Ted Cruz Ready To Force A Showdown Over Immigration?
Last summer, with the backing of several national Tea Party organizations, Texas Senator Ted Cruz toured the country building up support for his plan to force a government shutdown at the upcoming end of the Fiscal Year over the issue of “defunding” the Affordable Care Act. Notwithstanding the fact that the leadership in the House and Senate, not to mention conservative spending hawks like Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, opposed the idea and explained quite succinctly why it could not possibly work, Cruz went forward with his plan and won his battle with the leadership to the extent that the government was indeed shut down for sixteen days largely because of him. The Texas Senator suffered a setback as the shutdown started to negatively impact the the GOP but, in the long run, it does not seem as though he has suffered much at all with his Tea Party constituency. Indeed, Cruz remains at the top of the list of potential candidates for President from that wing of the party.
Now, Senator Cruz is set to start a new fight over immigration, with the goal being overturning the administrative changes that President Obama made last year that allow some children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country and take advantage of some benefits:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to take a hard-line stand that could rile up conservatives just as lawmakers — including two from his home state — are struggling to address the growing humanitarian crisis along the southern border.
The conservative firebrand believes that any bill to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border must also include language to stop a 2012 immigration directive from President Barack Obama — a proposal unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
That’s a much tougher approach than the one being sought by Cruz’s fellow Texans — GOP Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar — who would leave the directive alone. Instead, they would toughen a 2008 human trafficking law while speeding up immigration proceedings and authorizing 40 more judges to handle the cases. The Obama administration has expressed openness to revisiting the 2008 law, and the Texans’ plan could be included in a spending measure that will soon be considered by the GOP-controlled House.
The move is vintage Cruz: stake out a staunchly conservative position on the biggest debates in Congress, whether it’s pushing to defund Obamacare at the expense of a government shutdown or now trying to end a controversial Obama policy aimed at deferring deportation proceedings for certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
While plenty of Republicans would be happy to end the Obama directive, some think it’s unrealistic to tie it to an assistance package. And there’s no sign that the House, dominated by Republicans, is considering such a move.
Supporters of the effort say targeting the directive would resolve the root cause of the current crisis, but some fear that a fight over the directive could simply delay getting aid to the border.
“We should not lose sight of the fact that we have an urgent crisis on the southern border right now and we have to deal with that, I think, first,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).
The jockeying comes as Cornyn and Cuellar are seeking to win broader support for their bipartisan deal to address the border issue. Cruz twice declined to discuss the duo’s proposal on Wednesday, referring the inquiries to his office.
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the senator’s “top priority” is to end the deferred action program, noting that he is drafting a legislative proposal to prohibit the White House from broadening the policy.
“We believe that needs to be a prerequisite of any bill that is considered by the Senate,” Frazier said.
At least as far as the conservative base is concerned, Cruz has once again picked out a popular issue to focus on, much as he did last year with Obamacare. The opposition to immigration reform is quite high among Republicans to begin with, of course, and even higher among the Tea Party wing of the party where it often seems as though any proposal that includes something other than the amorphous idea of “border security” is quite simply unacceptable. President Obama’s action last year in particular, which involved essentially deferring prosecution for certain children of illegal immigrants provided they met the established criteria and did not have a criminal record, has become a particular target for scorn among this wing of the GOP. Part of the reason for that, of course, is simply because its something that the President did, but Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan has been the subject of particular animus on the right. Part of the reason for that is that it represents the so-called “amnesty” that these people argue so vehemently against since giving even temporary relief to people who are here illegally through no choice of their own is, of course, the first step toward anarchy or something. DACA has also come under fire more recently as the supposed cause of the ongoing border crisis, allegedly because it has been misinterpreted by people in Central America as meaning that any child who comes to the country will automatically be allowed to stay in the country. Finally, DACA is seen by the Tea Party as yet another example of the President’s alleged “lawlessness” notwithstanding the fact that the regulations that we’re speaking about in this case are clearly within the proper authority of the Executive Branch under the laws passed by Congress. In other words, standing up against DACA is a smart political move for Cruz even if it is a bad policy idea just like the “Defund Obamacare” maneuver was politically smart for him, because it enhances his reputation among the farthest right of the right wing of the Republican Party.
As a policy matter, Cruz’s opposition to DACA makes no sense whatsoever. The people that it apples to were all brought to this country as children, none of them actually chose to come here illegally. They have grown up in an American culture, gone to American public schools and, in many cases, universities, and are really asking for nothing more than to be able to legally work so that they can contribute to a place they consider home while not living under the threat of the government coming to take them away at any time. They don’t have criminal records. They are, in many ways, precisely the kinds of people that we’d want to be a part of this country. Opposing relief from deportation from them makes sense, and it is the humane thing to do. None of that seems to matter to people like Cruz or the anti-immigration reform right.
Interestingly, Cruz’s immigration plan seems to be following a similar path that his defund scheme did last year in that House Leadership is skeptical of the wisdom of the plan:
Some Republicans worry that Cruz’s bill, in this context at least, is a political loser. “Doing so in the midst of the current crisis could look like an overreach, particularly given how the mainstream media will distort it,” a House Republican leadership aide tells National Review Online. “We’re still waiting to hear from the Border Working Group, and nothing has been ruled in or out. Also, it’s certainly possible to deal with that issue legislatively at another time.”
Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) kicked off the morning by accusing Cruz of trying to deport children who are “legitimately” in the country.
“Before Republicans help our Border Patrol agents and all the personnel that’s trying to do something to handle this humanitarian crisis, they want President Obama to deport the DREAMers who are already here, legitimately here,” Reid said. “These are children. But instead of considering a thoughtful, compassionate solution to a real-life crisis on our border, radical Republicans are trying to hold these kids ransom.”
The concerns of the House Leadership are, of course, well placed. While the border crisis has taken a back seat in the last day or so to the crisis in Ukraine in the wake of the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it remains a serious issue that is likely to be back in the news before long. As I’ve noted before, if anything is going to be done to deal with the problems being created by the influx of Central American migrants then it will require action from Congress, and Republicans like John Cornyn have been working across the aisle to come up with a bill that will do just that. If the debate on that bill ends up becoming a vehicle for Cruz to promote his opposition to DACA then it could end up derailing any efforts to get something done on this issue before Congress leaves for its August recess. Democrats, and even many Republicans, are going to be reluctant to say they least to do anything against a program that has been largely politically popular. That would mean that the crisis would continue for much of the summer, ICE and the rest of DHS would continue being overwhelmed in their efforts to deal with these migrants, and residents in the affected areas would continue to have to deal with the issues created by the crisis with little or any assistance from the Federal Government. In such a situation, conservatives would likely hail Senator Cruz as some kind of a hero but, once again, all he would really be is the same self-aggrandizing person he was the last time he forced a shutdown on an issue he could not possibly win.