Orlando International Airport was busy this week as Republican presidential candidates flew into Orlando to speak at the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit.
I attended a Ted Cruz rally at Faith Assembly Church off Curry Ford Road, where the Texas senator unveiled his immigration plan.
The location, a 1,200-seat venue that was under half full, was a clear appeal to the evangelical crowd that Cruz claims as his. The crowd warmer invoked radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who once said Cruz was a “thoroughbred conservative,” a signal to the GOP’s tea party faction that is wary of the “establishment wing” symbolized by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In a Ted Cruz administration the trains would run on time because he took the stage at 2:45 p.m., exactly when he was scheduled to do so, to chants of “Cruz! Cruz! Cruz!”
His talk was filled not with dog-whistle warnings but full-blown sirens that stoked the fears of the mostly non Hispanic white and elderly audience.
“From 1968 to 1988, California was a GOP bulwark with a series of Republican governors. After 1988, California has never again voted Republican,” Cruz, said implying that the 1987 immigration reform that made citizens of about 3 million undocumented immigrants had turned the state blue.
Cruz blamed Congress for the development, not mentioning that immigration reform was one of President Ronald Reagan’s signature pieces of legislation. He was wrong on the facts as well. Republican George Deukmejian was re-elected California governor when immigration reform was enacted. He was followed by Republican Pete Wilson, who governed from 1991 to 1999. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the last Republican governor of California, elected in 2003 and again in 2007. Facts didn’t get in Cruz’s way.
‘Democrats As Far As the Eye Can See’
“If you support amnesty you are supporting Florida having Democratic governors as far as the eye can see. …If you support amnesty, you support … an assault on religious freedom, common core, Clinton-Obama abandoning of Israel, weakness and appeasement of Islamic terrorists and the Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran,” said Cruz, leaving out nothing, not even the kitchen sink.
Cruz declared he would end birthright citizenship, a right embedded in the U.S. Constitution, and an odd stance for a candidate who claims to have spent his “entire life defending the Constitution.”
The Texan also said he would yank federal funds from sanctuary cities such as San Francisco, one of more than 30 sanctuary cities (and many more jurisdictions), so called because they will not use public resources – money and police – to pursue undocumented immigrants.
“We will cut off federal money,” he said as an audience member yelled out, “Let them suffer!”
The Princeton and Harvard graduate extolled the virtues of hard-working immigrants like his father Rafael, a Cuban-born pastor who once washed dishes for a living, scalding his hands each night, Cruz said. Yet, Cruz’s proposal favoring highly skilled technology workers and doctors would have shut the door on his unskilled dad had it been in effect years ago.
The biggest lie of all was one of omission, namely what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country about which he said not a word – probably because he has favored some form of amnesty in the past.
GOP candidates are pushing the Republican Party to the far, far, far right on immigration policy. Donald Trump’s plan is even worse, harking to a 1950s-era forced immigrant removal program known as Operation Wetback (yes, that’s correct, although Trump did not use the term).
It’s an indecent and punishing prescription for immigration reform wrapped in misleading and thinly-veiled ethnic bias and fed to voters who wish to delude themselves. Who among the candidates will stand up to this? Jeb Bush and John Kasich of Ohio do. Where’s everybody else?
Where will this hate-filled rhetoric leave the Republican Party? Most in Cruz’s Faith Assembly audience were white, white-haired and elderly. In five to 10 years’ time, a good chunk of them will be gone. What then?
˜˜ Maria Padilla, Editor