Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are keeping a relatively low profile on immigration changes as they grapple with splits in the Texas GOP base over the issue.
Though immigration policy is major issue in the state, neither lawmaker was part of the bipartisan group of eight senators that released a framework this week for a comprehensive overhaul. Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2014, is the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. The chairman of the subcommittee, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has been a leader of the group of eight.
Cruz, a tea party favorite, said in a statement that he was pleased with some parts of the framework, but noted that he has “deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.”
Cornyn gave a similar appraisal as he seeks to protect his right flank.
Speaking on Andrea Tantaros’ radio show Tuesday, Cornyn said he didn’t “want to discourage” the bipartisan effort by the eight senators, but he added: “I do worry that people get the cart ahead of the horse and start talking about a pathway to citizenship before they talk about the prerequisites to that — and really what I would consider to be necessary confidence building measures — to show that the federal government and Congress can be trusted when it comes to border security, when it comes to work site enforcement and when it comes to visa overstays, which accounts for about 40 percent of immigration currently.”
Cornyn also said he thinks the solution, if possible, should come from the Judiciary Committee and was skeptical of a plan crafted “behind closed doors.”
The caution from both men probably has more to do with the political minefield immigration overhaul efforts can be in Texas, where 38 percent of the population is Hispanic but the tea party still has significant sway over the GOP.
In addition, the GOP establishment in Washington, D.C., has been struggling to address immigration in an effort to win over Republican Latino voters who have been turned off of the GOP because of its policies and harsh rhetoric.
The strategy chafes conservatives who believe that the move comes at the expense of their principles.
“There is a huge divide,” on the issue within the party said Dean Wright, co-founder and director of New Revolution Now, a Texas-based grass-roots conservative group.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.