Ted Cruz: I laughed out loud when I heard Rubio say my immigration position isn't much different from his

Skip to 5:10 of the first clip below for the immigration bit from this morning’s interview with Mike Gallagher. Actual quote from Cruz about Rubio’s claim that the two are alike on immigration:

That’s like Obama saying my position is the same as his on Obamacare. That’s like Ayatollah Khamenei saying my position is the same as his on the Iranian nuclear deal.

Rubio and the Ayatollah Khamenei, huh?

Anyway. There are at least three broad differences between Rubio and Cruz on legalization. One: Cruz opposes a “legalization first” approach to reform, arguing correctly that that’s the same bait-and-switch that was pulled on border hawks with the 1986 immigration law. In return for mere promises of greater security to come, conservatives allowed illegals to be legalized up front. That’s what the Gang of Eight bill did. And Marco Rubio knew all about it.

Two: Rubio supports a path to citizenship to this day while Cruz has steadily opposed it. That’s important if you think we could hypothetically grant illegals the right to remain in the U.S. legally without the federal government eventually caving and granting them full citizenship at a later date. If you’re a cynic (a.k.a. you know your last 50 years of immigration history) and don’t believe that, then the difference isn’t so huge. Essentially it’s an argument about whether we should let illegals vote in, say, 15 years or (hopefully) a bit further out in time, once Congress finally gives in and ends their “second-class” status by making them citizens.

Three: We … actually know Rubio’s position on legalization whereas Ted Cruz’s remains a carefully guarded secret. “My position on immigration has been crystal clear from day one,” he says at the start of his immigration exchange with Gallagher, which I’ll bet gave Team Rubio a little LOL of their own. Follow the last link if you missed the background on that yesterday. For those who didn’t miss it, Michael Warren asks an interesting follow-up question:

Cruz told Byron York of the Washington Examiner not long after his amendments failed that his objective “was not to kill immigration reform but to amend the Gang of Eight bill so that it actually solves the problem rather than making the problem worse.” But if Cruz knew his amendments were meant to draw lines in the sand and he’s not for legalization, why didn’t his amendment propose barring any illegal immigrants from legalized status? Cruz has built a reputation in the Senate as a policy maximalist, willing to push as far as possible out of principle. It doesn’t add up that he would pull a punch and not try to amend the bill to block most or all legalization, too.

Why did Cruz’s amendment to the Gang of Eight bill offer to leave legal status for illegals in place while denying them citizenship? Team Cruz would say it’s because he wanted to isolate the issue of citizenship; if he offered Democrats everything they wanted except that, would they take the deal? The answer, it turned out, was no, which proves that citizenship for illegals is what they really wanted. Okay, but a brilliant guy like Cruz has surely absorbed the lesson I mentioned above, that legalization inevitably means citizenship. Why didn’t he stand on that point, knowing that any amendment he proposed would be defeated, and try to strip legalization from the bill too? “Legalization is eventual citizenship” he could have argued, and that would have stung Rubio. But he didn’t go that route. And we all know why: It’s because Cruz is fully planning to endorse legalization in the general election if/when he becomes the nominee. And when he does it, he’ll point back to his 2013 amendment — the one that supposedly was all about trapping Democrats — and say, “See? I was for it all along.”

Then again, that betrayal wouldn’t be nearly as grand as Rubio running for the Senate as some sort of border hawk and then stabbing conservatives in the back by joining the Gang as his first big legislative initiative. I wonder how long it’ll be before Team Cruz starts recirculating this old clip of Rubio claiming on the trail in 2010 that an “earned path to citizenship” for illegals is “basically code for amnesty.” Earned citizenship is exactly what the Gang offered. That counterattack is coming soon. In the meantime, here’s Cruz with Gallagher followed by what Rubio said yesterday about the alleged similarity of their positions on immigration.