The Congressional Budget Office's finding that immigration reform would dramatically reduce the deficit has deprived die-hard foes of the argument that rewarding the "takers" would sock it to American taxpayers. But that hasn't stopped opponents of reform from pressing forward with other absurd arguments. Case in point: Ted Cruz argued on the Senate floor Tuesday that immigration reform should be opposed for the sake of undocumented immigrants.
Cruz stood before a blown-up picture of a graveyard as he solemnly eulogized on behalf of unnamed souls who had been killed crossing the border: "No one who cares about our humanity would want to maintain a system where the border isn't secure," he said, noting that "vulnerable women and children" are being preyed upon by drug dealers and "left to die in the desert."
"This is a system that produces human tragedy," Cruz continued. "And the most heartbreaking aspect of this Gang of Eight bill is it will perpetuate this tragedy. It will not fix the problem. It will not secure the borders."
In fact, the Gang of Eight bill would allot billions of dollars to border security, require the Department of Homeland Security to produce a security plan and mandate the creation of a commission if security benchmarks aren't met. Democrats are also likely to agree to GOP demands that the specifics of the security plan be determined by Congress.
Cruz has introduced amendments to beef up the Gang of Eight bill's border security measures. But for all his professed concern about the unnamed dead, his position for all practical purposes would result in nothing getting done to fix the system that, by his lights, perpetuates the tragedy he lamented. Cruz has introduced an amendment to block the path to citizenship in the bill. Without a path to citizenship, we aren't getting reform. Such amendments are really designed to kill reform -- yet here is Cruz, claiming that his actions are about protecting undocumented immigrants.
Cruz's professed sympathy for the plight of the undocumented is also striking in light of his efforts to tie immigration reform to a conservative cause unrelated to border security. He recently vowed to attach an amendment to the immigration bill that would allow states to require proof of citizenship as a condition for registering to vote.
Nor is Cruz the only one up to such shenanigans. Sen. Jeff Sessions, another die-hard opponent of reform, is dismissing the CBO finding that reform would help the economy by arguing that any economic benefits would go to business owners, rather than the poor. As my colleague Ezra Klein noted: "Sessions doesn't typically vote against bills because the benefits accrue to business owners or because they'll make life harder for Americans who can't find work. Quite the opposite, actually."
Sessions, at least, has made known that the real goal of all of his procedural objections is to stall long enough to build up public opposition in hopes of killing reform. "The longer it lays in the sun, the more it smells, as they say about the mackerel," he has said.
Cruz, to my knowledge, hasn't been this forthcoming. But it isn't hard to see that his opposition to immigration reform is not about "our humanity."
Greg Sargent, Washington post columnist; www.washingtonpost.com.