Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. has come to the defense of tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz over his hard-line stance on immigration, saying that he is an "authentic" Hispanic.
Although Navarrette calls Cruz an old "friend," the Harvard-educated CNN and NPR correspondent has attacked the Texas senator in the past for his position on illegals.
But in his column in The Daily Beast
, he pointed out that Cruz is not a "post Hispanic" as some would label him, which could be damaging to his chances at winning the Hispanic vote if he runs for the White House in 2016.
"If the brilliant but polarizing senator from Texas — who happens to be Cuban-American — does indeed run for president, does he have a shot at winning Hispanic votes?" wrote Navarrette.
"At a time when the GOP is hemorrhaging support from Hispanics, would nominating Cruz provide a solution — or, given his extreme rightwing politics, make the problem worse?"
Navarrette said that Cruz was attacked "like a pinata" by former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson in 2013, who accused the senator of being "anti-immigration" and even declared that he should not be "defined as a Hispanic."
"The slap was ugly and unfair, and I said so in a column," wrote Navarrette in the Beast. "Richardson was out of line, and he knows better, since he has had his authenticity questioned over the years."
But since then, Navarrette has himself crossed swords with Cruz on a couple of occasions over the senator's opinions on immigration reform.
"I consider Ted a friend," wrote Navarrette, who has known Cruz for 12 years and has been out to dinner with him and their wives. "But I'm not sure he'd say the same about me after the column I wrote last year chastising him for his hard-line against child refugees who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America."
In that column, Navarrette wrote: "As someone whose community has entered the United States on a red carpet thanks to that Cold War relic known as the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, Cruz ought to tread lightly with immigrants and refugees. Instead, he comes across as Cuban American royalty telling less worthy peasants from Mexico and Central America to eat flan."
Navarrette said that when they first met, Cruz was working "in an obscure post" for the Federal Trade Commission under the Bush administration while Navarrette worked at the Dallas Morning News.
"It's hard to believe but, back then, Cruz was a loyal 'Bushie' who like the 43rd president supported immigration reform that gives the undocumented a path to legal status," Navarrette wrote in the Beast.
"So how 'Hispanic' is Ted? For those Americans who believe that President Obama is 'post-racial,' it's tempting to say that Ted is 'post-Hispanic.'
"Unlike Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, my friend doesn't speak Spanish. He doesn't make a habit of speaking to Hispanic organizations or attending their events. While most Hispanics are Catholic, he's a Southern Baptist. And he doesn't pursue an agenda that is centered on Hispanic issues.
"Moreover, Ted has become a vocal opponent against immigration reform, which he derisively calls 'amnesty; — even though such a policy change is supported by the majority of Hispanics."
But Navarrette went on to say that over the years Cruz has demonstrated his pride at being an Hispanic American. Cruz founded the Harvard Latino Law Review and during his days as lawyer before running for the Senate, his closet friends were Hispanic Republicans.
Navarrette said that Cruz has always made a point of mentioning his father Rafael in speeches, saying his dad washed dishes for 50 cents an hour when he first came to America. And the syndicated Washington Post writer noted that Cruz was "a vocal opponent" of normalizing relations with Cuba.
Cruz also had opposed an amendment to a Senate immigration bill in 2013 restricting the number of low-skilled immigrants who enter the U.S. legally, says Navarrette.
"I am an advocate of legal immigration. We need to remain a nation that celebrates legal immigrants around this table — so many of us are the children of those who risked everything for freedom," said Cruz at the time.
Navarrette, a Mexican-American, said in the Beast
, "So much for him being "anti-immigration."
He concluded by saying, "How Hispanic is Ted Cruz? In the end, I have no idea … But from what I've seen, and heard directly from him, he's as Hispanic as any of us and more Hispanic than many of his critics.
"I also think he's proud of his heritage, culture, and community. He doesn't wear his ethnicity on his sleeve, but he seems proud to be Cuban-American. My friend showed off that pride in December 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa, while attending the memorial service for Nelson Mandela."
Navarrette wrote that when Cuban President Raul Castro was about to speak, Cruz did "what most Cuban-Americans would do and walked out. That's what I call 'authentic.'"
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