“Ted Cruz? He wanted to let in more Syrian refugees and give more amnesty to illegal immigrants. That won’t protect my family. Donald Trump will.”
— Speaker in new ad by pro-Donald Trump group, Great America PAC
A pro-Trump PAC is airing a new ad in Wisconsin ahead of the state’s Tuesday primary. In the spot, a woman speaks directly to the camera in a kitchen with two children. The woman starts her monologue with a defensive explanation, perhaps a response to GOP establishment efforts in the state to rally against Trump: “Sure, I get some grief when I say I’m voting for Donald Trump. But you know what? I want to protect my family.”
She then cites recent terrorist attacks in Paris, in San Bernardino, Calif., and in Brussels and says: “I want a president that will keep us safe, who will control our borders and stop letting in dangerous people. Trump will do that.”
Then she says Cruz wanted to accept more Syrian refugees into the country and expand amnesty for undocumented immigrants. “That won’t protect my family,” she says.
Are those really Cruz’s position on refugees and immigration?
In 2014, Ted Cruz supported allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. In January 2014, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chaired a panel of the Senate Judiciary, held a hearing on the Syrian refugee crisis. He said the United States had “a moral obligation to assist Syrian refugees.”
A review of news articles, congressional hearings and TV interviews around the time shows that Cruz was not a particularly vocal advocate for accepting more refugees, but he supported the idea. He was sympathetic to their plight, citing his father’s arrival as a refugee. But he also expressed security concerns, saying the United States needs to thoroughly vet Syrians seeking refugee status or applying for visas.
During the hearing, Cruz said: “I’m the son of a refugee from Cuba who fled oppression, and to the refugees who’ve come here today, let me say welcome. And I think the United States should always be a clarion voice for freedom and a voice against the oppression of the innocent.”
In February 2014, Cruz was quoted in a Fox News segment about Syrian refugees. During the portion of the segment addressing U.S. plans to accept more refugees, the clip cut away to Cruz saying: “We have welcomed refugees — the tired, huddled masses — for centuries. That’s been the history of the United States. We should continue to do so. … We have to continue to be vigilant to make sure those coming are not affiliated with the terrorists, but we can do that.”
After the terrorist attacks in Paris last year, Cruz changed course. He introduced measures banning U.S. entry for refugees from Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and any other country with territories controlled by a terrorist organization. But he said Christian refugees should be given safe haven.
Cruz said he changed his mind because the landscape had changed since early 2014, citing the rise of the Islamic State militant group and what he called the “enormous failures” of the Obama administration’s intelligence operations. “Sadly, it appears that at least one of the terrorists who committed these attacks in Paris came as a refugee in Syria,” he said. “So what does President Obama and Hillary Clinton want to do? Bring tens of thousands of them to America and put them here.” (Actually, as we have noted, Obama has committed to accepting only 10,000 refugees from Syria.)
In the ad, the woman says Cruz “wanted to let in more Syrian refugees.” That was the case in 2014, but Cruz has a different policy stance now. Great America PAC spokesman Jesse Benton accused Cruz of a “convenient political flip-flop”: “The ad does not say when he supported it, just that he did, which is factually unassailable.”
“At best, Cruz showed bad judgment in the past and should be held accountable for that bad judgment,” Benton said. “At worst, he is misleading voters on his true beliefs for political expediency. Neither option is favorable.”
“Amnesty” is one of those squishy political terms that means different things to different people. Some view “amnesty” as giving legal status to undocumented immigrants, others see it as providing a pathway to citizenship.
Benton pointed to a Daily Beast article showing Cruz helped write President George W. Bush’s immigration policy, which included a pathway to legal status but not automatic “amnesty” to undocumented workers. Benton said that “virtually all activists label” a pathway to legal status as “amnesty.”
Benton also cited Cruz’s role in the debate over the 2013 Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill. Cruz had introduced five amendments to the bill, including one that expanded legal immigration, and gave passionate speeches in support of his amendments. But now he says that he never supported legalization and that he introduced those amendments only as a “poison pill” that would kill the Gang of Eight bill.
There is evidence that his amendments contained specific elements that may have been designed to dismantle the Gang of Eight coalition. But there’s no way to prove which version of the story is the truth; what we can say is that Cruz was being disingenuous then or disingenuous now. Benton said both scenarios “are troubling and call his credibility into question.”
“Cruz is entitled to change his mind, as are we all,” Benton said. “But Cruz is a bit of a special case because he makes consistency and adherence to principle a core of his whole political raison d’etre.”
Cruz’s campaign did not respond to our request for comment on either point.
The Pinocchio Test
In this ad, Great America PAC uses two former policy stances held by Cruz to attack his credibility. The woman’s statement is cleverly scripted; she says Cruz “wanted” to accept more Syrian refugees and give amnesty to undocumented immigrants, indicating Cruz once held these views. But then she switches to present tense, indicating that Cruz’s past stances jeopardize her family: “That won’t protect my family.”
Politicians have a right to change their policy views when faced with new information, or if the desires of their constituency change. The PAC should know that its own candidate, Trump, has changed his mind on too many issues to count. Cruz appears to have changed his stance on Syrian refugees out of new information — the rise of the Islamic State. Cruz did once propose legalization (which some call “amnesty”) of undocumented immigrants, as the ad claims, but he now says he never really meant it.
Cruz has done voters a disservice with his “poison pill” explanation of his 2013 stance, since the public is now left with two completely conflicting statements the senator has made on the pathway to legalization of undocumented immigrants. As we have noted before, Great America PAC has solid ground to criticize Cruz’s statements about his immigration amendments in 2013 — the comments he made then and now don’t jibe.
But the ad uses clever wording to mislead the audience, as if the two views on refugees and immigration are views Cruz currently holds — and, therefore, “won’t protect” families. Cruz no longer stands by the views identified in the ad.
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