- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is looking to gain some momentum in the 2016 nomination battle by arguing that Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas are weak on immigration.

In a fundraising email blasted our Friday, Mr. Santorum said “my friends” Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz have made the mistake of supporting “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

“We all know that Marco Rubio wrote the Gang of 8’s amnesty bill,” the former Pennsylvania senator says in the email, alluding to the 2013 bill that Mr. Rubio helped push through the Senate with the help of 13 other Republicans, which offered most illegal immigrants quick legalization, as well as an eventual path to citizenship.

Ted Cruz says illegal immigrants should be able to stay in America indefinitely,” he said. “Worse yet, Ted Cruz wants to double legal immigration and a 500 percent increase for corrupt visa programs that are being abused by big business to destroy American jobs.”

“You heard that right … 500 percent! Sadly, hear him say it in his own words,” Mr. Santorum says in the email, which includes an embedded link to footage of Mr. Cruz touting his push to “significantly expand legal immigration,” “double the caps on legal immigration from 675,000 to 1.3 million” and “to increase temporary high-skilled workers by 500 percent.”

The immigration issue has become a clear dividing line in the 2016 presidential field, with Donald J. Trump grabbing headlines with his calls for more border fencing, mass deportations and ending the policy of birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Santorum, who is polling near the back, has received less attention, but arguably has been the most ardent opponent of illegal and legal immigration in the field.

He has called for a 25 percent reduction in legal immigration, arguing that American workers and their wages have been hurt by the flow of low-skilled workers into the country.

Some GOP insiders say Mr. Rubio’s support for the 2013 bill could prove to be his fatal flaw in the nomination battle.

Mr. Rubio has said he learned from the experience that the public must be convinced that the border is secure before it will consider some sort of legalization or a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Mr. Cruz, meanwhile, warned in the last debate that the GOP would be doomed if it supported “amnesty” - though the conservative firebrand has been less clear about what he would so with the illegal immigrants already in the country.

As Mr. Santorum pointed out in his email, Mr. Cruz also has pushed for expanding legal immigration.

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