Fight! Cruz and Rubio Rumble on Immigration

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

This is the first time (that I have seen anyway) that the presidential campaigns of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) have had any back and forth.

Cruz launched the first salvo focused on the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill of 2013. “He opposed every single one of them. Every single amendment,” Cruz told Laura Ingraham today. “The Gang of Eight voted as a gang against enforcing and securing the border.”

It should be mentioned that Rubio never actually voted on the amendments since he did not serve on the Senate Judiciary committee, but the Gang of 8 of which he was a member were opposed to those amendments.

Rubio responded to reporters while campaigning in South Carolina. “Ted is a supporter of legalizing people that are in this country illegally,” he said. “In fact, when the Senate bill was proposed, he proposed legalizing people that were here illegally. He proposed giving them work permits. He’s also supported a massive expansion of the green cards. He supported a massive expansion of the H-1B program, a 500 percent increase. So, if you look at it, I don’t think our positions are dramatically different,” Rubio stated.

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post quoting Rubio’s response in South Carolina on Twitter.

Rubio says he and @tedcruz agree on immigration. “Ted is a supporter of legalizing people that are in this country illegally.”
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) November 12, 2015

Brian Phillips who is responsible for rapid response for the Cruz campaign responded:

Laughably FALSE. No one fought harder to prevent Gang of 8’s amnesty bill than Ted Cruz. Record is remarkably clear.
— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) November 12, 2015

The Rubio campaign sent an email to the press showing how “remarkably clear” Cruz in on immigration (former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum has made a similar sense, of course he meant it as a negative).

They referred to a New York Times article from September 12, 2013.

Asked about what to do with the people here illegally, however, he stressed that he had never tried to undo the goal of allowing them to stay.
“The amendment that I introduced removed the path to citizenship, but it did not change the underlying work permit from the Gang of Eight,” he said during a recent visit to El Paso. Mr. Cruz also noted that he had not called for deportation or, as Mitt Romney famously advocated, self-deportation.

They also shared a video of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 5/21/13:


And I’d like to make a final point to those advocacy groups that are very engaged in this issue and rightly concerned about addressing our immigration system and, in particular, about addressing the situation for the 11 million who are currently in the shadows. If this amendment is adopted to the current bill, the effect would be that those 11 million under this current bill would still be eligible for RPI status. They would still be eligible for legal status and indeed, under the terms of the bill, they would be eligible for LPR status as well so that they are out of the shadows, which the proponents of this bill repeatedly point to as their principal objective to provide a legal status for those who are here illegally to be out of the shadows. This amendment would allow that happen, but what it would do is remove the pathway to citizenship so that there are real consequences that respect the rule of law and that treat legal immigrants with the fairness and respect they deserve.
And a second point to those advocacy groups that are so passionately engaged. In my view, if this committee rejects this amendment, and I think everyone here views it as quite likely this committee will choose to reject this amendment, in my view, that decision will make it much, much more likely that this entire bill will fail in the House of Representatives. I don’t want immigration reform to fail. I want immigration reform to pass. And so I would urge people of good faith on both sides of the aisle, if the objective is to pass common sense immigration reform that secures the borders, that improves legal immigration, and that allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows. Then we should look for areas of bipartisan agreement and compromised to come together. And this amendment, I believe, if this amendment were to pass, the chances of this bill passing into law would increase dramatically.

Here is the press release for the amendment Cruz discussed above.

Cruz 1322: Ensure that illegal immigrants who are given legal status under this bill are not given a path to citizenship
Providing a path to citizenship undermines the rule of law and is an insult to the millions who have immigrated to the U.S. legally. This Amendment prevents those currently here illegally who are offered legal status under this Act from obtaining citizenship.

Phillips responded:

.@LPDonovan @allahpundit For the 1000th time, his amdt had nothing to do with legalization. He intentionally focused on citizenship only…
— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) November 12, 2015

The Rubio camp responded with this recording from NPR on 6/20/13. Cruz said, “The 11 million who are here illegally would be granted legal status once the border was secured, not before, but after the border was secured, they would be granted legal status. And indeed, they would be eligible for permanent legal residency. But they would not be eligible for citizenship.”

Phillips claims it was part of a bigger strategy:

.@LPDonovan @allahpundit …to illustrate that Dems weren’t serious about passing real reform.
— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) November 12, 2015
.@LPDonovan @allahpundit and the strategy worked, by the way!
— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) November 12, 2015
.@LPDonovan @allahpundit Instead of Dems using it against us, we used it against them and won back the Senate.
— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) November 12, 2015

Apparently, according to Brian Phillips, Cruz’s amendment was responsible for Republicans flipping the Senate. Interesting..

Personally, I’m in favor of legal status (exception would be convicted felons, etc.) after the border is secure. I’m not in favor of citizenship for those who came here illegally as adults. So this discussion doesn’t bother me. I’m willing to discuss immigration reform, but I don’t think you can have any meaningful conversation until the border is secure. American Principles Project introduced a five-point plan back in May that I think is reasonable. Yes it is clear that Senator Cruz is against sanctuary cities and President Obama’s executive amnesty so that isn’t in question.

In 2013 however, spin as Mr. Phillips might, Cruz was supportive of legal status for at least some illegal immigrants. It doesn’t let Rubio off the hook for his involvement in the Gang of Eight bill, but he succeeded in demonstrating that the two candidates are not as far apart on immigration now as Cruz would like us to think.

Disclaimer: I have endorsed Bobby Jindal, but this represents my opinion and not necessarily that of Governor Jindal, his campaign staff or campaign.

Originally published at on November 12, 2015.

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