Wall Street Journal
By Reid Epstein
February 4, 2016
Ted Cruz spent 18 minutes telling an emotional, gripping story of his family’s history of drug and alcohol abuse. His older half-sister and later his father, he told an addiction policy forum, got hooked and became addicted. His sister died, his father survived only after becoming religious, Mr. Cruz said in a Baptist church here.
So it was jarring to hear Mr. Cruz then pivot to his policy solution: building a wall along the nation’s southern border to stop illegal immigration and halt the flow of drugs from Mexico.
“If we want to turn around the drug crisis we have got to finally and permanently secure the border,” Mr. Cruz said. “We need to solve this problem, we need to build this wall.”
Mr. Cruz’s appearance at a drug addiction forum comes as New Hampshire voters have classified heroin as the state’s top problem. Rarely does a presidential candidate get through a town hall forum without being asked how they’d address the problem. Mr. Cruz said 48% of residents here know someone addicted to heroin – 60% of people who are 35 years old or younger.
To connect with the audience, Mr. Cruz told of his older half-sister Miriam. The Texas senator, who wrote about her plight in his book last year, told of trying to rescue her from living in a Philadelphia crack house and subsidizing her son’s boarding school before she died of a drug overdose in 2011.
“Sometimes people make decisions, bound and determined, to destroy themselves,” he said. “You wonder as a family, ‘Could I have done more? Was there a way to pull her back, to change the path she was on?’ Those are questions you can never fully answer.”
Mr. Cruz then placed blame for the drug problem on the various groups he accused of abetting illegal immigration: Democrats (“There’s a new politically correct term now for illegal immigrants: It’s called undocumented Democrats,” he said to awkward laughter) and business-oriented Republicans.
“What’s if anything even more cynical is all the Republicans who listen to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who listen to Wall Street, who listen to the lobbyists in Washington,” Mr. Cruz said. “They think it’s fabulous. Cheap labor drives down wages, what could be better? But it’s that political commitment that results in our not securing the border and not stopping the flow of drugs into this country.”
Mr. Cruz has made combating illegal immigration a hallmark of his campaign. A onetime advocate of legalizing some undocumented immigrants, in 2015 he renounced that position when rival Donald Trump proposed deporting some 11 million people in the country illegally. Mr. Cruz has cited his opposition to the 2013 Senate immigration legislation that Sen. Marco Rubio co-authored as evidence of his bedrock conservative credentials.
Mr. Cruz’s appeared here at what organizers billed as a non-political event to which all presidential campaigns were invited.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat who is a Hillary Clinton surrogate, spoke before Mr. Cruz arrived. Mr. Shumlin blamed the Food and Drug Administration for approving drugs like Oxycontin, a highly addictive painkiller that can lead to heroin abuse. Oxycontin was approved by the FDA in 1995, when Mrs. Clinton’s husband Bill Clinton was president.
Following his remarks Mr. Cruz sat on a nine-person panel discussing ways to address New Hampshire’s drug crisis. He told the group, which included drug counselors and former addicts, that he supports legislation to funnel more federal money into drug prevention programs but reiterated that the problem is one that can only be solved at local levels.
“It’s not going to be the government that solves this,” Mr. Cruz said. “It’s going to take people on the ground connecting one person at a time. … People have to make personal transformations.”
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