U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has jumped into the immigration reform fray by filing a slew of amendments that call for additional fencing on the border and that block a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The Texas Republican's move comes as the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee begins a weeks-long mark-up process on the omnibus immigration reform bill authored by a bipartisan coalition of senators known as the “Gang of Eight.”
Cruz, who was called a “schoolyard bully” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., earlier this week, said his amendments were part of a pragmatic approach to moving forward on a divisive issue.
“There is widespread, bipartisan support for fixing our nation’s broken immigration system, and we should approach it by addressing those areas where we can reach agreement so that we actually have a chance of passing an effective bill into law,” Cruz said in a statement.
The freshman senator also filed a measure that would prohibit local, state and federal governments from doling out entitlement benefits to the millions living in the country illegally. His amendments are in concert with a plan his conservative colleagues have embarked on that would end with stronger border-security policies than those introduced last month by the Gang of Eight. That plan outlines a 13-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11.2 million people living in the country illegally. That road can only begin, however, when certain border security measures are met, including a 90 percent effectiveness rate for deterring illegal entries, defined as “the number of apprehensions and turnbacks in a specific sector divided by the total number of illegal entries.”
Cruz’s amendments would mandate that the Department of Homeland Security triple the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents on the southwest border, and quadruple equipment, including cameras, drones and helicopters, during the same time frame. The border security amendment also mandates that if the goals are not met within three years, the department’s budget will be slashed by 20 percent and that money would instead be diverted in the form of block grants to agencies in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Arizona for border security.
Cruz’s amendments also include a measure to expand legal immigration by reforming the high-skilled temporary worker program.
America’s Voice, a progressive, pro-immigration-reform coalition, was quick to rebuke Cruz’s efforts as part of its “Good, Bad and Ugly” review of amendments.
“An amendment from Senator Ted Cruz would prohibit anyone who had been undocumented for any period of time ever from becoming a United States citizen in the future,” Frank Sharry, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “This would not only destroy the path to citizenship in the Senate bill — the popular heart of an immigration reform solution — but also turn its back on one hundred years of precedent in immigration policy.”