October 17, 2021

Ted Cruz’s Important Immigration Answer

politifact-photos-Ted_Cruz_FBN_debatePop quiz: Was the percentage of the U.S. population that is foreign-born higher in 1860, 1880, 1920, or on July 1, 2015?  If you answered “2015,” you’re right. The portion of the U.S. population that is foreign-born is now 13.5 percent, surpassing even the tallies for 1860 (13.2 percent), 1880 (13.3 percent), and 1920 (13.2 percent), and fast approaching the all-time record set in 1890 (14.8 percent), according to the U.S. Census Bureau (see here and table 2).

Moreover, the rate of change has been rapid.  In 1970, foreign-born residents made up just 4.7 percent of the U.S. population.  So, in less than 50 years, the percentage of the population that’s foreign-born has nearly tripled—and much of that immigration has been illegal (and hence ill-suited to assimilation).

It is with this backdrop in mind that Senator Ted Cruz’s immigration answer in Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, perhaps the most important answer of the night, should be considered.

Shortly after a combative immigration exchange involving Donald Trump, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush, Cruz was asked a question about entitlement reform.  He answered succinctly and then quickly switched the subject back to immigration, responding first to a comment made by Bush.  Here’s what Bush had said:

“Twelve million illegal immigrants, to send them back, 500,000 a month, is just not—not possible.  And it’s not embracing American values.  And it would tear communities apart.  And it would send a signal that we’re not the kind of country that I know America is.  And even having this conversation sends a powerful signal—they’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this.  That’s the problem with this.  We have to win the presidency.”

Moments later, Cruz replied,

“I want to go back to the discussion we had a minute ago because, you know, what was said was right.  The Democrats are laughing—because if Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose.

“And, you know, I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn’t often see it as an economic issue.  But, I can tell you for millions of Americans at home watching this, it is a very personal economic issue.  And, I will say the politics of it [would] be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande, or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press. Then, we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation.  And, I will say for those of us who believe people ought to come to this country legally, and we should enforce the law, we’re tired of being told it’s anti-immigrant.  It’s offensive.”

Cruz continued,

“I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba to seek the American dream.  And, we can embrace legal immigration while believing in the rule of law…and it is not compassionate to say we’re not going to enforce the laws, and we’re going to drive down the wages for millions of hardworking men and women.”

Cruz’s answer is important because, of the five main-stage GOP candidates who are actually politicians by trade, four have made it clear that they back a Wall Street Journal-friendly immigration policy.  The question has been whether anyone would speak for the 86 percent of Americans who, according to Gallup, either want immigration levels to remain the same (47 percent) or decrease (39 percent).  (Only 7 percent want to see them increase.)

True, Cruz didn’t say anything specific about overall immigration levels.  But by going out of his way to address this issue, and by responding with a compelling focus on American workers and the hypocrisy of the ruling class, Cruz has now sent a pretty clear signal that he is separating himself from the rest of the (current or former) elected-officeholder portion of the GOP field on an issue that resonates with most Americans living outside of the Washington, D.C.-New York City corridor, and particularly with most Republicans.

As for Bush’s claim that if Republicans fail to join the Democrats on this issue, it will be toxic for the GOP, the evidence—even apart from polling—suggests otherwise.  In the run-up to the 2014 election, in which Republicans won nine new Senate seats, the three biggest issues on which Republican ads dwarfed Democratic ads were, in order, Obamacare, federal spending, and immigration. So, among those who were in the stretch drive of an election campaign, the calculation on the part of Democratic and Republican campaigns alike was that immigration was a winning issue for Republicans.

There’s little reason to think that will be any different in 2016—if the Republican presidential nominee holds a position that is distinguishable from the position of the Democratic presidential nominee.

Source: The Weekly Standard