During the Dec. 15 Republican presidential debate held in Las Vegas, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas made his first definitive statement about a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally — that he is against it (video below).
Cruz’s remarks came after he was backed into a corner by presidential rival Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida while the two had a heated debate over their immigration policies.
The Texas senator has previously been hesitant to characterize his stance on a path to citizenship, reasoning that the U.S. border must be secured before deciding on the issue. Rubio has used similar rhetoric during his campaign, although he has said that he is open to a path to citizenship once conditions of border security are met.
Rubio has been gotten a great deal of grief from the GOP following his involvement in the “Gang of Eight” bill in 2013, an attempt at comprehensive immigration reform in Congress that ultimately fell apart after opponents of a path to citizenship balked at the bill, according to National Review.
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Rubio, who ultimately voted against the bill that he had helped shape, has since been trying to shrug off the perception of a flip-flopper. Cruz attempted to reopen this political wound during the Las Vegas debate and the two senators engaged in a back-and-forth on immigration.
Rubio, flustered after Cruz criticized his openness to ultimately providing a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country without permission, said that the Texas senator had previously stated the same view before. Eventually, Rubio demanded that Cruz give a definitive statement on whether or not he would ever support a path to citizenship, CNN reports.
“I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization,” said Cruz, settling the matter. His position was confirmed to CNN by Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler.
Following the debate, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Cruz if he would back the deportation of the immigrants who currently live in the U.S. illegally.
“I would enforce the law,” said Cruz, indicating that he would be open to mass deportations. “Federal immigration law provides that if someone is here illegally and is apprehended, that they should be sent back to their home country."