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Sargent: Cruz drags Republicans to the right on immigration
First Published Jun 10 2014 10:25 am • Last Updated Jun 10 2014 10:25 am
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There’s a lot of chatter about Sen. Ted Cruz’s triumphant appearance over the weekend at the Texas GOP convention. As The Post’s Karen Tumulty puts it, Cruz "bestrode" the 8,000-strong gathering "like a colossus," confirming that "the entire Texas GOP appears to have been made over in Cruz’s image."

Exhibit A: Immigration reform. Reuters reports that the Texas GOP jettisoned its old, soft position on immigration — one designed to keep the GOP demographically "relevant" — and replaced it with a harder-line platform that "calls for securing the border with Mexico, offering no amnesty for anyone in the country illegally and ending in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants."

Which should serve as a reminder of what might happen if Republicans don’t act on immigration reform before the August recess. If the GOP’s refusal to act confirms that this year it is the party of Rep. Steve King of Iowa, next year it very well may be Cruz’s party.

The House GOP agenda for June does not include immigration reform. While it’s always conceivable House GOP leaders could act before the August recess, the chances appear remote, and Republicans say privately that they could act next year. But at that point we’ll need another Senate bill on top of getting something through the House, and the GOP presidential primary will be underway. It seems safe to assume that Cruz — who is expected to run — will demagogue the heck out of the issue, yanking the GOP field to the right.

Cruz has attacked President Obama for "lawlessness" because Obama de-prioritized the deportation of low-level offenders from the United States. This reflects the GOP position — such as it is — which is essentially that Republicans cannot support any form of legalization for the 11 million because of "distrust" of Obama, which apparently can only be rectified by the president deporting as many people as possible.

It’s true that the House GOP immigration reform principles include legalization (with tough conditions attached). But Cruz denounced that as "amnesty." What’s more, Cruz wanted to amend the Senate bill to require years of efforts to increase security before anyone could even apply for legal status and wouldn’t even say whether he’d have supported the bill if he’d gotten his way.

For context, note that many possible GOP presidential contenders — such as Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — have flirted with constructive positions on immigration, suggesting they think getting right on the issue is crucial for the party’s 2016 chances. Should Cruz demagogue it in a bid for far-right GOP primary voters, it could make it harder for others to stake out moderate positions — making it harder for congressional Republicans to act, too.

It isn’t as if we haven’t seen this before: look what happened to the GOP’s Latino support when the party was pulled to the right on the issue last time around. Never mind 47 percent. Try 27 percent. And in 2016, with the Latino share of the vote set to rise in many key swing states, Cruz’s party could actually fare worse.

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