The Corner

Politics & Policy

Cruz, 2013: ‘The Amendment I Introduced Affected Only Citizenship; It Did Not Affect the Underlying Legalization’

On May 31, 2013, Ted Cruz came to Princeton Univerisy 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.

The final two amendments were, number one, the one we just talked about, a bill that provided those here illegally would not be eligible for citizenship. Now, now, it’s worth thinking for a moment about how that would operate. That’s an amendment to the underlying bill. The underlying bill from the Gang of Eight provides for legal status for those who are here illegally. It provides for them getting a temporary visa initially, and ultimately being able to get a green card, as a legal permanent resident. The amendment I introduced would not change any of that, which would mean the 11 million who are here illegally would all come out of the shadows and be legalized under the Gang of Eight’s bill. It would simply provide that there are consequences for having come illegally, for not having followed the legal rules, for not having waited in line, and those consequences are that those individuals are not eligible for citizenship.

The answer that was given from Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat from New York and the lead defender of the Gang of Eight Bill in the Judiciary Committee, he was very candid. He said, “if there is no citizenship, there can be no reform.” I actually said at the hearing, the senior senator from New York, I applaud his candor. He has made perfectly clear there is a partisan political objective here that trumps everything else. And that if he can’t get 100 percent of what he wants, then he’s willing to torpedo the entire bill. That if citizenship is off the table, he is willing to do nothing to secure the border, do nothing to improve legal immigration, to do nothing to allow the 11 million to come out of the shadows. His solution is to leave them where they are. If we can’t get citizenship, we will do nothing.

And what I believe is happening is that citizenship provision is designed, and the White House knows it’s designed, to be a poison pill in the House [of Representatives] to torpedo the bill, because then the want to campaign in 2014 and 2016, and say, ‘see those Republicans? They killed immigration reform.’…”

Cruz continued, “I want to see common sense immigration reform pass. But the only way to do so is to find a middle ground, and right now, they’re unwilling to do so. And I think many of the Hispanic advocacy groups, in particular, are being played. They’re being played by partisans who want the deal to fail, because they want to use it as a campaign issue. And I hope that strategy doesn’t work.”

George followed up, “If I’ve understood you correctly, you would actually grant current illegal immigrants, or at least some substantial portion of those who are here unlawfully, permanent status? Green card status?  So this is not a deportation bill, proposal or self-deportation as Romney called it, or anything like that. The disagreement is about whether they should be granted citizenship, through some mechanism, through some process, not whether they should be moved from illegal status to legal status?”

Cruz replied, “The amendment I introduced affected only citizenship; it did not affect the underlying legalization in the Gang of Eight bill.”

George followed up, “Would your bill pass the House, or would it be killed because it was proposing ‘amnesty’?”

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.

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