What if the big GOP split on immigration isn’t much of a split?

Wait, you're saying we agree? Republican presidential hopefuls Sens. Marco Rubio, left, and Ted Cruz after the Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colo. Oct. 28. (Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

Wait, you’re saying we agree? Republican presidential hopefuls Sens. Marco Rubio, left, and Ted Cruz after the Oct. 28 debate in Boulder, Colo. (Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

Because there was more substance to chew on during Tuesday night’s GOP debate, we’re starting to see some contrasts drawn among the candidates on major issues. One of the first ones out of the gate is immigration, with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz said to be on the restrictionist side, Jeb Bush and John Kasich said to be on the “amnesty” (whatever that word means) side, and Marco Rubio said to be studiously trying to avoid the subject whenever he can — and to walk a fine line whenever he can’t.

That’s not an entirely accurate picture, though, as anyone with a memory of more than a few months ought to know. Under attack from Cruz for his involvement with the ultimately unsuccessful “Gang of Eight” bill, Rubio is trying to refresh folks’ memories:

Yes, as recently as two years ago Cruz was in favor of something that he and his supporters might now describe as “amnesty.” Here’s a New York Times article from September 2013:

“When it comes to immigration reform, Senator Ted Cruz has made it abundantly clear what he opposes: giving citizenship to people who broke the law to come here.

“What has not been as evident is what he supports: legal status for millions of people here already, while making it easier for immigrants to come here through the front door.

“‘I have said many times that I want to see common-sense immigration reform pass,’ he said. ‘I think most Americans want to see the problem fixed.'”

The Times’ story goes on to detail the middle ground Cruz tried to identify: “A path to legal status, but not to citizenship. A green card with no right to naturalization.” The former differed from the Gang of Eight bill, the latter did not. Or, as Cruz himself put it, according to the story:

 

“‘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.”

As Cruz noted then, while that middle ground might not satisfy Democrats, it is probably the closest to what Americans tell opinion pollsters they’d favor. As for legal immigration, Cruz didn’t come off as much of a restrictionist then:

“Besides barring citizenship while instituting some level of legalization for those here already, Mr. Cruz has proposed increasing the number of green cards awarded annually, to 1.35 million from 675,000. He also wants to eliminate the per-country limit that he said left applicants from countries like Mexico, China and India hamstrung when they tried to gain legal entry to this country.”

Now, candidates of course change their minds from time to time — Trump has changed seemingly all the positions he held five to 10 years ago — and maybe Cruz has had a sincere change of heart. But more likely, he is simply relying on the vagueness of such words such as “amnesty,” which never seems to be defined. If taking citizenship off the table as part of a deal means there’s no amnesty, then Cruz is being consistent.

Would his supporters think so? I think that’s the big risk he’s taking here. He can’t very well stick to his original position on the issue and court a large segment of Trump’s supporters without making someone mad in the end. And it seems Rubio, for one, isn’t going to let the issue become portrayed as pro-amnesty/immigration Republicans vs. anti-amnesty/immigration Republicans. Again, from his comments just this morning:

So it might be that, besides Trump, the GOP field is really just arguing over branding and terminology, not actual policy. If that’s the case, the eventual nominee would be better off if that’s clarified sooner than later.

Reader Comments 0

11 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Surely these candidates know that with 429,000 illegals held up in our immigration courts, processing 11,000,000 would be a long drawn out endeavor.

If possible, the immigration courts should be set up just inside the Mexican border. That way, when the judges find sufficient evidence to deport, their right to due process ceases to exist.

That said, the border must be secured before any reform measures can go forward.

No doubt the ACLU would argue that to have them report to Mexico for their hearing would be an undue hardship. They made it across heading North, they can make it across heading South. 

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

Cruz was talking about kicking them all out in the debate.  He sounded no different than Trump.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@xxxzzz Actually, the interpretation that that's what he said rests solely on the definition of "amnesty," as I pointed out in the OP.

Here's the entirety of what Cruz said about immigration during Tuesday's debate, minus the transcript notes about applause, interruptions, etc.:

"CRUZ: I want to go back to the discussion we had a minute ago because, you know, what was said was right. The democrats are laughing -- because if republicans join democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose.

"And, you know, I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn't often see it as an economic issue. But, I can tell you for millions -- of Americans at home watching this, it is a very personal economic issue. And, I will say the politics of it will be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande. Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press.

"Then, we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation. And, I will say for those of us who believe people 'ought to come to this country legally, and we should enforce the law, we're tired of being told it's anti-immigrant. It's offensive.

"I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba to seek the American dream. And, we can embrace legal immigration while believing in the rule of law -- and I would note, try going illegally to another country. Try going to China, or Japan. Try going to Mexico. See what they do. Every sovereign nation secures its borders, and it is not compassionate to say we're not going to enforce the laws. And we're going to drive down the wages for millions of hardworking men and women. That is abandoning the working..."

Now, tell me what in there equals "deportation." It all depends on your interpretation of certain words and phrases: amnesty, enforce the law, etc. Which is exactly what Cruz wants. So you have to look at what he's said in the past, which indicates he wouldn't "round 'em up" the way Trump claims he would.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Well, we know that both parties are happy with the status quo, they like more immigrants, for different reasons.  I don't trust Rubio based on his open borders history, but during campaign season he has spelled out the correct position, he is for what the voters want, a three step plan which first involves legislation to close the borders effectively.  According to him nothing else happens, no other legislation until we verify that the first step worked.  I think that is the right way to go and Cruz is in line with Rubio on that.  


The difference you are missing Kyle is that Jeb, Kasich, and the rest of the proggie wing of the party want to continue with this comprehensive legislation.   They want some complicated legislation, so when the borders continue to leak, it is too late to reverse the pathways, the green cards, the now bring grandma and uncle Jose here provision,  and the guest worker parts.


It is like the roof is leaking, flooding and ruining  the kitchen and the wife is excited with the thought of remodeling and updating the counter tops in the kitchen first,with the money in savings,rather than fixing the roof.  She realizes the roof needs repair and hopes to save some of the money for that, but her priority is clearly on the remodel/update.  The husband is saying we gotta spend the money on the roof repair, and we will worry about the kitchen update later if the roof can be repaired.  Jeb and company side with the wife, Cruz and Rubio want to fix the roof first.


We need to stem the flow before we pick out new appliances and countertops.  We need to take care of folks here, who need help like those 50,000 homeless vets and we need to find a way to stop the H1-B visa abuse, where Americans have to train their lower wage foreign replacements.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

If the situation is so horrible for the illegal aliens, why do they stay? Apparently they find the current arrangement acceptable.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@LilBarryBailout America is like Disney World for these immigrants, the only difference is Disney World has a fence and charges admission. America is wide open, no fees or responsibility required.  You go to jail if you climb the fence at Disney and in America if you climb the fence you get free healthcare and food stamps.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

As long as they have buzz words and leave the meaning of "amnesty" vague and subject to change by the moment or before the crowd they are speaking to, there won't be much space visible among the candidates.  Now, if the voters DEMAND exactly what each candidate means by insisting each one give details as to his/her plan, then there might be some shades of gray or brown visible.

lvg
lvg

Ah so the Right wing and Kyle is moving towards accepting Cruz as a moderate so the fool/anarchist  can get nominated. What about his absurd statement that illegals are stealing American jobs-True? who works in the fields for a pittance? who cleans toilets and offices for a pittance? who does the majority o fthe residential construction for a pittance?

Tell me one thing this guy has accomplished in the Senate? and how hard is it for someone from Texas to list five cabinet offices they want to eliminate?



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg "Ah so the Right wing and Kyle is moving towards accepting Cruz as a moderate so the fool/anarchist  can get nominated. "

Nice try. What I'm pointing out is that there's not as much daylight among GOP candidates' positions on immigration -- with the exception of Trump -- as some of them would like you to believe. That's one small part of determining if any particular candidate is a moderate, or worthy of the nomination (which of course are two separate issues).

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Who would be doing those jobs if illegals weren't? Would the pay be more or less than the pittance it is now? Are you for or against a "living wage?"

Caius
Caius

The US has had the same policies on immigration for decades with only small changes done by Executive Orders.  Nothing gets through congress.  So the default position of all parties is "the status quo is okay". 


We have about 3.3 million illegals who came here legally but remained here illegally and we choose to do nothing.  Default position.


We also have the about 8 million illegals who came here illegally and remain here illegally and we choose to do nothing. We are back to that default position again.

Now, all us talk about doing something.  But that is all we do, talk. (See Kennedy - McCain 2005.)


But then we all also talk about the debt and spending but every year congress underfunds the government they establish with appropriation bills.  Congress then tells Treasury to borrow enough money to pay the bills they created. Default position.


We are all waiting for the people to decide at the ballot box and so far they have refused to decide.