BY ESTHER YU-HSI LEE – – – – –
GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s latest position on undocumented immigrants is so extreme that it makes Donald Trump — who has become infamous for his harsh, xenophobic anti-immigrant remarks on the campaign trail — look tame in comparison.
During a stop in Boone, IA this week, Cruz said that he would support deporting the country’s 11.3 million undocumented immigrants without ever giving them a chance to come back to the country. Trump, meanwhile, has said he would deport all undocumented immigrants but allow the “really good people” to move back to the United States.
Cruz’s latest comments came in response to a question that specifically contrasted his immigration stance with Trump’s and asked whether he supported “deporting all the illegal immigrants.”
“Absolutely,” Cruz replied, adding that “there’s a difference” between him and Donald Trump.
“He’s advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that,” Cruz said. “So, if you read — I have a very detailed 11-page immigration proposal that’s on my website — it’s TedCruz.org — it was designed with Steve King and Jeff Sessions. [They] were the two who sat down with me to prepare it and it is enforce the law across the board.”
Cruz’s response came just a day before his campaign dropped “Invasion,” a new ad featuring men and women in business attire running through a river in what could pass for the the Rio Grande Valley border region of Texas. The ad features dramatic music, distraught actors, and an ominous voiceover from Cruz claiming that people would care more about immigration reform as a “personal economic issue” if lawyers, bankers, and journalists were “crossing the Rio Grande” and “driving down the wages.”
As Vox pointed out, the TV spot appears to be an attempt to repackage Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric in a more palatable way. The publication noted that “what Cruz is doing here, basically, is looking past Trump to a showdown with Marco Rubio in which Cruz is going to want to mobilize Trump’s voters (hence the focus on the immigration issue) while putting a more acceptable gloss on the substance by focusing on economics.”
Cruz was the GOP’s anti-establishment rabble-rouser before Trump, winning endorsements from evangelicals, Tea Party voters, and the support of anti-immigrant lawmakers like Rep. Steve King (R-IA). But since Trump sharply rose in the polls and has held onto the frontrunner spot, Cruz has had to battle Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as a Trump alternate.
Now, the two may be starting to close the gap. As of Tuesday, Cruz’s poll numbers have risen in Iowa, a state that’s important for its first-in-the-nation caucuses. And according to the Field Poll, among Republican voters in California, “the difference between Cruz’s and Trump’s numbers is within the poll’s margin of error.”
Setting aside for a moment that an operation to carry out the mass deportation of 11.3 million people could cost $114 billion, and that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants do not have criminal records, Cruz’s suggestion could also affect immigrants coerced into deportation.
In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego settled Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson, a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, after nine Mexican nationals alleged they were coerced into signing documents allowing for their “voluntary return” back to their countries of origin. The individuals alleged that they were not given a chance to be heard by an immigration judge, even though they may have qualified for legal status under certain circumstances.