Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to take a hard-line stand that could rile up conservatives just as lawmakers -- including two from his home state -- are struggling to address the growing humanitarian crisis along the southern border. The conservative firebrand believes that any bill to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border must also include language to stop a 2012 immigration directive from President Barack Obama -- a proposal unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The humanitarian crisis at the border has clearly riled the political landscape in ways that are still unfolding, but which have changed the calculus of the immigration debate. Most notably, Democrats who were united behind a comprehensive solution, unified against Republican intransigence, are now splintered on how best to deal with these migrant children.
GOP officials would like nothing more than to keep Democrats off-balance and arguing among themselves, though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) might have missed the memo.
The senator's spokesperson told Politico that ending the White House' deferred action plan is now Cruz's "top priority."
There are two broad angles to this: the policy and the politics. Cruz, true to form, is managing to screw up both.
Substantively, the far-right Texan, who'll presumably find some allies in his new crusade, is pushing for unnecessary deportations for no particular reason. Remember, at issue here are two very different groups of young immigrants: one is the recent influx of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America; the other is the group of undocumented youths known as Dream Act kids -- or "Dreamers" -- who've been living, working, and studying in the United States for most of their lives.
This latter group is protected against deportation by President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, unveiled two years ago. Cruz's "top priority" is to identify these young people, for whom the United States is the only country they've ever known, and kick them out of the country. Indeed, the Texas Republican is saying any solution to the humanitarian crisis involving the migrant children must undo the DACA policy.
For the far-right, DACA is to blame for the recent influx, which makes mass deportations necessary. Reality paints a very different picture.
As for the politics, Cruz's new "top priority" does Democrats a favor: it gives Dems something to rally against, while reminding the public that many Republicans are pushing an aggressive and unpopular anti-immigrant campaign.
If the American mainstream opposed the Dream Act, this might be a smarter move, but all available evidence suggests the exact opposite: the Dream Act has traditionally been a bipartisan policy, and there's no public appetite to kick these young people out.
If Democrats are really lucky, Cruz will rally the right to his cause.