The attention-grabbing candidacy of Donald Trump is again bringing out differences between the two White House hopefuls from Texas.
The bombastic billionaire put the GOP field on the spot Sunday with the release of a plan to deal with illegal immigration that calls for an end to birthright citizenship. In effect, that would require changing the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to those born in the United States even if their parents are in the country illegally.
Where exactly former Gov. Rick Perry stands on Trump's birthright citizenship position was unclear Wednesday. But over the past few days, Perry has voiced increasing skepticism of scuttling birthright citizenship, setting up a sharp contrast — at least in tone — with his home-state senator.
Asked about getting rid of birthright citizenship in a radio interview Wednesday, Ted Cruz was explicit in his support for Trump's stance: "Absolutely. We should end granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of those who are here illegally."
More broadly, Cruz boasted he has spearheaded Senate legislation that addresses "virtually every element" of Trump's plan, including tripling the size of the U.S. Border Patrol. On birthright citizenship, Cruz said he has been pushing to end it "from my very first days running for the Senate" in 2011.
Perry has been harder to nail down on Trump's plan, mostly addressing it with his go-to line that the federal government must secure the border before taking up any further reforms to the immigration system. Visiting the Iowa State Fair on Wednesday, Perry repeated the argument in response to a series of questions about Trump's plan.
"If you secure the border, then these anchor babies and these birthright citizenship issues go away," Perry said Wednesday during an interview on Fox News, using a term for children born in the United States to parents in the country illegally.
In media appearances, Perry has emphasized how unrealistic it would be to revise the Fourteenth Amendment, pointing out how long it took to adopt the most recent amendment — the 27th. Cruz has also nodded to the improbability of tweaking the Constitution, saying in a Wednesday interview with conservative radio host Michael Medved that "any constitutional amendment by its nature is difficult to achieve."
Both Texans have already adopted polarized approaches to Trump, who has sat atop national polls for most of the summer. Perry has fashioned himself as the leading anti-Trump voice in the Republican field, while Cruz has avoided any direct attacks on the real estate mogul amid repeated pledges against "Republican-on-Republican violence."
Abby Livingston contributed reporting.