I can’t possibly summarize the whole thing, as there’s lots of detail. You should read it yourself, with the promise that you’ll find plenty to like. Border wall? Check. Biometric screening system at points of entry? Check. An end to sanctuary cities? Checkity check. Criminalizing visa overstays? Yep, that too. Strengthening E-Verify? Oh yeah. Nary an enforcement mechanism is left unmentioned.
But it’s not the provisions on illegal immigration that people are buzzing about on social media. It’s what Cruz has to say about legal immigration. Isn’t he the guy who called for vastly expanding the cap on H-1B visas two years ago, when the Gang of Eight bill was in the works? The Gang settled on 180,000 per year; Cruz had asked for 325,000. But that got him in trouble with some border hawks, who complain that too often H-1B visas operate as a vehicle for corporations to dump higher-paid American workers and replace them with cheaper foreign labor. That was a dilemma for Cruz, who’s always tempered his criticism of illegal immigration with enthusiasm for legal immigration. What would he do about H-1B visas as a candidate?
That question has now been answered:
Suspend the issuance of all H-1B visas for 180 days to complete a comprehensive investigation and audit of pervasive allegations of abuse of the program: Initiate an immediate 180-day investigation and audit of the H-1B visa program and enact fundamental reforms of this program to ensure that it protects American workers. In recent months, more and more reports have become public of companies replacing American workers with cheaper foreign workers, contrary to the stated intent of the H-1B visa program. This will stop, and the H1-B program will be suspended until we can be certain that the program is no longer being abused.
That’s not all. He also wants, among other things, more rigorous standards for applying for the visas — requiring foreign applicants to hold advanced degrees, for starters, enforcing stricter accreditation requirements for those degrees, and mandating a “cool off” period for companies that have laid off an American worker before they can access the H-1B system. The 180-day suspension feels like a concession to righties without clearly backing off his earlier effort to raise the cap: He’s not going to limit legal immigration but he will make sure that it meets organic demand among businesses, not demand manufactured by firing Americans. It’s a compromise.
Actually, wait, hold that thought. Maybe he is going to limit legal immigration:
Halt any increases in legal immigration so long as American unemployment remains unacceptably high. The purpose of legal immigration should be to grow the economy, not to displace American workers. Under no circumstances should legal immigration levels be adjusted upwards so long as work-force participation rates remain below historical averages.
Is that the same Ted Cruz who said this to the Washington Examiner back in April after Scott Walker started talking about adjusting legal immigration caps in response to downturns in wages for U.S. workers?
“There is considerable bipartisan agreement outside of Washington that we need to improve and streamline legal immigration so that we can remain a nation that welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants,” Cruz said in an interview with the Washington Examiner during a brief campaign swing through Las Vegas.
“I think it is a mistake for any politician to on the one hand embrace amnesty, embrace a pathway to citizenship for those who are here illegally, and on the other hand seek to restrict or punish legal immigrants,” Cruz continued. “I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. [President Ronald] Reagan referred to legal immigrants as Americans by choice and there is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the U.S. Senate than I am.”
“I think the right approach is to secure the border, follow the rule of law and embrace and improve legal immigration,” Cruz said.
He emphasized the distinction between embracing legal immigration and opposing illegal immigration as recently as three days ago at the Republican debate. It’s always been key to Cruz’s pitch. He wants to run on his bio in the general election as the son of immigrants, who made good on the American dream, and he knows Democrats will come after him hard as not wanting to extend that dream to others. That’s why he’s always been careful to extol the glories of legal immigration. Now, suddenly, he’s cooling off. Hard to believe that’s not a quick reaction to Rubio accusing him of having essentially the same stance on immigration. Cruz is searching here for a way to accentuate the differences, knowing that he’s in trouble if Trump voters decide that Rubio’s right about their similarities. This is one way to do it, I guess. In fact, there’s another (smaller) flip-flop on that point: Although Cruz has consistently said in the past that we should get rid of birthright citizenship for illegals, he’s also said that that can’t be done by simple legislation. The Fourteenth Amendment protects birthright citizenship for all; if we’re going to change it, we’ll need an amendment, which will be difficult to the point of impossible. That was his way in the past of nudging conservatives not to obsess about that issue as it ain’t going to change. In today’s plan, though, he says, “As President, I will take immediate steps to pass legislation or a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship.” Legislation? Does Cruz no longer believe the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees citizenship for illegals born here?
But wait. Haven’t we forgotten the big question? Cruz has been needled (by, among others, me) for the past 48 hours over the fact that he won’t clearly say what we should do with the 11 million illegals who are already here. Surely his new immigration plan will answer that question. Won’t it?
Cruz again ignores direct question about what he'd do re the 11 million in US illegally. Note he called his plan "detailed."
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) November 13, 2015
Amazingly, his otherwise very detailed plan doesn’t address legalization. There’s language about deporting illegals who have criminal records and there’s vague language about enforcing the law, but Ted Cruz isn’t a guy known for circumlocution. He speaks plainly and eloquently about America’s problems. If he was intent on mass deportation instead of legalization, not only would his plan say that forthrightly, it would be emphasized at the very top in the security section. It isn’t. How come?