Media criticized GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for claiming he never supported legalizing undocumented immigrants by pointing to his documented support of legalization in 2013.
Ted Cruz Distorted His Immigration Reform Record At The GOP Debate
Ted Cruz Claimed He “Never Supported Legalization” Of Undocumented Immigrants. During the December 15 GOP presidential debate Ted Cruz claimed that he “led the fight against [Sen. Marco Rubio's] legalization and amnesty” immigration reform bill in 2013. After Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that Cruz “support[s] legalizing people who are in this country illegally,” Cruz responded that “it is not accurate what [Rubio] just said” and that he “never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization”:
[MARCO] RUBIO: As far as Ted's record, I'm always puzzled by his attack on this issue. Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally. Ted Cruz supported a 500-percent increase in the number of H-1 visas, the guest workers that are allowed into this country, and Ted supports doubling the number of green cards. So I think what's important for us to understand and there is a way forward on this issue that we can bring our country together on. And while I'm president I will do it. And it will begin by bringing illegal immigration under control and proving to the American people.
[DANA] BASH [(DEBATE MODERATOR)]: Senator Cruz?
[TED] CRUZ: Look, I understand Marco wants to raise confusion, it is not accurate what he just said that I supported legalization. Indeed, I led the fight against his legalization and amnesty. And you know, there was one commentator that put it this way that, for Marco to suggest our record's the same is like suggesting “the fireman and the arsonist because they are both at the scene of the fire.” He was fighting to grant amnesty and not to secure the border, I was fighting to secure the border. And this also goes to trust, listening on to campaign trails. Candidates all the time make promises. You know, Marco said," he learned that the American people didn't trust the federal government."
RUBIO: Did Ted Cruz fight to support legalizing people that are in this country illegally?
CRUZ: He campaigned promising to lead the fight against amnesty.
RUBIO: Does Ted Cruz rule out ever legalizing people that are in this country now?
BASH: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ; I have never supported a legalization...
RUBIO: Would you rule it out?
CRUZ : I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization. Let me tell you how you do this, what you do is you enforce the law .... [TIME, 12/15/15]
But In 2013, Cruz Supported Legalization Of Undocumented Immigrants And “Want[ed] Immigration Reform To Pass.” In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 21, 2013, Cruz sponsored an amendment to the Gang of Eight's comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have “allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States permanently and obtain legal status.” At the hearing, Cruz urged his colleagues to support his amendment, which he said “allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows.” He further said, “I don't want immigration reform to fail. I want immigration reform to pass.” [Yahoo News, 12/16/15, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 5/21/13]
Media Criticize Cruz For Lying At The Debate About His Previous Support For Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Yahoo News: “Cruz Has Changed His Story” And “Misrepresented His Own Intentions.” Yahoo News senior political correspondent Jon Ward blasted Ted Cruz for his “dishonesty on immigration,” writing that “it is very hard to square” his support for legalizing undocumented immigrants in 2013 “with [his] claim [at the debate] that he 'never supported legalization.'” Ward noted that in addition to reversing his position, “Cruz is also claiming that he was not truthful at the time about what he was up to,” which, if true, would mean he “blatantly misrepresented his own intentions at the time on at least four occasions”:
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won plaudits in Tuesday night's debate for his takedown of Sen. Marco Rubio's, R-Fla., immigration reform effort in 2013.
Yet if Cruz's explanation of why he proposed an amendment to the 2013 legislation is true, then he blatantly misrepresented his own intentions at the time on at least four occasions.
Cruz denied on Tuesday that he has ever supported legal status for undocumented immigrants.
“I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support it,” Cruz said, when questioned by Rubio.
In 2013, however, Cruz sponsored an amendment that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States permanently and obtain legal status, while eliminating a path to citizenship. It is very hard to square that effort with Cruz's claim that he has “never supported legalization.”
That doesn't stop him from trying, however. Cruz's campaign said last month that his 2013 amendment was a “poison pill,” intended to undercut the main legislation and reduce its chances of passing. By eliminating a path to citizenship, Cruz hoped to turn Democrats against the bill. Top Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler repeated the “poison pill” assertion after the debateTuesday.
It's no surprise that in a GOP presidential primary season, Cruz has changed his story about why he put forward an amendment that would have provided a path for legal status, if not citizenship.
The Texan is competing with Donald “I'm going to build a wall” Trump to win over a conservative base that is even more agitated about illegal immigration than it was in the summer of 2013.
But in changing his story, Cruz is also claiming that he was not truthful at the time about what he was up to. The Cruz campaign has yet to respond to a request for comment. [Yahoo News, 12/16/15]
Daily Beast: Cruz “Change[d] His Immigration Tune At Breakneck Speed.” On December 17 The Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff wrote that Cruz “comes perilously close -- if not slightly over the line -- to taking multiple positions on” immigration reform after “chang[ing] his immigration tune at breakneck speed.” Woodruff noted that there “are two schools of thought on the right regarding immigration,” and Cruz “is trying to be in both -- which is damn near impossible without a little bit of dishonesty one way or the other”:
Ted Cruz loves legal immigrants. Except when he hates them.
Thus--as a post-game interview with Jake Tapper after last night's debate suggested--he's having a little trouble explaining exactly where he comes down on immigrants who actually play by the rules.
“If someone is here illegally and apprehended, they will be sent back to their home country,” he said. “It's critical. I'm also a big advocate of welcoming and celebrating legal immigrants. And I think most Americans agree with the principle legal: good, illegal: bad.”
But here's the hiccup: Cruz struggles mightily to decide whether or not he actually agrees with that principle.
On one hand, Cruz--like many immigration hardliners--wants to stop illegal immigration. But he also wants restrictions on legal immigrants and that's where threading the needle gets tricky on an issue he can't afford to mess up.
The senator, like every single other politician in America, talks differently depending on what audience he's addressing. But, unlike some of those other folks, the Texas senator comes perilously close--if not slightly over the line--to taking multiple positions on this issue, the single most contentious of the campaign.
And just like he said one thing about Donald Trump behind closed doors and another on the debate stage, he changes his immigration tune at breakneck speed.
But unlike his personal assessment of Trump's character, his views on immigration policy -- namely, whether legal immigration is good or bad--actually matter as the debate over the border and who is allowed to comes across becomes increasingly important in the Republican field. And he's bending over backwards to make them totally unclear. [Daily Beast, 12/17/15]
CNN's Alisyn Camerota: Ted Cruz Struggles To Explain His 2013 Immigration Position “Because He's Flip-Flopped.” On the December 17 edition of CNN's New Day, host Alisyn Camerota highlighted that “the reason ... Ted Cruz is struggling to explain [his previous support for legalization] is because he's flip-flopped,” explaining, “He supported a path to legalization ... and now he's trying to claim that he didn't”:
MAGGIE HABERMAN: Ted Cruz for the first time yesterday seemed to struggle on the issue of immigration. He has been very, very clear and focused and smooth in his responses. He was during the debate. But in an interview last night, it was the first time that he stammered, he had trouble getting through it. He introduced an amendment to what was the immigration reform bill in 2013.
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): The Gang of Eight bill, that he now criticizes.
HABERMAN: He had trouble defending this yesterday. It was again the first time - Cruz is an expert debater, this has been written about repeatedly. He is very polished. This is the first time he is getting real scrutiny. It's also the first time Marco Rubio is getting real scrutiny.
CAMEROTA: Errol, the reason that he is struggling, that Ted Cruz is struggling to explain that is because he's flip-flopped. He supported a path to legalization, to legality in 2013 and now he's trying to claim that he didn't. And Rubio called him out at the debate. he said, you supported it. And he was like no. No, I didn't. He changed the subject basically. But he did. [CNN, New Day, 12/17/15]
Texas Tribune: Cruz Has Made “A Clean Break From His Own Record.” On December 16 The Texas Tribune reported that “a far different Ted Cruz has shown up on the campaign trail” after his immigration “flip-flop,” noting that Cruz's current hardline immigration position “wasn't always the case.” The Tribune further wrote that Cruz has “distanced himself from the positions he advocated” in the past and has made “a clean break from his own record”:
Listen to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on immigration policy these days and there's little daylight between the firebrand senator and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
They're both in the deport-first-and-ask-questions-later camp.
But that wasn't always the case. In the summer of 2013, as Congress was mulling sweeping immigration reforms, Cruz was promoting a “middle ground” that would have dramatically boosted legal immigration and even given legal status and work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the country.
A far different Ted Cruz has shown up on the campaign trail in recent weeks. Gone are the pledges to double legal immigration to 1.35 million people a year -- up from 675,000 -- and to eliminate the country-by-country caps that Cruz said at the time “penalizes the nation of Mexico significantly.”
That proposal included a whopping fivefold increase in legal temporary work permits, known as H-1B visas.
Cruz jettisoned those increases weeks ago when he advocated for restrictions on legal immigration until the economy improves and specifically called for a temporary moratorium on all H1-B visas.
For weeks after that flip-flop, which was contained in his sweeping immigration campaign proposal, Cruz took heat for repeatedly refusing to answer what he would do with the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country now.
That nuance disappeared Tuesday at the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where Cruz took the GOP debate stage as a top tier candidate for president and distanced himself from the positions he advocated as a newly minted U.S. senator. [Texas Tribune, 12/16/15]
Establishment Right-Wing Media Are Also Calling Out Cruz's Hypocrisy
Fox News' Bret Baier: “Looking Back ... Which One Should People Believe?” On the December 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier grilled Cruz on his immigration reversal, asking Cruz to “square that circle” of hypocrisy. Baier pressed Cruz to answer “looking back at what you said then, and what you're saying now, which one should people believe?” After Cruz responded that the Gang of Eight bill “was a terrible bill,” Baier countered and said “that's not what you said at the time”:
BRET BAIER (HOST): Now that amendment would have allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. permanently and obtain legal status, so how do you square that circle?
TED CRUZ: Actually, Bret, it wouldn't have. What was happening there is that was the battle over the Gang of Eight, the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill, which was a massive amnesty bill proposed by Senator Rubio, by Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama. And I was leading the fight against amnesty. I was standing shoulder to shoulder with Jeff Sessions, I was standing shoulder to shoulder with Steve King, leading the fight to secure the borders, and what I did -- that particular amendment was an amendment I introduced to remove citizenship, to say those who are here illegally shall be permanently ineligible for citizenship. Now, the fact that I introduced an amendment to remove part of the Gang of Eight bill doesn't mean I support the rest of the Gang of Eight bill. The Gang of Eight bill was a mess, it was a terrible bill.
BAIER: That is not what you said at the time. And Yahoo dug up these quotes from back then. You said, "'If this amendment were to pass, the chances of this bill passing into law would increase dramatically.' A few weeks later, during a debate on the senate floor, Cruz repeated his belief that this amendment is the compromise that can pass." And you repeated later in Princeton that “If my amendment were adopted, this bill would pass.” It sounded like you wanted the bill to pass.
CRUZ: What my amendment did is take citizenship off the table, but it doesn't mean, it doesn't mean that I supported the other aspects of the bill, which was a terrible bill. And Bret, you've been around Washington long enough, you know how to defeat bad legislation. Which is what that amendment did is it revealed the hypocrisy of Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats and the establishment Republicans who were supporting them, because they all voted against it. And listen, I'll give you the simplest proof why this notion that my fighting amnesty somehow made me a supporter of amnesty. Jeff Sessions voted with me on my amendment to eliminate citizenship. Now is anyone remotely suggesting that Jeff Sessions supports amnesty? Of course not.
BAIER: The problem though is that at the time you were telling people like Byron York with The Washington Examiner that this was not a poison pill. You told him, “My objective was not to kill immigration reform.” You said you wanted it to pass at the time, so my question to you is looking back at what you said then, and what you're saying now, which one should people believe? [Fox News, Special Report, 12/16/15]
Charles Krauthammer: Cruz's Previous Support For Legalization “Was Exposed” And His Reversal “Is Not A Defensible Position.” On the December 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer hammered Cruz for his “mistake” of falsely claiming he never supported legalization at the GOP debate, saying that “it's clear from the record ... that he wanted to pass the bill” and wanted “legalization.” Krauthammer criticized Cruz for his reversal, saying “it is not a defensible position and that was exposed today”:
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The Rubio/Cruz match last night was the highlight of the evening. But what's so interesting is what it led to today. Rubio was willing to take a hit on an issue he knows he is the least popular with with the GOP electorate. But he did it in order to be able to ask one question of Cruz, which is always a danger in the debate. A, you're giving up your time. And, b, you have no idea what he's going to say. But what he elicited from Cruz was the statement that he had never supported legalization. And that was a mistake as was exposed in this unbelievable questioning that you did today, because when you asked him that, he had no answer. He pretends now that he did that in order to kill the bill. But it's clear from the record that he said at the time repeatedly, and not even in Congress but even in the meeting at Princeton with one of his old professors, Robbie George, that he wanted to pass the bill, but wanted instead of citizenship, legalization. The fact that he said he never supported it is not a defensible position, and that was exposed today. So that was a very complicated chess match between the two. Cruz had the better of it last night, but now he is stuck with something he's going to have to explain away that is not very easy. [Fox News,Special Report, 12/16/16]
NRO: Cruz “Had Every Chance To Say He Opposed [Legalization] And Didn't Do So.” National Review Online contributor Jim Geraghty wrote on December 16 that “there is no reason to believe that in 2013, Cruz opposed a path to legalization.” Geraghty argued that Cruz “had every opportunity to state that he didn't” support the Gang of Eight bill and “had every chance to say he opposed a legal status for illegal immigrants” and failed to do either:
On May 31, 2013, Ted Cruz came to Princeton University for an annual alumni reunion and sat down in front of cameras in a packed auditorium with his old professor Robert P. George.
During the conversation, Cruz addressed his amendments to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill at length, including one that would have only removed citizenship, not legal status, from illegal immigrants.
Cruz replied,“I believe that if my amendments were adopted, the bill would pass. My effort in introducing them was to find solution that reflected common ground and fixed the problem.”
Asked directly, Cruz had every opportunity to state that he didn't intend for his amendment to be adopted or for the Gang of Eight bill to pass at all and in fact replied the opposite. At no point did he describe his amendment as a poison bill or procedural maneuver to derail the bill. He had every chance to say he opposed a legal status for illegal immigrants and didn't do so.
At this point, there is no reason to believe that in 2013, Ted Cruz opposed a path to legalization (not citizenship) for illegal immigrants. [National Review Online, 12/16/16]
Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin: Cruz Is “Caught In A Web Of Inconsistencies And Downright Misrepresentations.” In a December 17 opinion piece, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin criticized Cruz for his reversal, writing “it was a mistake to think he could so easily leap from one position to another without being nailed for hypocrisy or inconsistency, or both.” Rubin slammed Cruz for “painting [his colleagues] as sellouts and [strutting] around with an air of superiority,” only to be “caught in a web of inconsistencies and downright misrepresentations,” and ultimately noted “it is on immigration ... that things finally may have come home to roost” for Cruz:
There is something to the idea of political karma. The politician most reviled by his colleagues for painting them as sellouts and who struts around with an air of superiority is now caught in a web of inconsistencies and downright misrepresentations on foreign policy and his favorite issue, “amnesty.”
On foreign policy, it has not escaped notice that by zigzagging between dog whistles for the followers of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and trying to mimic Donald Trump's tough talk, he's created a foreign policy that “is part isolationist, part realist and part pipe dream,” as my colleague Michael Gerson puts it. At least Paul believes what he says. For Cruz, his choice of position neatly and consistently coincides with whatever he figures the talk show crowd wants to hear. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the wittiest and bluntest of the 2016 contenders, observed, “Ted Cruz's carpet-bombing comments made no sense, and I've been in the Air Force for 33 years. I think that Ted Cruz is a man who is lost. He is trying to be an isolationist when that's hot; he's trying to be a Lindsey Graham-type when that's hot.”
But it is on immigration -- where Cruz has vilified any responsible voice favoring reform and stirred up the party's worst xenophobic tendencies -- that things finally may have come home to roost.
Cruz thinks he is the smartest guy in every room. Sometimes he is. However, it was a mistake to think he could so easily leap from one position to another without being nailed for hypocrisy or inconsistency, or both. Rubio has been pounding away at these themes for a few weeks, but now that they have spread across conservative and mainstream media, Cruz will face persistent scrutiny, just as the voters in Iowa are making their final decisions. [The Washington Post, 12/17/15]