(NASHUA, N.H.) -- Rick Perry got into an intense exchange Wednesday afternoon about his views on border security and illegal immigration with an invited member of the audience at a business roundtable in New Hampshire.
George Katis, the owner of Nashua Wallpaper, repeatedly pressed Perry on what he was going to do about those dual problems in what was otherwise a low-key conversation with local business people.
Perry, who was on his second trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, criticized President Obama for his assertion during a speech in El Paso, Texas, in May that his administration had "strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible."
"Six weeks ago the president went to El Paso and said the border is safer than it's ever been," Perry said. "I have no idea, maybe he was talking about the Canadian border."
Perry noted that his state has asked the federal government for additional National Guard troops to assist with border security, but repeated his view that a border fence was not viable.
"You've got strategic fencing in some of the metropolitan areas -- that's very helpful -- but the idea that you're going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso is just -- it's ridiculous on its face," he said.
"The fact of the matter is that the 1,200-mile border is too much for even the state of Texas, as substantial as we are, to defend. That is a constitutional duty for the federal government to defend our borders."
Perry added, "I will assure you one thing, if I'm the president of the United States, the border will be secure."
Katis, the Nashua businessman, followed up, asking Perry yet again what exactly he would do about illegal immigrants.
"You're not going to ship 12 million people back to whatever country they come from. But you've got to come up with a way that clearly stays away from this issue of making individuals legal citizens of the United States if they haven't gone through the proper process. I think we can sit down and have a, you know, an adult, grown-up conversation with business men and women who understand the need to have available workforce but also this very important issue of the rule of law. We're a country of laws and you've got to live within these laws."
At the end of Perry's remarks Katis spoke directly to him.
"Governor," he said, "you came across very moderate," adding that was a different impression than some have of Perry -- that he is "to the right of Attila The Hun," Katis said.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
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