Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wouldn’t just replicate Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall down the entire length of the southern border of the United States. He’d hire Trump to handle the project personally.
Appearing Tuesday on right-wing radio host Jeff Kuhner’s program, Cruz fielded questions on Trump’s immigration ideas. Would Cruz build a wall, and bring Trump into his administration to build it? “Absolutely yes, on both fronts,” Cruz said, before going on to list the specific provisions of his own plan for massive investments in border security and restricting immigrants’ movements.
“I drafted that plan working in close consultation with Senator Jeff Sessions [R-AL] and with Congressman Steve King [R-IA], two of the strongest advocates and warriors for securing the border. The plan lays out we will build a wall that works, we will secure the border, we will triple the Border Patrol, we will increase four-fold the fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, we’ll put in place a strong biometric exit-entry system on visas, we’ll put in place strong e-verify,” Cruz said. “We know how to solve this problem, and we will end sanctuary cities, we will end welfare for people here illegally, we will end catch-and-release, and we will deport criminal illegal aliens.”
Cruz has long catered to hardline immigration opponents and has a close relationship with Iowa right-winger Steve King, who has likened immigrants to dogs and suggested they all smuggle drugs. His Washington career includes high-profile attempts to derail Obama administration policy on immigrant children and to permanently ban undocumented immigrants from citizenship. Saying he’d make room in his administration for Trump specifically to advance his immigration policy objectives is in keeping with that history.
Trump has promised to create a “deportation force” to identify, detain, and relocate the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, claiming that special people-moving brigade would operate “humanely.” At the same time Trump would deploy law enforcement to round up almost one-and-a-half New York Cities’ worth of human beings, he’d somehow also establish a tracking database for American Muslims.
Prior to saying he’d hire Trump, Cruz has sometimes sought to moderate how his immigration positions are perceived. The senator has played moderate on the stump when trying to reconcile his positions on immigration with the evangelical Christian values that motivate many otherwise-conservative Americans to oppose Trump-style deportation and border-lockdown plans.
And earlier this week, he repeatedly spun away from an MSNBC reporter’s attempts to pin down his position on “amnesty,” the buzzword that immigration opponents use to make reform politically toxic unless it begins with mass deportation.
The political history of that term is instructive here. “Amnesty” became a watchword for hardliners after President Ronald Reagan used it as a positive descriptor for his overhaul of the nation’s immigration system. After Reagan’s success allowed millions of undocumented immigrants a path toward citizenship, angering anti-immigrant groups, the term gradually became an ill-defined pejorative. While Reagan still enjoys a level of reverence among Republican politicians usually reserved for saints, both his rhetoric and his policies on immigration are antithetical to what Cruz, Trump, and other candidates espouse.