Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Friday that he proposed five amendments that would bar citizenship and other benefits for illegal immigrants as a "poison pill" to kill rival Marco Rubio's "Gang of Eight" legislation in 2013.
"My amendment was a one-page amendment that said anyone here illegally is permanently ineligible for citizenship," the first-term Texas senator told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News. "It was calling their bluff because what it did was revealed hypocrisy."
"I used the language of the Democrats who were pushing it," Cruz said. "I have never once supported legalization. I do not now and will never."
In May 2013, Cruz introduced the five amendments to the Gang of Eight immigration bill, of which Rubio was among four Republican sponsors. The leading Democratic supporter was New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.
One amendment would "ensure that illegal immigrants are not given a path to citizenship," while another would involve "doubling the overall worldwide green card caps from 675,000 visas per year to 1.35 million per year." The amendments
were defeated in the committee.
The legalization amendment sparked a tense exchange between Cruz and Rubio, both first-term senators and sons of Cuban immigrants, at Tuesday's fifth Republican debate in Las Vegas.
Rubio contended that Cruz backed it.
In her interview Friday, Van Susteren pressed Cruz on that amendment specifically, citing a June 2013 letter that he and three other anti-immigration senators wrote on the legalization issue.
"Your strategy was to put in this poison-pill amendment?" she asked.
"Five amendments that were all designed to defeat this — and we succeeded," Cruz responded. "What's happening now is that the Washington establishment is in a panic."
The senator said that Rubio's campaign is in trouble because he supported immigration reform with the overall legislation — "conservatives are uniting behind our campaign" — and that since Washington insiders "can't defend what he did, they're trying to say that everybody else did it, too."
"The Washington establishment is furious," Cruz said.
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