Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz stood alone Monday in voting against a GOP motion to start debate on a new immigration proposal that could resolve the standoff over “Dreamers.”
The 97-1 vote dramatized the Texas Republican’s hardline stance against President Donald Trump’s proposal to grant a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.
Cruz has frequently derided as “amnesty” any plan that confers legal status or citizenship on people living in the country illegally.
“I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally,” Cruz said at the Capitol last month shortly after Trump broached the idea of offering a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for border wall funding. “Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”
Cruz, facing a reelection challenge this year from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, immediately came under fire from Texas Democratic leaders.
“The only no vote to begin debate on immigration was the Cuban that was born in Canada,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, making a reference to Cruz’s birth in Canada to a Cuban immigrant father.
“Sinvergüenza,” Hinojosa added, using a Spanish phrase that translates as “shameless.”
“This isn’t the first time Ted Cruz has betrayed Texans. It won’t be the last,” Hinojosa said. “Senator, lives are literally at stake. It’s time to fix a broken immigration system, not grandstand for the next election.”
There are an estimated 124,000 Dreamers in Texas.
Cruz’s stand recalls his battles against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, when Trump was campaigning of a “big, beautiful” border wall that Mexico would pay for.
Cruz emphasized a hardline stance against amnesty.
As president, Trump has softened his stance on the wall, saying more recently that it would not be needed everywhere. But he still is seeking $18 billion for a wall and border security, even as he negotiates with Democrats to find a legislative fix for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which his administration is ending on March 5.
Trump also is seeking curbs on legal immigration, which are contained in a bill being advanced by Texas’ senior GOP Sen. John Cornyn and other Senate Republicans
Cornyn’s bill, unveiled Monday, would offer 1.8 million young people a pathway to citizenship, boost border security, and reallocate visas currently part of a diversity lottery system. It also would restrict family-based immigration slots after a current backlog is cleared.
Cornyn said the plan is designed to win bipartisan support and overcome a Senate filibuster, which takes 60 votes. “What I’m interested in is solving the problem, and that means not only a proposal that can get 60 votes, but one that can pass the House and be signed into law by President Trump,” he said. “That’s simply critical.”
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said it would be a “serious mistake” for Congress to pass legislation that grants a path to citizenship for those here illegally.
“Such a policy is inconsistent with the promises that he and Republicans have made to the voters, and is in fact further to the left of President Obama’s position,” she said.
Frazier added that Cruz wants the focus to be on securing the border and building the wall, as well as passing Kate’s Law and the El Chapo Act, both bills introduced by Cruz. One would provide for mandatory minimum prison sentences for aggravated felons who repeatedly enter the country illegally. The other would require that any assets seized from convicted drug lords go towards building the wall and other border security assets.
Cruz has not staked out a position on House legislation that would provide indefinite 3-year renewals of legal status of Dreamers – without providing a direct path to citizenship. Some immigration hardliners still consider that amnesty, though others have said they could still support it in exchange for more limits on legal immigration and stricter border and interior enforcement.