A couple of weeks ago, in a partisan jab, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (a Democrat) accused Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (a Republican) of being "anti-immigration."
This was an odd accusation to level at someone whose personal hero is his father, Rafael, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1957.
Still, Cruz isn't doing himself any favors. He's a smart guy, but some of the things he has said about immigration reform have not sounded smart. So I was glad that he redeemed himself by taking a stand against GOP-led efforts to limit legal immigration.
Yes, legal. You didn't really believe the talking points about how no one has a problem with those who follow the rules? That's just public relations. If the truth came out -- namely that there is a segment of the American public, in both parties, that want to put up a "no vacancy" sign for all immigrants -- folks might detect a whiff of xenophobia.
Cruz and I have been friends for more than 10 years. He isn't xenophobic. But he is predictable. He repeats the same bumper-sticker slogans you hear from other conservatives. Secure the border. (Check!) No amnesty. (Check!)
Cruz tends to react to what others say instead of charting his own course. With his family history, he must have strong views on what immigrants add to America. Let's hear them.
Up to now, what we've heard from Cruz on immigration hasn't been thoughtful or helpful. During a recent appearance on Sean Hannity's radio show, Cruz restated his opposition to giving illegal immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship. He is instead partial to the long-ago discredited approach of "enforcement only," where we simply deploy more Border Patrol agents and build higher fences and hope for the best.
Here's where Cruz went wrong: He told Sean Hannity that legalizing the undocumented was "profoundly unfair" to legal immigrants who played by the rules.
"If we pass something that allows those here illegally to achieve citizenship, it means you're a chump for having stayed in your own country and followed the rules because you were not able to live here and raise your family and enjoy the tremendous blessings and liberty in the United States simply because you followed the rules," Cruz said.
A chump? Really? Cruz needs to get out more and meet some real-life illegal immigrants. He would find out that living in the United States without the proper documents isn't all mariachis and margaritas.
I could introduce Cruz to an undocumented immigrant who lives in Phoenix, where Maricopa County Sheriff and media hound Joe Arpaio gets airtime by arresting illegal immigrants. Three years ago, the immigrant, a father of two, was afraid to go out to dinner with his kids on Father's Day lest he get stopped by police and deported.
Elsewhere, illegal immigrants are frequently taken advantage of by everyone from shady employers to greedy lenders to unscrupulous immigration lawyers.
Is this the kind of peachy keen life that Cruz believes is envied by the "chumps" waiting to come to the United States legally? It's always better to play by the rules. The risks are fewer. The rewards are greater.
Cruz needed redemption, and he got some thanks to an amendment to the Senate bill proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Cruz is bad on immigration, but Sessions is worse.
The Alabamian isn't content to only go after illegal immigrants. He also wants to restrict the flow of low-skilled immigrants who come legally. Sessions says that he is concerned about depressed wages and lost jobs for U.S. workers. Yet, it's possible that what he's really worried about is changing demographics. So much for public relations.
Cruz spoke up in opposition to the measure.
"I intend to vote no on this amendment," he told colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the markup process. "The reason is I think legal immigration is a fundamental pillar of our country. ... I am an advocate of legal immigration."
Cruz went on: "We need to remain a nation that celebrates legal immigrants around this table -- so many of us are the children of those who risked everything for freedom. I respect my friend from Alabama's amendment, but it is not one that I can support."
Welcome home, Ted. Human beings are complicated, and there is more to the junior senator from Texas than meets the eye. Let's hope the surprises continue.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is email@example.com.
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