The news that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is officially running for President should be cause for alarm for Republicans hoping to recast their image on immigration ahead of the 2016 elections.
In a campaign kickoff video, Cruz proudly introduces himself as the “son of an immigrant father, who fled oppression in Cuba and came to this country with just $100 to his name.” Yet despite his own family’s immigrant success story, Senator Cruz’s voting record is largely defined by hostility to current immigrants and their children. For a Republican Party intent on avoiding the mistakes of the 2012 cycle, when Mitt Romney and the primary field’s run to the anti-immigrant right destroyed their viability in the general election, the official entry of Cruz into the field should be cause for concern.
During his short time in the Senate, Ted Cruz has proudly gained a reputation as a hardline opponent of undocumented immigrants. He has fought to end protections for Dreamers, at one point calling the effort to stop DACA his “top priority.” Cruz has led the charge against President Obama’s other executive actions, seeking not only to block programs that protect the parents of U.S. citizen kids, but showing a willingness to threaten a government shut down in the process. He has sought to deny a fair shot for kids fleeing violence in Central America and a willingness to (falsely) blame Dreamers for the rise in child migrants; and he tried and failed to gut the path to citizenship provision from the Senate reform bill that passed in 2013. Cruz also seems intent to proudly trumpet these positions as a key component of his overall political persona, noting in his kickoff video (at 45 seconds in), his willingness to put “everything on the line to stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty.”
Despite his father’s Cuban heritage and compelling immigrant success story, it’s doubtful that Cruz could help improve Republicans’ standing among Latino voters. When Latino Decisions first polled Latino voters on Cruz in July 2013, the Senator was largely unknown (55% did not express a view of Cruz) and Cruz enjoyed a narrow 25% favorability rating. By October 2014, when Latino Decisions again gauged Senator Cruz’s popularity among Latinos, Senator Cruz had better defined himself as anti-immigrant–24% of Latino voters said they would consider voting for Cruz while 73% said they were unlikely to consider voting for him. Cruz’s obsession with ending immigration executive actions is against the wishes of 9 out of 10 Latino voters, according to Latino Decisions polling.
As Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions told the Wall Street Journal, Senator Cruz’s “political positions are far out of the mainstream of the Latino community.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Following his playbook from the Senate, Cruz is likely to pull his fellow Republicans to the right on immigration during the primary season. This, in turn, will have the effect of making the party’s eventual nominee more unelectable by cementing the GOP’s brand as hostile to executive actions and immigration reform throughout the next election cycle. Given that the GOP candidate will have to pull at least 40% of the Latino vote in 2016 to have a chance at winning the presidency, Cruz’s determination to put the 2016 field on the record on specific immigration topics, such as how and when to end DACA and DAPA programs and how to maximize deportations of long-settled immigrants in the U.S., is bad news for a party that needs to expand its appeal and good news for Democrats looking to consolidate its support among the fast-growing Latino electorate.”