Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) isn't going to stand for opponent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) painting him as moderate on immigration.
On Friday, as Rubio insisted the two share similar stances on immigration, Cruz laid out a plan to increase deportation, end birthright citizenship, build a border wall and restrict even legal immigration.
"Listen, the commonsense principles that most of us understand and most Americans agree with on immigration are not complicated," he said in a speech in Florida. "It's legal? Good. Illegal? Bad."
He saved most of his venom for undocumented immigrants and those who want to allow them to stay in the U.S., insisting border-crossers may be terrorists or disease-ridden and that "amnesty" would drastically change the safety of the country and the world.
Why? Because he said allowing undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship would put more Democrats in power.
"If you support amnesty, you are supporting our national debt growing and growing and growing and growing and bankrupting our kids and grandkids," he said. "If you support amnesty, you're supporting the Democratic party's assault on religious liberty, assault on our Second Amendment, assault on our privacy. If you're supporting amnesty, you're supporting Common Core that the big-government Democrats are trying to force on our schools."
The ills of "amnesty" would not stop in the U.S., Cruz said.
"If you're supporting amnesty, you're supporting the Obama-Clinton abandoning of the nation of Israel," Cruz continued. "If you're supporting amnesty, you're supporting the Obama-Clinton weakness and appeasement to radical Islamic terrorists. ... If you are supporting amnesty, you are supporting the Ayatollah Khamenei having nuclear weapons in Iran."
He said those political motives are why Democrats support immigration reform. But in doing so, he made the case for excluding people based at least in part on the assumption they wouldn't vote for Republicans -- an argument that is fundamentally tied to ethnicity, because most undocumented immigrants are Latino or Asian, and most Latinos and Asians support Democrats.
Cruz argued that it doesn't make him anti-immigrant to criticize unauthorized immigration, or legal immigration if it takes away American jobs. He said he wants to improve the legal immigration system and praised "Americans by choice," as former President Ronald Reagan called legal immigrants.
But his plan was also restrictive of legal immigration, a change from a politician who once proposed increasing the number of H1-B worker visas. He acknowledged that fact in his speech, but said he has since determined the program is being exploited. Cruz said he would stop the government from issuing those visas for 180 days to conduct an investigation into abuses.
More broadly, Cruz in a written plan called for halting increases in legal immigration "so long as work-force participation rates remain below historical averages." He said his administration would ensure that legal immigrants do not receive government benefits, and railed against the idea of admitting "Syrian Muslim refugees" who he said could be terrorists.
Children born in the U.S. would not be Americans unless their parents were, he said, a policy that would require changing the 14th Amendment.
Cruz did not give many specifics about how he would deal with the estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, other than to say they would not be allowed deportation relief like that extended by President Barack Obama, and to say that more of them should be deported.
Republicans such as Donald Trump have called for all undocumented immigrants to be driven out, while others, such as Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have said such a plan is impractical. Cruz didn't say he would deport everyone, but he also didn't mention whether some people would be allowed to remain in the U.S. legally, as he has before.
His campaign did not respond to a request for clarification on how he'd prioritize deportations, if at all.
But he did say he would deport criminals and end so-called sanctuary policies in jurisdictions that don't fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Senate could vote next week on a Cruz-backed bill that would penalize those jurisdictions.