Politics & Government

Cruz praises end of DACA but has no solution for Dreamers

Sen. Ted Cruz remains a hardliner on immigration.
Sen. Ted Cruz remains a hardliner on immigration. AP

WASHINGTON Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s tough stance on immigration has put him at odds with fellow Republicans in his own state as he prepares for a re-election run next year.

Cruz, R-Texas, has wholeheartedly praised President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Obama-era DACA program in six months. Trump also asked Congress to consider a replacement for the program, which protects undocumented immigrants brought here as children by their parents from deportation.

But as Cruz gets ready to seek a second Senate term in a state with the nation’s second largest such population, a state where even staunch conservatives routinely reject hard-line immigration proposals, he has yet to offer any solution for the fate of the approximately 125,000 people affected in Texas.

Asked Tuesday by the Star-Telegram what he thought conservatives should do with DACA after six months, Cruz would not say.

"The president was right to end Obama’s executive amnesty, because executive amnesty was illegal and contrary to the president’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he said.

Cruz addressed the issue during his 2016 presidential campaign, a Republican primary race where he positioned himself as the field’s most staunch, unwavering conservative.

At the time, he talked about deportation for those in the country illegally.

"If you’re a DACA recipient it means that you were brought here illegally, and violating the laws has consequences,” Cruz told a Dreamer at the time. “If I illegally emigrate to England or Germany or France or China or Mexico, and they catch me, they will deport me… That’s what every other country on Earth does, and there’s no reason that America’s laws should have less respect than the laws of every other country on Earth.”

In 2012, President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, allowing the Dreamers to stay. While Cruz and other conservatives have long complained that his executive order was unconstitutional, the fate of the Dreamers vexes both parties.

Cruz’s ideas are hardly being echoed by his own party’s leaders inside or outside the state – and to some degree, not even by Trump.

During last year’s campaign, Trump vowed to end the program. He softened his position soon after becoming president, and has promised and has asked Congress to come up with an alternative within six months. Last week, Democratic leaders said they reached an informal agreement with Trump to find a solution – something the White House disputed.

Among Republicans, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate GOP leadership tasked with that challenge, has called on Congress to find a “long-term solution” for keeping Dreamers in the country so they can “continue to make positive contributions.”

Former Gov. Rick Perry, now secretary of energy, signed legislation in 2001 that allows foreign-born children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. Perry defended the move in a 2011 presidential debate, calling its critics heartless.

Cruz so far appears to have few worries about his 2018 prospects. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report ranks his race as “solid Republican.” Of the 33 seats up in 2018, Republicans have to defend nine and two, Nevada and Arizona, are considered to be better pickup opportunities for Democrats than Texas.

"It's a race I watch, but it's not very competitive yet," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for the Cook Political Report. "Texas is not flipping or becoming a purplish state because of Hispanic voters as quickly as an Arizona or Florida... I'm not sure that [DACA] is an issue that costs Cruz a lot."

While Cruz’s position puts him at odds with many in his party, Duffy said it’s still largely in line with the positions that got him elected in an upset primary victory over fellow Republican David Dewhurst in 2012.

The issue is sure to keep coming up as Cruz campaigns for re-election. While he’s strongly favored to win, he has to campaign in a state with the nation’s second largest Latino population. Democrats in the state are eager to use Trump’s hard line against undocumented immigrations to motivate Hispanic voters to turn out against Republicans in 2018.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Cruz’s likely Democratic challenger, represents an El Paso district with a large immigrant population, and said it’s a frequent concern in constituent meetings. O’Rourke supports the Dream Act, which has backers in both parties, and would allow DACA beneficiaries a pathway to permanent residency.

“People are understandably anxious about this,” said O’Rourke. “They don’t know what’s going to happen, they don’t know if their status will be protected, they don’t know if they should enroll for the next semester of school.”

Fort Worth officials are also concerned about the uncertainty of Dreamers’ status. Kent Scribner, superintendent of the Fort Worth Independent School District wrote in a Facebook post Monday that students and school officials can’t make plans for the future with DACA ending and no Dreamer fix in sight.

“The impact this decision will have on many students and their families in the Fort Worth ISD community will be far-reaching,” Scribner wrote. “Washington decides immigration policy. Our job is to educate students – ALL students, every student.”

Conservatives in the state acknowledge Dreamers could be a tough issue.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was one of 10 state attorneys general who wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June threatening to challenge DACA in a federal court. But most Republicans, including Paxton, are wary of throwing out the program without a solution that protects Dreamers.

In his letter, Paxton asked that the program be phased out to find a solution for Dreamers, and specified that the request “[did] not require the federal government to remove any alien."

Andrea Drusch: @andreadrusch