U.S. Republican presidential candidates Senator Ted Cruz and businessman Donald Trump walk onstage as they address a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. 
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Finding room to Trump’s right on immigration

On some of his signature issues, Donald Trump’s position seems to represent the right-wing cliff. When some of his Republican rivals try to find room to the frontrunner’s right, strange things happen.
A couple of months ago, for example, when Trump raised the prospect of the U.S. government closing down mosques, Marco Rubio went a little further, suggesting officials may have to start closing cafes and diners, too, “not just mosques.” The New Republic’s Brian Beutler noted at the time that the Florida senator may have received less attention, but he actually adopted “a policy far more draconian than even Trump’s.”
Similarly, on immigration, it seems hard to imagine a more conservative posture than Trump’s deport-them-all position. But yesterday, Ted Cruz found room to his rival’s right on this issue, too.
A man in Iowa asked the Texas senator, “Both you and Donald Trump are really strong on immigration, but he supports deporting all the illegal immigrants. Are you willing to say the same?” Slate’s Jim Newell highlighted Cruz’s response.
“Absolutely, yes,” Cruz says. “We should enforce the law.” Here, he seems to leave a little space open for the “self-deportation” that dominates his immigration plan rather than the more forceful mass deportation that Trump supports. Not that immigration activists regard either as particularly humane.
But then, on his own volition, Cruz leapfrogs to Trump’s right: “And in fact, look, there’s a difference. He’s advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that.” He then name-checks Congress’s two most cherished anti-immigration conservatives, Rep. Steve King and Sen. Jeff Sessions, as collaborators on his immigration plan.
BuzzFeed posted the video of the exchange.
We’ve reached a striking point in the 2016 race. According to Cruz, Trump’s approach to immigration is just too moderate.
For the record, Cruz isn’t wrong. Bloomberg Politics reported on some of the details of Trump’s stated policy.
Trump, who saw his standing in the Republican contest rise over the summer after endorsing mass deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, told CNN in July he’d let the “good ones” back in legally through an “expedited process.”
“Legal status,” he said at the time. “We got to move ‘em out, we’re going to move ‘em back in if they’re really good people.”
Cruz, however, is pushing the line that he intends to deport 11 million people and then close the door behind them, without regard for “good ones” or “bad ones.”
Jeet Heer added, “To deport 11 million people and give them no way to return to the country they once lived in would amount to one of the biggest forced migrations in human history.”
And as of yesterday, that’s part of Ted Cruz’s presidential platform.