People are accusing Ted Cruz of lying about whether he supported legal immigration. For example, Yahoo:
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won plaudits in Tuesday night’s debate for his takedown of Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., immigration reform effort in 2013.
Yet if Cruz’s explanation of why he proposed an amendment to the 2013 legislation is true, then he blatantly misrepresented his own intentions at the time on at least four occasions.
Cruz denied on Tuesday that he has ever supported legal status for undocumented immigrants.
“I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support it,” Cruz said, when questioned by Rubio.
In 2013, however, Cruz sponsored an amendment that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States permanently and obtain legal status, while eliminating a path to citizenship. It is very hard to square that effort with Cruz’s claim that he has “never supported legalization.”
Cruz offered amendments that he knew could not pass, which had as their main purpose the illustration of Democrats’ hypocrisy. They claimed they weren’t trying to get illegals citizenship, so Cruz said: “OK, let’s give them everything else but rule out citizenship. Sound good? Yeah, I didn’t think so.”
Let’s start with an easy-to-answer question: was Cruz actually for the Gang of Eight bill? The answer is no. Plenty of people are throwing around accusations that he wanted the bill to pass. But if you carefully review their evidence, you will see that Cruz said he wanted immigration reform to pass — but with several amendments that would have radically changed the bill into something that was no longer the Gang of Eight bill — and which everybody knew would never ever pass. Byron York, who was critical of Cruz yesterday, said in 2013:
Cruz’s amendments were designed to 1) eliminate the legalization-first, security-later structure of the Gang of Eight bill while still creating a way to legalize those now here illegally; 2) increase certain types of legal immigration; and 3) remove what might be called the moral hazard of rewarding those who came here illegally with citizenship and federal benefits. “In introducing amendments, what I endeavored to do was improve that bill so that it actually fixes the problem,” Cruz told me.
Each of Cruz’s amendments was entirely defensible, but also entirely impossible in today’s climate. The Gang of Eight bill is a painstakingly-crafted proposal which Democrats would abandon immediately if any of Cruz’s ideas were incorporated in it. Schumer and his allies have a long list of deal-killers, and it includes every single one of Ted Cruz’s ideas.
Cruz’s amendments were never going to pass and everyone knew it, but they had a wonderful illustrative effect.
Moreover, at the link, you can see that York called Cruz to ask if he would vote for the bill if all his amendments were passed. A spokesman said it was a hypothetical question. So you can’t even say he clearly supported the bill even with his amendments.
OK: if Cruz was not for the Gang of Eight bill, was he for some kind of legalization? This is where some accuse him of flat-out lying at the debate — supporting it then and opposing it (and saying he never supported it) now — while others just say he is being lawyerly. Some accuse him of denying that the amendments were a “poison pill” but admitting it now.
Most of this analysis, in my view, rushes to oversimplify Cruz’s position at the time. They falsely imply Cruz was TOTALLY FOR LEGALIZATION if citizenship was ruled out. They ignore all the other amendments he made, and ignore his contemporary statements that he didn’t expect the amendments to pass. Then, when you point that out, they complain that he claimed the amendments were sincere then but now denies that, ergo LIAR.
Responding to that fully would make the post too long, but I do have answer with an analogy, which you can read at this page. The bottom line is that it ends up being a kind of angels dancing on the head of a pin deal, and his denial at the debate was, I think, perfectly defensible.
In a future post I will discuss another unfair attack: that Cruz discussed classified information at the debate. Short answer: utter nonsense, floated by a recipient of Jeb Bush Super-PAC money and repeated by Big Media without scrutiny.
UPDATE: Some of you are swallowing the Big Media/Yahoo/Bret Baier “he wanted ‘it’ to pass” line. Wanted what to pass?
Greg Sargent, of all people, actually looks at the quotes and concludes that Cruz did not say what they are claiming. He wanted his version of reform to pass. That was very different from the Gang of Eight bill or anything Rubio is calling “legalization” without explanatory context. Sargent’s piece is excellent and worth your time.