Nice Try, Ted

Strange New Dissembling: One of Ted Cruz’s obstacles, when trying to appeal to the GOP base on immigration, is a September 2013 New York Times piece giving him a pat on the head** for staking out a “middle ground” on immigration. As the Times told the story, this middle ground involved giving current illegals work permits, but not citizenship. Here is the relevant passage:

Asked about what to do with the people here illegally, however, he stressed that he had never tried to undo the goal of allowing them to stay.

“The amendment that I introduced removed the path to citizenship, but it did not change the underlying work permit from the Gang of Eight,” he said during a recent visit to El Paso. …

Mr. Cruz said recent polling indicated that people outside Washington support some reform, including legal status without citizenship.

Now, in 2015, Cruz’s spokesman claims (to MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin) the Senator’s work permit amendment was merely a parliamentary device designed “to show that Dems won’t allow any reform without pathway to citizenship.”  It had “nothing to do” with actually supporting work permits for illegals.

This seems like transparent BS to me. Cruz was clearly basking in whatever warm feelings the Times and others would give to a pol who supports legalizing illegals with work permits — as an actual solution, not just a parliamentary trick. Yes, that doesn’t mean he would have supported the underlying Gang of Eight bill if the citizenship provisions had been removed. (There was a lot in the Gang of Eight bill.) It does mean he thought it was a significant policy initiative for him to propose legalization without citizenship — as if this would somehow reduce the incentive to come here illegally. (The Times‘ characterization: “He said he was against naturalization because it rewarded lawbreakers and was unfair to legal immigrants. It also perpetuates illegal crossings, he added.”) But, of course, the ability to work and raise your family here legally — which work permits provide — is the main incentive for border-crossers. Citizenship is just icing on the cake.

But you can read the New York Times piece and make up your own mind. …

P.S.: It’s also worth noting that, at the time, pushing a “non-citizenship” form of legalization (and making a big deal of that concession to appease the GOP base) was the amnesty lobby’s main strategy for getting a bill past Congress. That’s the main reason you’d put the option on the table — as part of a cynical plan to sneak through “Amnesty First.”

P.P.S.:  If Cruz now thinks the Times reporters gave his views a false spin — which has been known to happen! — did he object at the time?

P.P.P.S: Cruz’s actual position, underneath all the righteous muddling, seems to be a) unlike Scott Walker he is not skeptical about the effect of legal immigration on native wages, etc.; b) Like Marco Rubio, he would have an amnesty “once we demonstrate we can secure the borders,” whatever that means (and figuring out what it means is the crux of the issue) and c) Unlike Rubio, for Cruz citizenship wouldn’t be part of that amnesty. (That might please the base but risks creating an unsustainably huge cohort of mostly Latino second-class legal residents.) ***

P.P.P.P.S.: The really annoying thing about Cruz is the air he gives that he’s so smart, he’s figured it all out and everyone else hasn’t. He gave that impression to the NYT in 2013. His team gives that impression to Benjy Sarlin now.  But if you combine those two impressions you’re left with the sense that Cruz is hiding the ball, trying to please everyone at the expense of clarity, like any standard pol.


** — “Strange New Respect,” in formal conservative terminology.

*** — Cruz’s campaign website doesn’t say much about immigration, as far as I can see, except for a call to “streamline our legal immigration system.” Weak!