Ted Cruz: Let's face it, Obama wants the Senate's immigration push to fail

I disagree, and since I’m counting on Cruz to lead the opposition to a weak bill in the Senate, I’m a little nervous to hear him touting this argument.

Does this mean grassroots conservatives should want the bill to pass in order to foil Obama’s alleged scheme?

Q. Immigration and path to citizenship – where are you on that and did Sen. Paul’s speech the other day change your views on that?

A. There is wide bipartisan agreement on many aspects of immigration reform. There is bipartisan agreement that we need to finally get serious about securing the borders, that it doesn’t make sense in a post 9/11 world that we don’t know the criminal history and the background of those coming into this country, and that we need to increase the manpower and resources on the border to finally solve the problem. I also think there is widespread agreement that we need to improve and streamline legal immigration. I am an enthusiastic champion of legal immigration. Indeed I’m the son of an immigrant. And right now those who come into this country legally face years of lines and mounds of bureaucratic paperwork and red tape. There is bipartisan agreement that we should streamline that process, make it less burdensome. And in particular work to make it easier for high skilled immigrants to come to this country. Every year we educate thousands of graduate students and PhDs in math and computer science and engineering, and then our broken immigration system sends them back to their home countries to start businesses there. To create jobs there, because we don’t allow them to remain here and create jobs in America.

If you had an immigration reform bill that addressed those two areas – that increased the resources, increased the tools for securing the border, and that improved and streamlined legal immigration and increased the number of high-skilled immigrants who can come in – a bill along those lines, if it came to a vote, would receive overwhelming bipartisan support. That’s why I’m optimistic.

The reason I’m pessimistic is I do [sic?] believe President Obama wants to pass an immigration bill. His behavior concerning immigration leads me to believe that what he wants is a political issue rather than actually to pass a bill. What he wants is for the bill to crater, so that he can use the issue as a political wedge in 2014 and 2016. That is why I believe the president is insisting on a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally. Because by insisting on that, he ensures that any immigration reform bill will be voted down in the House.

Q. Would you vote against anything that has path to citizenship?

A. I have deep, deep concerns about a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally. I think creating a path to citizenship is No. 1 inconsistent with the rule of law. But No. 2 it is profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who have waited years and sometimes decades in line to come here legally. And as a practical matter, if you want to see common sense immigration reform pass, insisting on a path to citizenship is the surest way to kill the bill. Today I think the greatest obstacle to passing common sense immigration reform is President Barack Obama.

I’m … not sure why he thinks a bill with a path to citizenship has no chance in the House, and I refer you to this post if you’re inclined to agree with him. It may be true that the House would oppose a bill with a special path to citizenship for illegals in it, but so what? If the House passes something that grants them probationary legal status and then sends them to the proverbial “back of the line” to wait their turn for green-card eligibility through the normal channels under current law, then guess what? They’re still on a path to citizenship. It’s just a path that might — might — be a bit more circuitous than what, say, Chuck Schumer has in mind. And even if it is, count on Democrats to start agitating for an expedited path once the Senate bill has been safely passed and signed into law. In fact, Cruz himself doesn’t categorically rule out voting for a bill with a path in it. Saying he has “deep concerns” is as far as he goes here.

Beyond that, though, read this old post to see why it’s unlikely Obama wants the immigration bill to fail. If you don’t like that one, read Mickey Kaus making related points. O would be a colossal sucker to pass on an opportunity this golden to set millions of illegals on the road to becoming Democratic voters (with cover from congressional Republicans, no less) for some dubious midterm demagoguery. For one thing, he has other issues he can use to attack the right: Universal background checks and assault weapons, the minimum wage, maybe gay marriage if he’s worried about young voters not turning out. Also, with Rubio having been so prominent in support of comprehensive reform, it’ll be harder for Obama to accuse the GOP of being anti-Latino and/or anti-legalization if the bill tanks. But most of all, why would he try to tank immigration reform for political gain, as a club against his opponents, when he could pass the bill and still use the issue as a club against his opponents? See, e.g., Conn Carroll’s post on the Democrats voting no this past weekend on an amendment that would have blocked illegals from receiving federal health-care benefits. If the final bill passes without that provision in it, Schumer et al. will turn around and call Republicans monsters for denying poor “undocumented citizens” the same health coverage that other Americans receive. And the GOP will inevitably cave for fear of destroying whatever small amount of goodwill they earned with Latinos by passing comprehensive reform in the first place.

In other words, Obama can have his cake and eat it too here, and if he’s too politically tin-eared to grasp that I’m sure Schumer will clue him in. Given how notoriously fragile coalitions in favor of comprehensive reform are in Congress, the two of them have little choice but to try hard to get this done right now. Ask yourself this: If Obama’s out to sabotage the bill, why hasn’t he been more aggressive in pushing his own immigration plan? He gave a speech about it a few weeks ago but otherwise he’s been content to sit back and let the Senate try to make a deal. He could have killed the whole thing weeks ago just by demanding some especially egregious amnesty provisions. He didn’t. How come?

For the record, the White House is officially denying Cruz’s accusation. Here’s O at today’s naturalization ceremony for new citizens at the White House, announcing that he wants Congress to being debate on a comprehensive bill by next month.