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Ted Cruz Ready To Force A Showdown Over Immigration?

Ted Cruz

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.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JWH says:

    Attention GOP: You have an out of control Cruz missile!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  2. Vast Variety says:

    I just don’t understand why we simply can’t make it easier for people to immigrate legally and open it up to far more people. People want to come to the US for good reason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  3. CB says:

    “Look, all I’m asking is that you shoot yourself in the knee, and then we’ll run this marathon together. Why are you looking at me like that?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  4. @Vast Variety:

    Because the reality is there’s a broad anti-immigrant streak amongst the American public, one that’s not just limited to the Republican base:

    More in U.S. Would Decrease Immigration Than Increase

    Now personally I agree with you. My general feeling that as long as they’re coming here peacably, people should be free to come here and go about their business. But that’s a minority view.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  5. beth says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’d like to see a poll on whether those people answering decrease feel that immigration has been rising or falling in recent years. From my purely anecdotal observations, most people (the ones I know on Facebook, purely scientific I know) think we’re being overrun by hordes of dark Spanish speakers who want to steal their jobs and rape their daughters just because they’ve got to press one to avoid the Spanish menu.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. @beth:

    Oh no doubt. I constantly hear people complaining about illegal immigration in my area (Phildelphia region). But around 75% of the hispanics in our area are Puerto Ricans who are by definition legally here. The problem is that even if the opposition to immigration is largely the product of irrational xenophobia, that opposition is still there.

    Unlike last year’s crisis, where congressional Republicans were opposing government spending that was generally popular with the broader public, I’m not sure this issue is an obvious loser for Cruz.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    I don’t understand the mechanics of this. As I understand it DACA is just direction from the President to exercise prosecutorial discretion. How does the Congress repeal it? Do they pass a bill outlawing prosecutorial discretion? If so, do they pony up funding for the additional activity?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. grumpy realist says:

    There should be a way for kids who have grown up their entire life in the US to quickly become US citizens. I predict that 99% of them are “assimilated”, which gets rid of at least one of the boogymen that people on the right keep squawking about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @beth: I remember as a kid having a strange dream about a dystopian future where anyone who spoke a foreign language was considered an Enemy of the People.

    Who woulda thunk the American Right had so much in common with Pot Pol?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. Jim R says:

    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.

    So much this.

    Piss off, Cruz.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    Like his look alike Joseph McCarthy Ted Cruz is interested in one thing – Ted Cruz.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  12. beth says:

    I don’t get Ted Cruz. By all accounts, and I have no reason to disbelieve them, he’s a very smart, very ambitious person. He has to know that this kind of stance doesn’t win him many voters in any general election. Is his ambition really just to be a Republican senator from Texas? Will he be like John McCain in 25 years, a veteran of one or two failed presidential campaigns, railing over whatever the hard right is up in arms about then? It just doesn’t seem to fit with his profile as being someone who really wants to be President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @beth: what the old schtick, about drug-dealers should never sample their own product?

    Cruz has surrounded himself with Tea Partiers for so long I wonder if he realizes that outside of the Republican clown car races he’s universally detested.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  14. beth says:

    @grumpy realist: I guess that’s it and I wouldn’t be surprised by that if we were talking about Gohmert or Bachmann but Cruz always struck me as being smarter than that. Hell even Rand Paul appears to be moderating slightly as we get closer to 2016. I don’t know how being the guy that refuses to work with anyone else or show any compassion gets you elected President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. KM says:

    What a stupid hill to die on, Rafael.

    “We have to do this – for America! For morals!! Think of the children!!! Oh wait….”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. MikeSJ says:

    I think Cruz is planning on cashing in his chips and making some serious bank one day.

    He may be planning on becoming a Fox News Personality or even the next Glenn Beck. That’s the only explanation that makes sense since this strategy will never get him to the presidency.

    Of course the other explanation is he’s just an a-hole who really likes being the center of attention.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  17. Mu says:

    It’s the Dan Snyder way of building a football team transferred to politics. He knows the days of GOP presidents is rapidly coming to a close, so he needs to win now, in the next cycle. So he doesn’t care what bridges he burns or how the will die in salary cap hell in 2017. Either he’s president, or he’s done. Probably good for a reelection or two, but he knows his days in Texas are numbered with his immigration stand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  18. Tyrell says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Most of these people come here and manage to find a job. They are not looking for handouts or welfare. Most behave, follow the law, and show respect to others. They have strong family values. Most go to church and have their children involved in the church. Maybe we should send a lot of gang members, career criminals, predators, and thugs down there. I think a lot of people would go for that kind of arrangement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. @Tyrell:

    Most of these people come here and manage to find a job. They are not looking for handouts or welfare. Most behave, follow the law, and show respect to others. They have strong family values. Most go to church and have their children involved in the church.

    As I already said, I’m in favor of open borders, so I’m not sure why you seem to think I need more convincing that immigration is good.

    I think a lot of people would go for that kind of arrangement.

    If we were the nation we like to pretend we are, most people would. Sadly we’re not. Far too many people don’t care that immigrants are good people; all that matters to them is that immigrants are “the other” and therefore must be shunned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Dave Francis says:

    There is substantial evidence that you cannot trust the well documented polls in the media? They have been engineered to fit there biased philosophy of the Liberal-Democratic hierarchy, who are well established in the majority of the media. The brain washing began is the Hippie cycle back at the time of the Viet-Nam war. Many American military was spat upon after they returned from the Asian nightmare. Even certain members of the Hollywood set indoctrinated by the crisp, resonating voices of anti-American rhetoric justified a desire to change America in a first initial phase. It was seen in the secular and political instruction we find well developed in the places of higher learning. It is now increasingly to be found in our universities, colleges and schools urged on by Leftist Professors and teachers who wish to remake America. They are demanding a society of government controlling everything; what you eat what you watch on TV; listen to on the radio and a health care system based indirectly on a single payer system. Our right to self- sufficient achievements is not the Lefts way. It is a fringe population that believes government solves every physical problem; that from Cradle to grave they want us to fully depend on agencies of the government, instead of our own resourceful ability of American Exceptionalism?

    Hoping for change I even voted for President Obama and with the promise of more transparency, but the reverse happened and we have less than candid regime that has slyly dissolved the rights given to all Americans by the US Constitution. Nothing but scandals, lies and cover ups have come from this administration…and we’ve had enough. Since taking office, Obama has consistently and willfully violated the law. His end-runs around Congress and flagrant disregard for our Constitution are beyond appalling. What he’s done from Obamacare to amnesty Benghazi to the NSA spying and IRS targeting is criminal. But, now with the downing of the Malaysian passenger jet with a massive loss of life, we must not lose sight of the issues that confront the people every day at home.

    In the immediate scoped gun sight is the border bedlam. Not only is it another huge financial burden for taxpayers, but it is that the Border Patrol agents who are dealing with 50.000 illegal aliens who have crossed into our country and officers are unnecessarily absorbed in the Processing of arrivals; in most cases the border region remains unattended and unmanned with all energy appropriated for humanitarian welfare. Yet this bloated government is reluctant to own up that we have an urgent matter of our NATIONAL SECURITY as unknown numbers of foreign entities have already entered through the wide open border areas. From the data available larger loads of drugs are being smuggled, with OTM (other than Mexicans) who may have disguised themselves as Mexicans, but in reality are dangerous terrorists from areas of the Middle East.

    RUSMUSSEN REPORTS IS BY FAR THE MOST HONEST ASSESSMENT FROM ORDINARY CONTACTED PEOPLE ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. IT IS THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN BE TRUSTED NOT TO MANIPULATE THE WORDS AND THE OUTCOME OF THE POLLS?

    In the latest survey of Rasmussen most voters don’t want any of the young illegal immigrants who’ve recently arrived here housed in their state and say any legislation passed by Congress to deal with the problem should focus on sending them home as soon as possible.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 59% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the primary focus of any new immigration legislation passed by Congress should be to send the young illegal immigrants back home as quickly as possible. Just 27% say it should focus instead on making it easier for these illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

    Advocates for the illegal immigrants argue that they are flooding into the country to escape violent situations in their home countries, but just 31% of U.S. voters think they are coming here now for their own safety. Most voters (52%) believe they are coming here for economic reasons. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.

    National Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters
    Conducted July 15-16, 2014
    by Rasmussen Reports
    1* How closely have you followed recent news reports about the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border?

    2* Should Congress approve $3.7 billion in new spending to deal with the thousands of young illegal immigrants who are coming here if the money does not provide for quicker deportation of these illegal immigrants?

    3* Are most of the young illegal immigrant children coming to this country now for their own safety or for economic reasons?

    4* Do you approve or disapprove of the housing of these new illegal immigrants in your state?

    5* What should be the primary focus of any new immigration legislation passed by Congress – to send the young illegal immigrants back home as quickly as possible or to make it easier for them to remain in the United States?

    NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

    Blocking amnesty for illegals is up to us—grassroots America—the little citizens. We need you. Check these site that has the phone Numbers and Mailing Addresses of Members of Congress at http://www.contactingthecongress/ to demand an end to illegal immigration. You can also get alternative news about issues at One-America-News and TeaParty.org

    The National TEA PARTY STATES NO IMMIGRATION REFORM, WITHOUT SEALING THE BORDER. NO PATH TO CITIZENSHIP.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 28

  21. DrDaveT says:

    @Dave Francis:

    What he’s done from Obamacare to amnesty Benghazi to the NSA spying and IRS targeting is criminal. But, now with the downing of the Malaysian passenger jet with a massive loss of life, we must not lose sight of the issues that confront the people every day at home.

    You just can’t make this stuff up.

    Nevertheless, today I am proud to be an American, because for every brainwashed zombie like Dave Francis here, there are people like the guys who actually took control of an abandoned NASA satellite and are trying to get it working again. Thanks, guys — you’ve salvaged what would have been a very depressing day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  22. CSK says:

    Cruz is into and out for Cruz. Period. He has an enormous ego, and will do whatever is necessary to feed it. And yes, he probably does want to be a one or two million dollar a year pundit, a job that requires virtually no time, no effort, and no knowledge–but an eagerness to stick your face in front of a camera and throw red meat to the yokels.

    Maybe he’ll end up doing reality shows, like Palin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  23. Scott O says:

    @Dave Francis:
    Poe’s law

    Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  24. KansasMom says:

    @Tyrell: Where exactly is down there Tyrell? They aren’t all coming from the same place.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEG66-Lro7U

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. wr says:

    @Dave Francis: Yeah, you’re a great patriot. It takes a real tough guy to fight this hard against a bunch of terrified children. I’ve got to say, you make me proud to be a leftist professor, even if my subject doesn’t actually allow me to indoctrinate anyone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  26. anjin-san says:

    The brain washing began is the Hippie cycle back at the time of the Viet-Nam war.

    My God! He knows! And we almost got away with it…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @beth:

    I don’t get Ted Cruz.

    It’s really pretty simple: He’s a bully and a coward. Notice that the people he picks on are always the weakest? Now he is picking on people who have very little in the way of legal redress. Just to speak, endangers them.

    Nice little grift you got going there Ted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  28. Mu says:
  29. Tillman says:

    I always imagine this photo of him is right after he whips his luxurious locks back in the sea spray with a saxophone playing in the background.

    I mean, there’s a lot of reasons to not take him seriously, but I have the stupidest one right there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. CSK says:

    @Tillman:

    I think he looks a bit like Bill Murray playing the Lounge Lizard, so yeah, your point is well taken.

    This story has acquired a new dimension of weirdness: Cruz has apparently joined up with Glenn Beck to distribute soccer balls and Teddy bears to the kids.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. Jeremy R says:

    @Dave Francis:

    Hoping for change I even voted for President Obama

    Ri-i-i-i-ght:

    … engineered to fit there biased philosophy of the Liberal-Democratic hierarchy … brain washing began is the Hippie cycle … Hollywood … Leftist Professors and teachers who wish to remake America … government controlling everything … self- sufficient achievements is not the Lefts way … American Exceptionalism … Obamacare … amnesty … Benghazi … IRS targeting … bloated government … disguised themselves as Mexicans, but in reality are dangerous terrorists from areas of the Middle East … RUSMUSSEN REPORTS IS BY FAR THE MOST HONEST ASSESSMENT … Blocking amnesty for illegals … One-America-News and TeaParty.org … The National TEA PARTY STATES NO IMMIGRATION REFORM …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  32. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @Dave Francis: A laugh a minute. Carry on please :D

    In the immediate scoped gun sight is the border bedlam.

    Wait, are you even American? That sounds a lot like google translate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  33. al-Ameda says:

    @Dave Francis:
    Did you check under your bed this morning, the Malaysian Airliner’s flight transponder might be there. Also, some advice from the hippie-leftist movement might help here: lay off the alcohol, try weed, it makes you mellow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. Barry says:

    @Mu: “Probably good for a reelection or two, but he knows his days in Texas are numbered with his immigration stand. ”

    In Texas he’s probably good for one or two more reelections, and that’s 12 more years of power and money, over what’s left in his current term. That’s not to be sneezed at.

    I think that he’s thinking about 2016, and running for the Presidency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0