Why Sen. Cruz Will Vote No on Immigration and Why It Matters To Texas

By Alex Gonzalez

After five days reviewing the more than 800 pages of the bill and accepting 100-plus amendments, the committee voted 13-5 to send the legislation to the full Senate, which is expected to take it up in early June. Among of the most contentious issues was the “path to citizenship” agreed to by the “Gang of Eight.”  One of most controversial Amendment was by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to strip the path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. Sen. Cruz Amendment  did not pass, and thus, he argued in his closing statement that this Bill will fail. The failure of his Amendment most likely will give Sen. Cruz a justification to vote No on the Immigration Bill . But his vote, while enhancing his image with his Tea Party Base, will have bigger  implications for the Republican Party in Texas.

Sen. Cruz’s Amendment proposed that:
Notwithstanding any other Provision of law, no person who is or has previously Been willfully present in the United States while not in lawful status under the Immigration and Nationality Act shall be eligible for United States citizenship.  

Under this Amendment by Sen. Cruz, anybody who had entered illegally  into the U.S. would have never be eligible to become a citizen. And that includes Cubans who generally enter the county illegally and later claim political asylum. To correct this technical error, Sen. Cruz asked for a voice amendment to his own Amendment so this restriction of citizenship will not apply to those applying for asylum, which means making sure this law will not affect Cuban immigrants, under the Wet Foot-Dry Foot policy from applying for citizenship.

And even though Sen. Cruz knew that his Amendment on the path to citizenship will not pass since it was one of main compromises by the “Gang of Eight,” Cruz could not afford to go on record pushing for law that would have bared Cubans applying for asylum from becoming citizens. Yes, in politics symbolism matter, and Cubans in particular take their policies about Cuba and Immigration very seriously. But, in Intruding an Amendment to bar applicants for the new Bill from ever becoming citizens,  Sen. Cruz was just setting up a scheme to justify his No vote.

However, If Sen. Cruz intends to use the failure of his Amendment as the main reason to vote No on the immigration Bill, his vote will set a new trend in conservative politic in Texas different from other trends where Republican elected officials traditionally have taken friendlier positions on immigration—Rick Perry, President W. Bush and the entire Republican Legislature that has passed many reasonable legislations to help Latino immigrants in the state, especially Latino students in college.

There is a new trend developing with this immigration Bill that is very important for Texas politics, and which will inevitably split conservatives in the state between the Republican pragmatism of Sen. Cornyn and the Tea Party populism of Ted Cruz.  And bear in mind that this is more about politics than actual policy.  Cruz said “The path to citizenship is unfair to people who have followed the rules,” and that he was trying to strengthening the bill to make it more appealing to Republicans in House by removing the citizenship  provision.

Conversely, Sen. Cornyn in his closing statement said that he would vote no on the Immigration Bill coming out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but that he will vote Yes on the Bill to proceed to Senate floor for debate because “we need to have open discussion on immigration,”  and he hope to make the bill better in the Senate. In other words, he may vote for the Bill as long as measures to “secure the border” are strong, where Sen. Cruz vehemently  opposes it.

So the good news for Texas is that we may have “white“ Republican Senator voting Bes on this Bill. The bad news is that this vote will split the Republican Party if  “Latino: Republican Ted Cruz votes No.

And even is Sen. Cruz argues that this vote is not about national political aspirations, how will he explain that a No vote when the second-most powerful Republican Senator, the Minority Whip, votes Yes on the Immigration Bill. Furthermore, how can Sen. Cruz make a consistent argument that the Bill is not strong enough to “secure the border” when in fact we have a Senior senator from the same state voting yes on the bill. Therefore, there will be no rational explanation other politics and political aspirations at the national level for a No vote from Sen. Cruz.

Sen. Cruz wants to enhance his appeal with Tea Party groups who oppose “amnesty,” and not really think about how Republican Party of Texas (RPT) will have explain to Latino voters in Texas why the Latino Republican Senator voted No on the immigration Bill but the “white” Senator voted yes.

Without even getting into silly argument that Bill Richardson suggested tow week ago about Sen. Cruz not being Hispanic, let just say it: Sen. Cruz is 100% Hispanic. But, on this issue, he is a Hispanic/Latino Republican senator who is more concerned with building his image at the national level with the Tea Party base than helping “the Republican Establishment” and the Latino voters. And that is fair game in politics. However, this is problematic for the RPT; a No vote in the Senate by Sen. Cruz will push the Party harder the right among those groups that oppose “amnesty,” and thereby, stifling the efforts of RNC and the RPT to go to Latino communities talking about immigration, education and healthcare. Yes, as that RNC Autopsy report that said that:

President George W. Bush used to say, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande … and a hungry mother is going to try to feed her child…. On issues like immigration, the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community. Hispanics want to know our Party wants no less for them than for any other American. They want to know that we are not just the party for those at the top of the economic ladder because our dream of a better life is for them, too.

A “No” vote by Sen. Cruz says very little about the “dreams for a better life for them” and the message of the RNC if Sen. Moreover, Texas already has one the lowest voter registration and turnout (52%) among “whites” while the Latino and young and Voting age Population (VAP) in the state keep growing by 600,00 each years. And even if the Latino turnout in the state is as low as 39 percent (1,890,000), it represented a 22 percent share of the total vote in Texas.  And this Latino share of vote will keep increasing while the Republican base of 4.5 million will remain stagnant, unless the RPT recruits Latino voters.  But essentially Sen. Cruz’s vote goes straight to core message of RNC  to grow the base by incorporating Latino voters.

Arthur Brooks, President of the American Persistent Institute,  wrote last week that this low turnout among Latinos is the GOP’s Latino opportunity because:

Half the Hispanics eligible to vote don’t. They are the ones most likely to call themselves ‘political conservatives…The solution, then, is not to derail immigration reform or find some other way to slow down Hispanic political participation. The solution is to make a serious, conservative bid to help the poor and vulnerable.

Sen. Cruz is a shrewd politician and he is  right on target with the Tea Parry base, but his “No” vote will come to the detriment the RPT and its relation with Latino conservatives in Texas, possibly for a generation. Sen. Cruz says that he “doesn’t trust Republican;” so why should Latino Republicans in Texas trust him when all he wants is to please the Tea Party base with political stunts.

Alex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote!  He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics,  from San Francisco State University.
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