Sen. Ted Cruz said that, as a Latino, he viewed providing a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants -- what he calls amnesty -- as a condescending way for politicians to try to win over Hispanics.
In an interview with Laura Ingraham, who was guest host on the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” Tuesday night, the Texas Republican reiterated his opposition to the proposed Senate immigration reform bill’s provision allowing undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.
The measure, which has bipartisan support, also tightens border security, expands a guest worker program and puts greater demands on employers to hire workers who are in the United States legally.
Like Cruz, however, some conservatives in Congress have said they will not support a bill that includes what they denounce as amnesty, or a reward for law-breakers.
“Democrats are always willing to play the race card,” Cruz said, referring to the contention -- by many leaders of both parties -- that the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform will alienate Latino voters.
“As the son of a Cuban immigrant, as someone who received over 40 percent of Hispanic vote in the state of Texas, I think it is condescending to go to Hispanics and say we're going to buy your vote with amnesty,” Cruz said.
“I'll tell you in Texas a whole lot of Hispanics there want to see the border secured and legal immigration improved," he added.
As the son of a Cuban immigrant, as someone who received over 40 percent of Hispanic vote in the state of Texas, I think it is condescending to go to Hispanics and say we're going to buy your vote with amnesty.
The Senate pushed the bill past final hurdles Wednesday, pointing to near-certain passage soon in the chamber of a measure that would be bring the most sweeping changes to the immigration system since 1986.
The bill sidestepped several procedural obstacles with votes to spare, demonstrating it commands well over the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. That could happen early as Thursday, with the next stop in the House, where an uncertain future awaits.
The White House-backed bill would pour billions into border security and offer a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria.
In the Senate, after the addition of $38 billion in provisions strengthening border security, doubling the size of the border patrol, and completing hundreds of miles of fencing, the legislation looked likely to command support from more than a dozen Republicans on final passage.
But Cruz said he will not be one of them.
He said promises of securing the border in order to win support for legalization of undocumented immigrants have proved hollow in the past.
“We don't have to hypothesize,” Cruz told Ingraham. “We don't have to guess because we've seen this exact pattern before, in 1986 Congress told the American people ‘Let's grant amnesty to some three million people who are here illegally and then some time in the future we'll secure the border.’ Now what happened? The amnesty happened and the border never got secured.”
Then Cruz added: “I don't think the American people are going to fall for it a second time.”
For now though, supporters of the immigration reform bill seem to have more than enough to ensure the 60-vote margin needed for passage, as all 52 Democrats and the two independents who usually vote with them look likely to stick together.
"A permanent, common-sense solution to our dysfunctional system is really in sight," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "It is my hope that our colleagues in the House will follow the Senate's lead and work to pass bipartisan reform and do it now."
Prospects were anything but clear in the GOP-controlled House, where many conservatives oppose citizenship or even legalization for people in this country illegally. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he has no plans to hold a vote on the legislation coming from the Senate.
"We are not going to take up the Senate bill," Boehner told Republicans in a morning meeting, according to Rep. John Fleming, R-La.
The House Judiciary Committee planned to vote Wednesday on legislation requiring employers to verify their workers' legal status. It would be the third in a series of single-issue immigration bills the committee has acted on as it takes a piecemeal approach to overhauling the immigration system, in contrast with the Senate's comprehensive bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.