Ted Cruz is trying to trump Donald Trump on immigration. While campaigning this week in Iowa, where he's leading the polls ahead of that state's Feb. 1 presidential caucuses, Cruz suggested he'll be tougher on people in the U.S. illegally than his rival for the Republican nomination.
"There's a difference," Cruz told a questioner at an event in Boone. "He's advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that." The remark was caught on video and first reported by BuzzFeed.
Trump, who saw his standing in the Republican contest rise over the summer after endorsing mass deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, told CNN in July he'd let the "good ones" back in legally through an "expedited process."
"Legal status," he said at the time. "We got to move 'em out, we're going to move 'em back in if they're really good people." That would be a change to U.S. immigration law, which requires people who are deported to wait up to 20 years before being allowed to return legally, and in some cases face a permanent ban. Trump's campaign didn't immediately return a request for comment on Cruz's remarks.
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier made no attempt to walk back the remarks of her boss, the son of a Cuban immigrant. "The senator's plan calls for enforcing the law especially with regard to deportations," she said in an e-mail. "Same goes for not allowing those who have come here illegally to become citizens."
The Monday exchange in Boone began with a questioner noting, "You and Donald Trump are really strong on immigration, but he supports deporting all the illegal immigrants—are you willing to say the same?"
Cruz responded, "Absolutely, yes. We should enforce the law."
When the man asked again if that meant "all" unauthorized immigrants, Cruz said, "We should enforce the law."
Cruz continued a week-long bus tour through Iowa on Tuesday while Trump is scheduled to rally supporters in Claremont, New Hampshire, on Tuesday evening.
Cruz's attempt to out-Trump Trump on immigration is the latest indication of the GOP's dramatic rightward shift on the issue that has loomed large in a roller-coaster presidential race. Cruz recently turned against key legal immigration programs and ruled out legalization of undocumented immigrants as he sought to draw a contrast between relatively pro-immigration rival Marco Rubio, who is running third nationally.
It also underscores the shifting relationship between the brash New York real estate developer and the Texan as they find themselves vying for the lead in the Republican presidential race four weeks before the first votes of the nominating contest are cast in Iowa. Initially, the two avoided criticizing each other; they held a tet a tete in Trump's offices and shared a stage at a Washington rally. But that has changed.