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'Undocumented Democrats' Is Ted Cruz's 'New, Politically Correct' Term

"Proponents of the Gang of Eight [immigration bill] were being hypocrites. They were not telling the truth," Ted Cruz said Thursday in Las Vegas. "What they claimed they were interested in was not in fact what they were interested in. ... they wanted millions of new Democratic voters."
John Locher

Ted Cruz is introducing some voters to what he says is a new term in the fight over immigration: "undocumented Democrats." Speaking in Las Vegas on Thursday, the Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate portrayed the idea of a path to citizenship as a ploy to beef up Democratic voter rolls.

"Proponents of the Gang of Eight were being hypocrites. They were not telling the truth," he said. "What they claimed they were interested in was not in fact what they were interested in. What they were interested in, what Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama wanted, was very simple: They wanted millions of new Democratic voters. There's a reason why I think the new, politically correct term is no longer illegal aliens; it's undocumented Democrats."

The Gang of Eight was a bipartisan group of senators who, in 2013, crafted a compromise immigration reform bill. Cruz isn't just criticizing them to look tough on immigration, a hot issue in the GOP primary this year; one of his biggest GOP rivals, Marco Rubio, was a member of the Gang of Eight.

Criticizing Rubio for his role in that gang has become a part of Cruz's strategy. Cruz also took the opportunity in this week's GOP debate to connect Rubio with the Gang of Eight bill, casting the bill's provisions on refugees as too weak.

Cruz himself in 2013 said he wanted immigration reform to pass, but he introduced an amendment that would have changed the bill's path to citizenship to a path to legal status. At the time, Cruz said that his amendment was designed to help the bill pass. However, he has recently cast his amendment as a "poison pill," designed to keep the bill from passing.

Data from the Pew Research Center suggests that immigrants who are in the country illegally are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, but not overwhelmingly so. Around 54 percent of unauthorized Latino immigrants in 2013 said they identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared to 19 percent who said the same of the Republican Party.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 20, 2015 at 11:00 PM CST
This article originally stated that Cruz coined the term "undocumented Democrats." It has, however, been used in the past by others, including Rush Limbaugh.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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