“Would you round up 12 million illegal aliens here … and how?” Bill O’Reilly asked Ted Cruz last night on The O’Reilly Factor, challenging Cruz to match Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration. “Of course you would,” Cruz replied, pledging to even haul out and deport a hypothetical Irishman overstaying his visa who has two children in America. “You better believe” he’d get deported, Cruz says:
NBC News picks up on the conversation, and notes that this contradicts a Cruz argument from a month ago:
Ted Cruz asserted Monday night that he would “of course” support federal law enforcement agents actively looking for undocumented immigrants to deport.
“Of course you would,” Cruz told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “That’s what [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws that apprehends and deports them.”
O’Reilly pushed Cruz to definitively answer whether he would “go look for them,” referring to undocumented immigrants in the country.
He then laid out a specific scenario for Cruz: a hypothetical father who “overstays his visa — and he’s got a couple of kids.” O’Reilly asked Cruz whether he, as president, would “send the feds to his house, take him out and put him back on a plane.”
Cruz responded: “You better believe it.”
Five weeks ago or so, Cruz told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he wouldn’t use special units of immigration enforcement officers to find and deport illegal immigrants. Even that position represented a change from a few weeks prior to that, CNN noted at the time. Cruz told Tapper that illegal immigrants could get discovered and processed when they ran afoul of law enforcement rather than seek them out specifically, rejecting what he called at the time “jackboots to knock on your door”:
“No, I don’t intend to send jackboots to knock on your door and every door in America. That’s not how we enforce the law for any crime,” Cruz told Tapper as his campaign bus ambled across northern Iowa. …
“We don’t have any system that knocks on the doors of every person in America,” Cruz told Tapper. “We also don’t have people going door-to-door looking for murderers. We don’t live in a police state. We do have law enforcement.”
Cruz indicated that he would only deport those who are apprehended, such as those who commit crimes or are caught by prospective employers without having immigrated legally. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement or Border Patrol agents could also apprehend those along the border.
It’s tough but not entirely impossible to reconcile the two statements, at least in technical terms. If the illegal Irishman has come to the attention of law enforcement through committing another crime or employer tips, then sending the feds to his door still matches Cruz’ January statement. Clearly, though, the context of O’Reilly’s question was mass deportations; O’Reilly even specifically held up Trump’s pledge while framing the question and the hypothetical.
Cruz has slowly shifted his position on deportations to The Full Trump — perhaps stung by the amount of support Trump has received from evangelicals and conservatives, and hoping to out-Trump Trump. Cruz argues for that position, noting that Trump would allow the deported to immediately re-enter, while Cruz would keep them out forever. As he notes, that’s actually current law — once deported, it’s nearly impossible to be legally readmitted to the US — but what neither Cruz nor Trump explain is how they would marshal the resources for their mass deportations. Who pays for it? Would American citizens need to carry “papers” to keep themselves from the deportation squads?
Cruz’ January position was much more realistic; one of the major problems in the system now is that the Obama administration won’t take cases from state and local officials, and fight any attempt to force them to do so. Remember Arizona? But fixing that won’t actually put much of a dent in the 11 million or so illegal immigrants who are here and not crossing the paths of local law enforcement, which means it won’t do much to impress the millions of voters flocking to Trump because of his promise of mass deportations. Hence we have Cruz promising the utterly unrealistic and abandoning a position he took just weeks ago.