Wall Street Journal (Opinion)
By Allysia Finley
February 24, 2016
Ted Cruz miscalculated by believing that tagging Marco Rubio with the scarlet word “amnesty” would nip the Florida senator’s ascent in South Carolina. However, the lesson Mr. Cruz seems to have drawn from his disappointing third-place finish is that he didn’t play the restrictionist card enough.
So now he’s trying to trump Donald Trump on immigration. This isn’t a winning strategy, but it may reflect an insular Cruz campaign that is struggling to convey a broader vision. In an interview on Monday night with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, the Texas senator declared that he would use Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to round up and deport all 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, no exceptions. “That’s what ICE exists for. We have law enforcement who looks for people who are violating the law and deports them,” he said.
If “Tommy O’Malley from County Cork in Ireland is over here and he overstays his visa and he has got a couple of kids and he settled into Long Island,” Mr. O’Reilly pressed, would a President Cruz “send the feds to his house, take him out and put him on a plane back to Ireland?” Mr. Cruz replied: “You better believe that.”
Then he added:
“Donald says once he deports them, he would let them back in as citizens. I will not—and for anyone who is concerned about—do not want to see wages driven down. And, I think Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are wrong to drive down wages and take away Americans’ jobs by giving 12 million people here legally U.S. citizenship. That is not consistent with rule of law.”
This is a hard break from Mr. Cruz’s earlier equivocations on deportation. In January, he said on CNN: “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,” noting that “we don’t live in a police state.” When asked during the Feb. 13 South Carolina GOP debate whether he would use a list to track down illegals, he pivoted to attacking Mr. Rubio on amnesty.
Mr. Cruz is using immigration to tap into anxieties about the economy and “law and order.” But he is flogging what is know as the “lump of labor fallacy” by suggesting that the number of jobs in the economy is fixed, which is what unions claim. Mr. Cruz must have figured that this message would resonate in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday (apparently it didn’t), and he may keep promoting it in Southern states that have continuing high unemployment. But it clashes with his pro-growth argument for tax and regulatory reform.
His stridency on immigration may also alienate more voters than it attracts. In South Carolina, Mr. Cruz bludgeoned Mr. Rubio on immigration, concentrating his fire on the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform that the Florida senator co-sponsored in 2013, which included a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who wait for 13 years and pay $2,000 in fines.
In an ad released last week, the Cruz campaign spliced together statements by Mr. Rubio and President Obama about the bill. Despite promising not to “support blanket amnesty,” the ad says, when “Rubio got to Washington” he “wrote the bill giving amnesty to illegals using Obama’s talking points to make his speech.”
During the Feb. 13 GOP debate, Mr. Cruz said: “When Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer and establishment Republicans were leading the fight to pass a massive amnesty plan, I stood with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and the American people and led the fight to defeat that amnesty plan.”
Mr. Cruz’s ostensible goal is to use the Gang of Eight bill to define Mr. Rubio as part of the “establishment.” The trouble is that most voters don’t agree with his restrictionist message. According to a Gallup poll in August, half of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship while 18% favor allowing illegal immigrants to stay and work for a limited period. In South Carolina’s exit polls, 53% of GOP voters backed offering illegal immigrants legal status.
What’s more, just 10% of voters in South Carolina, 13% in Iowa and 15% in New Hampshire listed immigration as the issue that most concerns them. Mr. Trump beat Mr. Cruz 2-to-1 among these voters in South Carolina. In Nevada this week, 20% of caucus-goers listed immigration as their top concern; they broke 3-to-1 for Mr. Trump. Maybe they aren’t as worried about the Mexican housekeeper with an expired visa as an Islamic jihadist who may be posing as a Syrian refugee. Unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz hasn’t endorsed a ban on Muslim immigration (not yet, at any rate).
Mr. Cruz probably hopes that calling for universal deportation of illegal immigrants will tip some Trump voters into his column. But most Trump voters support the apprentice politician for a host of reasons, and running to his right on immigration doesn’t help broaden Mr. Cruz’s base, which is what he needs to do to stop Mr. Rubio’s rise.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com