Cruz crosses Schumer on border

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says the Senate’s immigration rewrite will fail because it rejects the popular bipartisan demand for tougher border security.

“The American people want Congress to be serious on border security,” said Cruz, a Harvard-trained lawyer who has earned bitter complaints from progressives since his 2010 election.

“That is true among Republicans and among Democrats, it is true in red states and blue states, that there is a bipartisan consensus [that] we need to get serious on securing the border,” he told Senators gathered to vote for or against amendments to the complex, 867-page draft bill on Thursday.

Cruz’s criticism prompted an angry response from Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the “Gang of Eight” senators who drafted the bill, which was released April 17.

“Here’s the real difference, and let’s put our cards on the table,” Schumer said as the judiciary committee senators debated an amendment to require tougher border security.

“We all know the real reason … [is] Sen. Cruz is opposed to a path for citizenship,” Schumer said, using the euphemism for amnesty that was developed by advocates after the 2007 failure of a similar immigration bill.

“That is the division here, and no matter what we put into border security… he cannot support any bill with a path to citizenship,” said Schumer.

Congressional Democrats strongly support offering citizenship to the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, and the continued inflow of many more immigrants.

Schumer insisted the border protection measures in the bill are “as tough as nails.”

But Cruz was unsparing in his criticism of the bill and its backers, who united Thursday to vote against nearly all border measures proposed by a group of six Republican Senators, including Cruz and Sens. Chuck Grassley and Jeff Sessions.

Republicans Sen. Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake, who are both members of the Gang of Eight, voted with the Democrats.

“Contrary to the hopes that I expressed this morning at the outset of this hearing, the committee has voted down every serious border security amendment that has been presented here today,” Cruz said.

“The bill that is currently before this committee produces not a single new border patrol agent. It contains funding for 3,500 [Customs and Border Patrol] agents, but there’s no guarantee even a single one of them will be on the border,” he said.

“The bill before this committee does not dictate that any technology be employed on the border — whether helicopters, whether fixed-wing aircraft or otherwise — to secure the border,” he continued.

“The bill before this committee relies entirely on subjective assessments from the Secretary of Homeland Security that have no teeth and no objective metrics, and in my view the current draft presents merely a fig leaf on border security,” he said.

Cruz’s aggressive support for the border security is boosting his profile among the GOP’s base, and is highlighting his possible role as a competitor for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Cruz’s focus on border control reflects strong public support for tougher curbs against illegal immigration.

Numerous polls by the bill’s advocates show the public wants reliable border security to constrict the future flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. job market, where roughly 20 million Americans are unemployed and underemployed.

A May 6 poll funded by backers of the immigration bill reported that only 23 percent of swing voters, and 13 percent of GOP voters, would support citizenship if border security isn’t increased. Fifty-three percent of swing-voters, and 65 percent of GOP voters, would support a “pathway” if security is boosted, said the April poll of 1,232 likely voters.

The poll was conducted by two boutique polling firms, the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group and the Republican polling firm Basswood Research.

A Washington Post and ABC News poll reported that 80 percent of 1,014 adults strongly or somewhat support “stricter border control.” Only 17 percent opposed stronger border control, said the poll, which was conducted from March 27 to March 30.

The 867-page bill is expected to provide citizenship to many of America’s roughly 11 million illegal immigrants, bring in another 20 million people over the next decade, accelerate future decades’ inflow of immigrants’ relatives, increase the supply of agricultural laborers and boost the annual inflow of blue-collar and professional guest workers above 1 million.

The total financial cost to taxpayers is unclear.

The bill’s legalization of the low-skill illegals is expected to spur benefit spending by $6.3 trillion over 50 years according to one analysis, but advocates say the bill’s various costs will be offset by economic gains.

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