Washington (CNN) - He may be one of the most junior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Sen. Ted Cruz's comments carry a lot of weight.
That may be because the freshman senator from Texas, who was just elected to Congress last November, won office with the help of the tea party movement, is a darling among some conservatives and is the only Republican on the panel who may have designs on the White House in 2016.
And Cruz, whose father was Cuban-born, is firmly in the spotlight as the committee begins hearings on a comprehensive immigration bill. During a committee hearing Monday, Cruz made no bones about his feelings on a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States.
"If the bill includes elements that are deeply divisive, and I would note that I don't think there is any issue in this entire debate that is more divisive than a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally, in my view any bill that insists upon that jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration reform bill," said Cruz in his most thorough remarks on the proposal since it was formally introduced last week.
The legislation, put together by a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators, calls for an extended pathway to citizenship (10 years to obtain a green card and another three years to apply for citizenship) for most undocumented workers who entered the U.S. before 2012. Along the way, undocumented workers would have to pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a background check. The legislation also mandates that there be no path to legality until it is determined that the U.S. border with Mexico is secure.
While polls indicate a majority of Americans support such an eventual pathway to citizenship, a vocal minority of conservatives call such proposals "amnesty."
Cruz didn't use the "A" word at the hearing, but he made it clear that any pathway to citizenship provision will doom the overall bill.
"It is my hope that passing a bipartisan bill addressing areas of common agreement...will not be held hostage to an issue that is deeply, deeply divisive, mainly a pathway to citizenship," said Cruz.
Cruz's stance puts him at odds with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican member of the "Gang of Eight," who was also elected (in 2010) with strong support from tea party activists. Rubio, like Cruz, is also considered a rising star. But the similarities don't end there: Rubio's parents were born in Cuba, and Rubio's considered a serious contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
After President Barack Obama won nearly three-quarters of the Latino vote in last year's presidential election, the Republican National Committee conducted a top-to-bottom review that recommended the party change its language and messaging in an attempt to better reach out to minority voters and younger voters. And most of the early possible GOP White House hopefuls, including conservative Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, appear to be open to some kind of eventual pathway to citizenship.
While Cruz, the former solicitor general of Texas, denies that politics is behind his stance on immigration (as does Rubio), his position does allows him to stand out from the rest of the possible 2016 crowd.
(Note: Cruz's eligibility to run for president has been subject to debate. He was born in Canada to a Cuban father, but his mother was an American citizen).
"Ted is a very smart guy. He's carved out a position that has put him to the right of the other potential '16 GOP candidates, but hasn't panned the entire bill. He has to be careful. Texas is changing and Hispanics there aren't his biggest fans," says GOP strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro.
"Bottom line: Ted is Hispanic and that means there is greater scrutiny on him on the immigration issue and by other Hispanics. If he has national aspirations, he shouldn't become the anti-immigration reform guy," adds Navarro, who supports the "Gang of Eight" immigration proposal.
"So Cruz is just another worthless anchor baby huh? Just like Rubio"......NOT...he was born in Canada....so....he is a Canadian "anchor baby"
"We need to deport all illegal aliens."...???
I'll bet that the landlords that rent to the illegal aliens and the "job creators" that hire them (for substandard wages) might tend to disagree with the idea of deportation...
I would like Texas to sucede the union, ant take the Tea Nuts like Cruz and Perry with them.
He was not born in the US therefore he cannot be President.
@atCriticalEye – I am so with you!!!
Have we heard from the oops governor as to who REALLY was behind the killings of their DAs and the wife of one of them? Didn't he say something about the wall and immigrants?
As far as this cross (English for cruz) we know he is Canadian born with an American mother. Does this mean that if the President had REALLY been born in Kenya he could have been president? What about mcnasty? He was born in Panama.
You see how these repugs change the rules when it's convenient to and for them?
cross might be thinking of the presidency but he really doesn't care about Hispanics one iota!
Some make call it spotlight, others ticket home...."Ahh, Joe Walsh,(communist) West ring a bell?!"
Ted Cruz is a hothead with no intelligence.....Texas, you deserve better. Get this guy out of office!
This senator has done nothing to deserve any recognition nationally. Unless you think disrespect and radically motivated hate speech counts.
The answer is to grant anmesty to all the illegals in the USA, just as we did back in the 80's. That way we will be better positioned grant the next 20 million anmesty in 2025 and hte next 20 million amnesty in 2030. After that there will be no more anmesties necessary as we will have officially renamed our country to the United States of Mexico.
This is how the Teapugs work. It doesn't matter whether you have anything of substance to say. Just get up there, and instead of learning the ropes, make as much noise, fuss, bluster and BS that you can, and the Teapugs back home will love ya! It's how he was elected – beating out a much better candidate. Hopefully, he will eventually learn to act like and adult. Nah.. what was I thinking ??!^%&