Why Ted Cruz Will Soften on Immigration Reform (Someday)

PHOTO: cruzBill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes the elevator down as he leaves the Senate floor as debate ends on the Senate immigration reform bill on Thursday, June 27, 2013.

When an immigration bill passed in the Senate a few weeks ago, it did so without the support of the two Republican senators from Texas.

Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn both voted against the legislation and stood out as some of its biggest critics.

Cruz and Cornyn both wanted more border security measures, even after the Senate adopted an amendment to the bill that would double the size of Border Patrol and set aside billions for fencing and surveillance gear.

But if current demographic trends continue, they might be forced to reconsider their views down the road.

Hispanics are poised to outnumber non-Hispanics in Texas by 2023, according to the Texas Office of State Demographer.

The trend will only continue from there. Check out this graph, via NPR:


Credit: Matt Stiles/NPR. Source: Texas Office of State Demographer

And this one:


Note: The Hispanic population in Texas is younger than the non-white Hispanic population.

Credit: Matt Stiles/NPR. Source: Texas Office of State Demographer

When it comes to immigration reform, Hispanics are particularly committed to legalization for undocumented immigrants. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of Hispanics think undocumented immigrants should have a way to stay in the country legally.

Hispanics were also more likely than blacks or whites to think legalization could happen while border security was still being improved, as opposed to gaining control first.

But the message from Cruz and Cornyn is quite different: over and over again, they've called for securing the border before providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. Cruz basically said he would never endorse citizenship for anyone in the country without authorization.

Those positions might work in the political short-term, but they're likely untenable into the next decade.

Some Republican representatives in Texas may already be adjusting to the state's changing demographics.

Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson are working with Democrats and another Republican to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House.

Those two elected officials are in districts where the Hispanic population is smaller than the statewide average, but they could be positioning themselves -- and their party -- for the future. If they can come up with a comprehensive immigration bill, that is. So far, they haven't gone public with anything.

The trends in Texas are clear. It's really a matter of when Republicans will decide to reverse their positions or age out with their white constituency.