Republican senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have arrived at the contentious
issue of immigration from very similar places.
Both came from immigrant families. Both have Cuban roots. Both rose to the Senate with help from the Tea Party and still speak in glowing terms about how the U.S. remains the greatest nation for downtrodden immigrants to lift themselves up.
But as Congress arrives at a key moment in its work to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, the two stand at opposite ends of the debate on whether to allow the nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants to become citizens. That divide mirrors the argument within the Republican Party over how to handle the immigration bill -- and could end up propelling, or sinking, the two senators as they mull possible presidential runs in 2016.
"Each approach, each strategy represents a bet on the future that's very different," said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas. "It is kind of stunning, but they need some separation so they can have their fight."
Although the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved a sweeping immigration bill, which Rubio helped write as part of the bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight, the men remain fiercely divided over the issue.
Rubio, who served as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives before winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, has become the chief salesman of the immigration bill.
He says deporting the millions of people here illegally is not doable, or affordable, and rejects the idea of making life so miserable for them that they decide to "self-deport."
Instead, he says, they should be placed on an "earned" pathway to citizenship that will take at least 13 years for most, will cost at least $2,000 in fees, and requires they pass criminal background checks, learn English and civics.
"The vast majority of conservative Republicans are saying, 'We are prepared; we know we need to do immigration reform, just please make sure that this illegal immigration wave doesn't happen again,'" Rubio told CBS This Morning. "I think that's a very reasonable request."
Cruz, who served as Texas' solicitor general before winning his Senate seat in 2012, has become one of the most vocal critics of the Gang of Eight bill, which he voted against Tuesday. He says allowing unauthorized immigrants to get citizenship is unfair to the millions of people who have waited years, and sometimes decades, applying for green cards.
"If there's a pathway to citizenship ... that is inconsistent with the rule of law," Cruz said Tuesday. "It's unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who have followed the rules, who have waited in line years and sometimes decades to come. And ... if the pathway to citizenship is included in legislation that Congress passes, it will serve only to encourage yet more illegal immigration."
Rubio and Cruz's offices declined repeated requests for interviews for this story. But their stances on immigration resonate beyond the Capitol as their supporters wonder how it will affect their future prospects.
Where Americans stand on the issue is not clear, according to polling. A Gallup poll conducted in April reported that 65% of Americans support a plan that allows the nation's unauthorized immigrants to become citizens. But a Pew
Most Popular Stories
- Updates on Everglades' Stranded Pilot Whales
- Stolen Cobalt-60 Recovered in Mexico
- Hezbollah Chief's Assassination Claimed by Sunni Group
- Wind Power and Wildlife Can Coexist
- Ford Mustang Still Packs Power
- Sarmiento to Handle Greeley Latin Ops
- Allstate Seeks to Invest in Minority Firms
- First-time Jobless Claims Drop Below 300,000
- White House Pushes to Extend Unemployment Benefits
- Elizabeth Warren Ends 2016 Presidential Rumors