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Ted Cruz Embraces Self-Deportation: Now Officially to the Right of Mitt Romney’s 2012 Immigration Stance

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Frank Sharry: “It’s a remarkable development that Ted Cruz has scratched and clawed his way to the right of Mitt Romney on immigration policy”

Tonight’s Republican presidential debate is likely to include questions on immigration – one of the dominant storylines on the GOP campaign trail.  And just in time for the debate, Iowa frontrunner Senator Ted Cruz has now officially adopted an immigration stance that is to the right of Mitt Romney’s infamous embrace of ‘self-deportation.’

Adrian Carrasquillo of Buzzfeed reports that Cruz campaign chairman Chad Sweet met with a group of Latino conservatives yesterday, who were angered by what they heard:

They said Sweet surprised them all by saying that Cruz opposes any and all forms of legalization for undocumented immigrants, and that he believes in attrition through enforcement — or making the lives of those in the country illegally so hard that they go back to their native countries. That, the group said, amounts to self-deportation, a policy supported by Mitt Romney in 2012 widely credited with hurting him with Hispanic voters.

“We learned today that Sen. Cruz believes in attrition through enforcement,” Alfonso Aguilar of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership and de facto leader of the group said, adding that the Cruz camp doesn’t like to call it self-deportation “but that’s what it is.”

Cruz himself seemed to embrace self-deportation in a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt, but also seemed to leave the door open to eventual legalization:

Once we secure the border, you stop filling the boat that sinking, a number of people start to go home voluntarily every year to be with their families. That population will start shrinking. After that, you deport the criminal illegal aliens. The population continues to shrink. After that, you put in place strong E-verify so those here illegally can’t get jobs. The population continues to shrink. And then once we have finally demonstrated to the American people that we have secured the border, the problem’s solved, it’s not a promise from a politician, it’s not empty words, it’s been done, then and only then, I think we should have a conversation with the American people about what we should do about whatever smaller population remains. But I don’t think we should start there at the front end. We should start with border security, and that’s what I’ll do as president.

This stance seemed at least somewhat consistent with the position Cruz took during the 2013 immigration legislative debate when he sponsored a Senate amendment that would have replaced a pathway to citizenship with a legalization program that fell short of citizenship.  Now, however, the Cruz campaign claims this amendment was an unsuccessful attempt at a ‘poison pill’ designed to scuttle the legislation.

So, his campaign has put the nail in the coffin on any eventual legalization.  They have clarified that the candidate does not support legalization and does support self-deportation.  Cruz is also embracing new restrictions on legal immigration, allying himself with Donald Trump and flip-flopping from his previous position in support of expanded legal immigration.  In a recent radio interview with conservative radio host Jeff Kuhner, Cruz bragged that he drafted his immigration plan “working in close consultation with Senator Jeff Sessions [R-AL] and with Congressman Steve King [R-IA],” two of the leading anti-immigrant lawmakers in Congress.  Additionally, yesterday, Sweet cited the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies before the group of Latino conservatives.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “It’s a remarkable development that Ted Cruz has scratched and clawed his way to the right of Mitt Romney on immigration policy.  Like Romney, he supports self-deportation.  Unlike Romney, he supports significant new restrictions on legal immigration as well.  No, Cruz is not as explicit as Donald Trump is in calling for a ‘Deportation Force’ to round up and forcibly expel every undocumented immigrant within 18 months.  No, Cruz does not use crude bigotry to demonize entire nationalities or religions.  But with his recent shift to the right, the policy stances of Ted Cruz do not differ significantly from those of Donald Trump.  This may turn out to be smart tactics in this year’s Republican primary.  However, in a general election the fact that Cruz is to the right of where Romney was four years ago is likely to be as successful as it was four years ago.”