THERE WILL apparently be no end to using illegal immigrants as scapegoats in the Republican primary field, where Donald Trump’s nativist deportation mania has triggered a can-you-top-this descent into cruelty and economic magical thinking.
For months, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) had resisted the temptation to ape Mr. Trump’s call to deport 11 million undocumented people, most of whom at this point have been in the United States for 15 years or longer and are deeply woven into the nation’s workforce, communities and families. Just last month, campaigning in Iowa, Mr. Cruz rejected a deportation roundup — “jackboots to knock on your door and every door in America” — because, as he put it succinctly, “We don’t live in a police state.”
But Mr. Trump’s skill at playing the immigrant card was apparently too much for Mr. Cruz. On Monday, he reversed himself on the question of mass deportation, declaring that an American police state, jackboots notwithstanding, might not be so bad after all.
Pressed by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News on whether he would send deportation agents to, well, knock on doors across the country, Mr. Cruz said: “Look, Bill, of course you would. . . . We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws and apprehends them and deports them.”
Not content to see Mr. Trump’s bet, Mr. Cruz raised it, promising that he would expel unauthorized immigrants for good, while the GOP front-runner would readmit “the good ones.” During Thursday’s debate, he confirmed that extreme position.
It would be interesting to discover how Mr. Cruz proposed to replace the 7 million undocumented workers in the U.S. workforce, without whom the construction, hospitality and landscaping industries would suffer grievous damage and millions of acres of produce would go untended.
Mr. Cruz also vowed to plug the leaky southwestern border by tripling the number of Border Patrol agents . Never mind that Border Patrol staffing has doubled over the past decade, that arrests of illegal border-crossers have fallen to their lowest level since the 1970s, or that there have been more Mexicans leaving the United States than entering it for the past several years, meaning the problem that Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz want to solve by inflicting mass suffering on communities and families across the country has been shrinking on its own accord.
Logic and economics, of course, are beside the point in the GOP crackup over immigration. The real idea is to pander to hatred, anxiety and fear.