Republicans, including GOP standard bearer Mitt Romney, have for the most part steered clear of knocking President Obama’s new immigration policy. But Texas has always bucked convention — and its two Republican Senate candidates are both calling for the new policy to be rolled back.
Other Republicans have attacked Obama’s decision not to deport young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16 and who graduate from high school, earn a GED or serve in the military as a brazenly political act rather than condemning the substance of the new policy.
In Texas, where an overwhelming bipartisan vote (and, famously, the signature of Republican Gov. Rick Perry) created the state’s own version of the DREAM act a decade ago, the campaigns for both Republicans vying for their party’s Senate nomination told TPM they want the next president to repeal the new White House rules.
“We have a crisis in illegal immigration, and the federal government must get serious about securing our borders; this latest Obama policy is nothing more than an attempt to enact back-door amnesty, and I categorically oppose amnesty,” tea party-backed candidate Ted Cruz said in a recent statement. Does that mean he wants the policy rolled back? “Absolutely,” his campaign told TPM.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), whom Cruz supporters call the “establishment” choice in the summer primary runoff, had a rare moment of agreement with Cruz on reversing Obama’s decision.
“David Dewhurst is categorically opposed to amnesty, and believes we must secure the border. David Dewhurst believes President Obama’s new policy is an unconstitutional and blatant political stunt and should be rolled back immediately,” campaign spokesperson Enrique Marquez told TPM. “This policy should never be implemented, as it defies the Constitution.”
That puts both Texas Republican candidates in the same camp as another tea party-backed Senate nominee, Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who urged Obama to walk back the policy soon after it was announced.
The campaign of another tea party Senate insurgent, Wil Cardon in Arizona, also told TPM that he also wants to see the policy rolled back. Rep. Jeff Flake, Cardon’s opponent, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Cruz, Dewhurst and Cardon’s objections to the new policy are especially notable, however, because of their state’s large Hispanic populations. In Texas, even high-profile Republicans like Rick Perry and George W. Bush have spoken up on behalf of comprehensive reform measures. The senator both Cruz and Dewhurst are vying to replace, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, was in the midst of working with Sen. Marco Rubio to craft a Republican-friendly version of the DREAM Act before Obama’s action Friday essentially negated the need for such legislation.
Former Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a fellow Texas Republican, specifically ducked questions about what should happen to the policy now that it’s in place, telling TPM over the weekend, “I’m already on record supporting helping these kids” when asked whether Romney should reverse the measure.
Democrats certainly haven’t put Texas back on the target map after Obama’s immigration move, and inside the state the feeling is that the hardline views of the eventual Republican Senate nominee probably won’t on its own put the seat in play. But many believe that calls to undo Obama’s new policy might meet the Etch-A-Sketch once the general election kicks into gear.
“It’s obviously a very short-sighted and short-term strategy,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D), chairman of the Texas Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “The conventional wisdom is the more conservative you are, the better chance you have [in the primary,]” he said.
Fischer posited that either Cruz or Dewhurst will probably change his tune when it comes to wooing the much more Hispanic general electorate.
“You can’t get any further to the right than you are now by saying you want to repeal it,” he said. “I suppose that the evolution of any elected official is that they have the ability to be rehabilitated through education. So it’s a perfect instance of taking a position in the primary, then taking time to ‘understand’ the issue … and lo and behold you have a new position.”