Via the Weekly Standard, he’s not saying anything here that he hasn’t said before. He supports immigration reform, but not comprehensive immigration reform — only a piecemeal security-first approach will work, the same view now taken by Marco Rubio. But Cruz fans who haven’t paid attention to him on this issue may assume, incorrectly but understandably, that he naturally takes the most conservative position that an electable Republican presidential candidate can take. Not so: It’s Scott Walker(!) who’s staked out the right side of the field by demanding that American wages be a variable when considering target numbers for legal immigrants, hinting that maybe legal immigration levels need to drop rather than rise. Walker’s defenders argue that he’s not saying anything controversial there; of course you’d want to know how a certain level of immigration will affect what American workers are paid. His break from the rest of the field is a matter of emphasis, not a matter of introducing something new into the debate.
Fair enough, but it’s interesting to watch Ted Cruz, Mr. True Conservative, talk about this subject at length and not provide the same emphasis. Watch below from around 44:00 to 50:00 and then again at 1:29:00 to 1:36:00. In 13 or so minutes, wages don’t come up. On the contrary, Cruz’s emphasis is on the fact that he wants more legal immigration, at least among better educated immigrants who might qualify for an H-1B visa. It’s interesting that a guy known for having his finger on the pulse of grassroots conservative/tea party sentiment isn’t following Walker’s lead but rather stressing his own relative moderation on the issue. There are obvious political reasons for that — he’s addressing the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce here, and as one of the few GOP candidates who opposes a path to citizenship, he needs a way to show general-election voters that he’s no Tancredo when it comes to immigration. But it’s telling that he’s not worried about Walker getting to his right on the hottest hot-button of the GOP primaries. Maybe he figures that, between his stellar tea-party track record on all manner of policy plus Walker’s conspicuous flip-flopping on immigration (which still includes support for a path to citizenship), he can afford to place his emphasis on being pro-immigration — so long as it’s legal. Or maybe Cruz suspects that Walker’s wink-wink at reducing legal immigration levels actually isn’t a position that an “electable” Republican can take. He wouldn’t be alone in that belief, if so.
Try to watch both immigration Q&As below as they’re both worth your time. Cruz spends most of his answers accusing Democrats of being the main obstacle to reform because of their fanatic, self-interested insistence on citizenship for illegals, a criticism that’s valid but also ironic given that Cruz himself continues to support some kind of legal status for illegals and surely knows that that will lead to demands for citizenship eventually. (He notes in passing at around 1:31:00 that his amendment to the Gang of Eight bill didn’t attempt to eliminate work permits for illegals, just citizenship.) Anyway, your exit question: Is this comment, from elsewhere in yesterday’s Q&A, really the best way to pander to a racial group?
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Hispanic panhandler. And the reason is: In our community it would be shameful to be begging on the street,” Cruz said, recalling a conversation he once had with a Latino businessman on the topic.
You get his point — Latinos are hard workers, they should prefer a political party that looks dimly on welfare — but the inevitable follow-up question will be “Which communities don’t regard it as shameful to be begging on the street?” Good luck with that one.