LAS VEGAS — Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday took a shot at rival presidential contender Scott Walker for comments the Wisconsin governor has made regarding immigration policy.
Cruz opposes comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. But the Texan is a big proponent of legal immigration and making adjustments to U.S. law that would facilitate more legal immigration. He criticized Walker for suggesting that he supported limiting legal immigration if it has a negative impact on the wages of American workers.
"There is considerable bipartisan agreement outside of Washington that we need to improve and streamline legal immigration so that we can remain a nation that welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants," Cruz said in an interview with the Washington Examiner during a brief campaign swing through Las Vegas.
"I think it is a mistake for any politician to on the one hand embrace amnesty, embrace a pathway to citizenship for those who are here illegally, and on the other hand seek to restrict or punish legal immigrants," Cruz continued. "I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. [President Ronald] Reagan referred to legal immigrants as Americans by choice and there is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the U.S. Senate than I am."
"I think the right approach is to secure the border, follow the rule of law and embrace and improve legal immigration," Cruz said.
Walker has conceded a change of heart on immigration policy as he gears up to launch a 2016 presidential bid. The governor, 47, previously supported a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants. Now he is opposed. Supporting a pathway to legalization or citizenship could be problematic for a Republican candidate seeking his party's White House nomination.
But in a recent interview with conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, Walker appeared to move farther to the right on immigration than even amnesty hawks like Cruz. Here's what Walker said, as reported by Breitbart.
"In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying — the next president and the next congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that's based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages, because the more I've talked to folks, I've talked to Sen. [Jeff] Sessions [R-Ala.] and others out there — but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today — is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward."
Walker's political action committee could not immediately be reached for comment. But in recent days the group issued a press release pointing out a range of conservatives and right of center media organizations that have lauded the governor for taking this approach to legal immigration policy.
Disclosure: The wife of the author works as an adviser to Scott Walker.
UPDATE: The Cruz campaign is pushing back against the headline of this story. National spokesman Rick Tyler offered this in response: "The headline to this story is ridiculous and in no way matches what Senator Cruz actually said. The Senator was discussing his own views on immigration and had nothing to do with Governor Walker."
In the interest of transparency, the Washington Examiner is publishing the full transcript of the exchange on immigration below.
DAVID DRUCKER: One of your competitors in the contest — soon to be competitors – said that even legal immigration needs to be considered with respect to American wages and its impact on the wages of American workers. That was Governor Scott Walker. What did you think of that and do you agree or do you have a different view on how the U.S. should deal with legal immigration?
SEN. TED CRUZ: My views on immigration are straightforward. I think there is considerable bipartisan agreement outside of Washington on immigration. There is overwhelming bipartisan agreement that we've got to get serious about securing the borders and stopping illegal immigration. There is considerable bipartisan agreement outside of Washington that we need to improve and streamline legal immigration so that we can remain a nation that welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants. I think it is a mistake for any politician to on the one hand embrace amnesty — embrace a pathway to citizenship for those who are here illegally — and on the other hand seek to restrict or punish legal immigrants. Amnesty is wrong. When I campaigned for the us senate I campaigned unambiguously against amnesty and was proud to receive 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in the state of Texas at the same time Mitt Romney was getting clobbered with 27 percent of the Hispanic vote nationwide. But I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. Reagan referred to legal immigrants as Americans by choice and there is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the U.S. Senate than I am. I think the right approach is to secure the border, follow the rule of law, and embrace and improve legal immigration.