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Blue The Nation | April 24, 2014

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Ted Cruz’s Father Was an Illegal Immigrant

Ted Cruz’s Father Was an Illegal Immigrant
Jonathan Nathan

A certain piece of information–I won’t call it “news” exactly–broke last week to thunderous silence. Nobody really seemed to notice it or care about it, except a few commentators on the left that nobody listens to. Perhaps the mainstream media didn’t want to talk about it. Perhaps they didn’t find it newsworthy. Perhaps it didn’t fit the narrative they’re pushing. But I wonder if the real reason had more to do with the fact that we, as a country, are so used to conservatives preaching “one way for me, another for thee,” that we hardly even notice when they do it anymore. But whatever the reason, there was very little discussion of the revelation that Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, the father of raging Texan and anti-immigrant Senator Ted Cruz, bribed officials to get into the United States.

“A lawyer friend of my father basically bribed a Batista official to stamp my passport with an exit permit,” Rafael Cruz told NPR. This is notably at odds with other things the elder Cruz said in the interview, such as this gem: “Every step of the way, I have been here legally.”

But that’s not true. Nor is the narrative that Ted Cruz often presents to the nation. His father fought alongside Fidel Castro against the pro-U.S. regime in Cuba. After being captured, tortured, and released, Rafael Cruz got a student visa to go to college in Texas. To get to Texas, he bribed a Cuban official, meaning his entry into the country was illegal. When his student visa ran out, he married a U.S. citizen and moved to Canada, not actually becoming a U.S. citizen until 2005. It’s the image of a nontraditional path to citizenship, and it includes an illegal entry into the United States.

But that’s the thing: it’s not really about whether an immigrant comes to the United States “the right way” or not. That’s not what it’s about for Cruz or for any other Republican. What it’s really about is a fear that all those undocumented immigrants will vote for Democrats as soon as they become citizens. They’ve spent so many years demonizing illegal immigrants–and, to a certain extent, Hispanics in general–that they know there’s no way they’ll ever get those votes. In Texas alone, there are over 1.6 million undocumented immigrants. While not all of them would become regular or even occasional voters after obtaining citizenship, voter turnout models still suggest that about a million of them would vote in Presidential election years and about 750,000 would vote in midterm years.

A million more Democratic votes wouldn’t have defeated Ted Cruz in 2012, but it would have closed the gap to just a few hundred thousand. If the undocumented immigrants of Texas had been citizens in 2012, and if the Democrats had run a popular Hispanic candidate against Cruz…it’s very possible that Ted Cruz would not be in the Senate today. And he knows that. So while I’m sure he’s very grateful to this nation for taking his father in despite his past transgressions, he’s unlikely to be very interested in extending such gifts to anyone else.