Cruz's big lie about the border

Photo by Todd Spoth

While Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz compete for the conservative tough talker award, they share something in common other than their apparent ambitions to be the 45th president — they’re among the leading proponents of the Big Lie about immigration and border security.

The Big Lie is a political technique in which misrepresentations, omissions and sometimes outright falsities are repeated so many times that they become conventional wisdom. 

In a recent Texas Tribune opinion piece, for instance, Cruz weaves a tapestry of small lies and half-truths into a full-cloth fabrication about immigration and the border.

Cruz claims the president and his supporters are not willing to debate the issue. Yet he conveniently ignores the fact that the U.S. Senate, with bipartisan support, passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year.

Cruz then turns to the term that far-right politicians and anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA use to stifle debate: amnesty. He also argues that the president and Democrats are willingly damaging our country's safety and security.

Cruz inaccurately conflates immigration with national security and characterizes border communities as a looming threat. This is the heart of the Big Lie. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it ultimately hurts border communities like the ones I represent.

As a representative of Texas, which does more business with Mexico than any other state, Cruz should, and probably does, know better. But he is committed to stifling debate, going so far as to hold the economic livelihood of our Texas border communities hostage to do so.

What we should be discussing is improving the infrastructure that facilitates billions of dollars in trade and travel, and reforming an immigration system that is not up to the task of handling the complex realities of 21st century migration.

But instead of constructive solutions, Cruz resorts to rhetorical tactics that harm the communities he represents as a U.S. senator.  

He further distorts the truth when he blames the president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program for luring refugees on a dangerous journey north. This is a convenient partisan dodge, but a U.N. refugee agency survey, the most comprehensive review available, overwhelmingly found that children are fleeing the chaos of rape and murder, not seeking benefits under U.S. immigration policies.

It’s outrageous that Cruz would claim concern for these children while advocating for a change in the law that would make it harder for them to access the political asylum process and make it easier to send them back to the horrors from which they fled. That's not what we should be doing. Just last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that five to 10 of the 42 dead children at one Honduran morgue had been deported back to that country from the U.S.

Meanwhile, Cruz has the unmitigated gall to say that “immigrants deserve a system in which they will be welcomed to the United States safely and with dignity.” I couldn’t agree more, but it's hard to believe his sincerity when every attempt to do so — including the bipartisan Senate bill, which included unprecedented "border security" provisions — has been thwarted by Cruz and his allies, too many of whom demonize the very immigrants whom Cruz claims to welcome.

Whether it’s Cruz’s latest comments or Perry continuing to mislead about the facts on which he’s basing his decision to spend $17 million a month of Texas taxpayer dollars on the border that could instead be going to our schools or roads, it all adds up to one thing: When it comes to immigration policy and telling the truth about the border, all they have is a Big Lie.

Texans deserve better.

José Rodríguez

State senator, D-El Paso