Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is taking a sharp rightward shift on immigrant policy, affirming that he would send law enforcement agents to knock on undocumented immigrants’ doors and round them up for deportation, even if that means arresting them in front of their children.
Appearing on Fox News on Monday night, Cruz told Bill O’Reilly that’s exactly what Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is intended to do. “We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws that apprehends and deports them,” Cruz said.
O’Reilly pressed Cruz on the issue, detailing a specific situation that often engenders sympathy for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States: A parent who has overstayed their visa and now lives in the country with several U.S.-born children. O’Reilly asked Cruz whether he would “send the feds to his house, take him out and put him back on a plane.”
“You better believe it,” Cruz replied.
It’s a departure from the way that Cruz — whose father was born in Cuba — has previously talked about immigration enforcement. Back in January, the president candidate suggested that ICE agents shouldn’t be going door to door to track down immigrants, arguing that could transform the U.S. into a “police state.”
“No, I don’t intend to send jackboots to knock on your door and every door in America. That’s not how we enforce the law for any crime,” Cruz told CNN at the time.
Led by frontrunner Donald Trump, who has referred to immigrants as rapists and has promised to create a “deportation force” to identify the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, the GOP presidential race has become increasingly extreme on immigration issues. Although Cruz has previously attempted to moderate his stances on immigration earlier in his campaign, he has since fallen more in step with Trump — even suggesting that he would hire Donald Trump to build a wall along the entire southern border of the United States.
There’s some evidence that the xenophobia on display in the Republican primary is making Latino voters more politically engaged. Ahead of the GOP caucus in Nevada this week, political analysts have been raising concerns about the growing backlash to Republican candidates’ harsh statements about immigrants.
Fernando Romero, of the nonpartisan Las Vegas group Hispanics in Politics, has specifically singled out Trump and Cruz as two candidates who are turning off voters.
“Unfortunately, those two individuals are doing so much to create that tension and that skepticism that those who maybe have never voted before or that are now becoming U.S. citizens are leaning toward whoever the Democratic candidate would be,” Romero told the Associated Press this week.