- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sen. Ted Cruz ruled out ever legalizing illegal immigrants in Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate as he tried to draw distinctions between himself and Sen. Marco Rubio on the thorny issue that has cleaved the Republican Party.

“I have never supported legalization and I do not intent to support legalization,” Mr. Cruz said, pushing back against Mr. Rubio’s claim that the two men at root share a similar stance.

Mr. Rubio, a key author of the 2013 Senate immigration bill that cleared the Senate but stalled amid an internal GOP fight in the House, stood by the outlines of his legislation, saying he still supports granting an eventual path to citizenship to most of the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country. But he said his failure to win passage of his bill also taught him a lesson that border security and revamping the legal immigration system must come first.

He said that means completing a full 700 miles of fencing on the southwest border, adding 20,000 more Border Patrol agents and requiring all businesses to use E-Verify to check their new hires against government databases.

“We will not be able to do anything on immigration until we first prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control,” he said.

Mr. Cruz voted against Mr. Rubio’s bill in 2013, but Mr. Rubio has said they still share the same overall goals, including eventual legal status for illegal immigrants. The claim comes from a proposal Mr. Cruz offered during the debate to strip out citizenship rights, but to leave intact the ability for illegal immigrants to obtain some legal status.

Mr. Cruz said Mr. Rubio was “trying to raise confusion” on the issue.

“I led the fight against his legalization amnesty bill,” the Texan said. “He was fighting to grant amnesty and not secure the border. I was fighting to secure the border.”

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