Has Ted Cruz Always Opposed Legalization of Undocumented Immigrants?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

In conservative circles, it turns out that one of the hottest debate topics from Tuesday night was the fight between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio over immigration. Rubio, of course, is famous for championing a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 that included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Cruz voted against it. But he also said this:

CRUZ: You know, there was a time for choosing, as Reagan put it. Where there was a battle over amnesty and some chose, like Senator Rubio to stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and support a massive amnesty plan. Others chose to stand with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and the American people and secure the border.

….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.

….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.

….RUBIO: Did Ted Cruz fight to support legalizing people that are in this country illegally?

….BASH: Senator Cruz, can you answer that question please?

….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.

But this isn’t true. Cruz did support legalization. As Jim Geraghty points out, Cruz offered an amendment to Rubio’s legislation that would have legalized millions of immigrants. Here is Cruz explaining it at Princeton in 2013:

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.

Cruz would have denied citizenship to anyone here illegally, but he explicitly supported a path to legal residence. Cruz now likes to pretend that he merely meant his amendment as a poison pill, something that would make the entire bill unacceptable to Democrats. But that’s not what he said at the time. Here’s Geraghty:

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.

Byron York confirms that Cruz told him the same thing during an interview in May of 2013. In other words, Cruz may have gotten the better of Rubio during the debate by lying with a straight face on national TV, but he also may have set himself up for trouble down the line since his record on this point is pretty clear. Liberals haven’t paid a lot of attention to this bit of byplay, but conservatives have. And it’s not likely to end here.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend