There’s little doubt Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has carved out a path as a legitimate threat to win the 2016 GOP presidential primary.
But did he also advocate for a path for illegal immigrants to remain in the country? Fox New’s Bret Baier pushed Cruz on the issue in an interview Wednesday, and the smooth-talking Harvard Law School alum ended up sounding less assertive than his characteristic debate-champ aplomb.
Baier called out Cruz – who scored points against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Tuesday’s debate by pillorying him for being soft on immigration – for appearing to offer an amendment on which he called for bipartisan agreement to allow undocumented workers to remain in the country.
“I don’t want immigration reform to fail. I want immigration reform to pass,” said Cruz on the Senate floor in 2013.
“And so I would urge people of good faith on both sides of the aisle, if the objective is to pass commonsense immigration reform that 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 compromise to come together,” said Cruz, advocating for an amendment to a bill he now calls the “Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill.”
Baier baited Cruz, saying his amendment would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the country permanently, a position antithetical to Cruz’s hard-right stance in the 2016 race.
“It wouldn’t have. What was happening there was the ‘Gang of Eight”s Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill, which was a massive amnesty bill,” said Cruz tentatively. “I was leading the fight against amnesty. That particular bill removed citizenship, that those here illegally shall be permanently ineligible for citizenship.”
Baier pointed out Cruz did not say that at the time, citing quotes from news sources where Cruz said the amendment was a compromise that could increase the chances of the bill becoming law.
“Of course I wanted the bill to pass, my amendment to pass,” Cruz, apparently shaken by the line of questioning. “What my amendment did was take citizenship off the table. It doesn’t mean that I supported the other aspects of the bill, which was terrible.”
The exchange seemingly revealed a chink in the anti-immigration armor Cruz bears as he attacks Rubio. For his part, Rubio claims he and Cruz have very similar approached to immigration, a position that now seems more tenable.