The old Ted Cruz reemerged Thursday as he castigated his fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate for even considering renewing and expanding anti-deportation protections for Dreamers—children of undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country in violation of immigration laws.
During his first years representing Texas in the Senate, Cruz often attacked the Republican leadership as the “Washington cartel.” Since losing his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Cruz has been portraying himself as Ted Cruz 2.0, a kinder gentler politician who often voted with his party’s leadership. But as the Senate started to debate proposals to provide deportation protections to young immigrants who have been raised in this country, the beta version of Cruz returned. “I find myself flabbergasted with my own party in this debate,” Cruz said in a speech from the Senate floor.
Cruz said giving deportation protections and a path to citizenship to some immigrants was nothing more than a repeat of the amnesty program given to three million immigrants in the late 1980s. Because the federal government did not secure the border, he said, the number of people living in the country without having immigrated legally now exceeds twelve million. “I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, waking up reliving the same day over and over and over again.”
Cruz has been a hardliner against President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly known as DACA. During his 2016 run for president, Cruz told one Dreamer that he would deport her because she is living in the country illegally. “If you’re a DACA recipient it means that you were brought here illegally, and violating the laws has consequences.”
Many of the young Americans covered by the DACA program have spent almost their entire lives in the United States. Some do not know the country of their birth, and others do not even speak the language of their parents’ homeland. As my colleague Michael Hall wrote: “What does it mean to be an American? Is it enough to prove that you are hard-working, ambitious, resilient, brave, ingenious, loyal, and a longtime member of your community? Juan would like to think so, as would Pedro, Vanessa, Joseph, Jessica, and Gerardo. All they can do now is wait and see if Congress in fact moves beyond DACA so they can someday become actual Americans.”
President Trump campaigned in 2016 to end the DACA program but promised to give Congress a chance to pass some sort of legislation to prevent the deportation of the young people, especially if he got federal money for increased border security, including a wall. Cruz staked out an even harder position.
In his speech Thursday, Cruz lambasted his fellow Republican senators for wanting to expand the protections beyond the 690,000 registered DACA children to cover 1.8 million. Cruz also claimed that some of the legislation would give the DACA recipients a path to citizenship and make them eligible for federal welfare payments. Cruz said Republicans are abandoning the mantra that President Obama exceeded his legal authority when he signed the DACA executive order in June 2012.
“At the time virtually every Republican denounced executive action as unconstitutional, as lawless, as wrong, and yet today far too many Senate Republicans are staking out a place well to the left of President Obama,” Cruz said. “It’s almost as if elections don’t penetrate. We need to be listening to the voters. I do not know a single Republican, not one in this body, not one in the House of Representatives, who was elected on a promise of: I will go to the left of Barack Obama on immigration.”
The Senate on Thursday was debating a series of proposals to provide protections, but it was an open-ended debate and only a proposal that receives 60 votes would be sent to the House. Cruz was the only member of the Senate to vote against debating the measures. In one of the early votes, the Senate rejected a bipartisan compromise after Trump threatened to veto it if it reached his desk. The Senate then rejected a plan supported by the president.
Cruz said the Senate should, instead, be considering new laws to crack down on undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, while also increasing the number of Border Patrol agents and enhancing technologies along the border and requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to determine whether potential workers are in the country with proper work permits.
Watch Cruz below: