cities" that protect illegal immigrants as an example of his hard-line on immigration.
He also cited Perry's support for a more rigid voter identification bill - which Democrats believe will lower voter turnout among minorities - as evidence of his position.
The Perry campaign is straddling an awkward line on this issue. The same record that may turn off die-hard conservatives during a primary campaign could appeal to more moderate voters and Hispanics in a general election.
In a speech in Manchester Oct. 1, Perry told the audience he had made the decisions that were right for Texas. As he fielded several questions on illegal immigration and border control, Perry said he was the only candidate with the experience and "courage" to tackle the situation.
"I don't have the privilege to stand on a stage and say, oh here's what I would do," Perry said. "I've been governor of Texas for 10 years. I have to deal with these issues real-time."