Texas Sen. Ted Cruz struck a hard line on immigration, declaring before a campaign stop in Kennesaw on Friday that he opposes granting the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. citizenship "today, tomorrow, forever."
The Republican presidential candidate's comments came in the wake of a New York Times report that unearthed a 1999 memo from Cruz urging his then-boss, George W. Bush, to take a more nuanced approach to the immigration debate.
The memo advised Bush to answer "not at this time" when asked if he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants living in the country. It recommended he "consider all options when trying to resolve our immigration problem and what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants already living here."
When asked Friday if that memo was a liability in the general election, Cruz was blunt.
“My position is very simple. I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization … Today, tomorrow, forever. I believe in the rule of law.”
He added: “We can enforce the laws. We can secure our borders. We can keep our country safe. And at the same time, we can continue to welcome and celebrate the legal immigrants who follow the rules and wait in line pursuant to our rules."
Cruz's critics tried to compare those remarks to the infamous 1963 speech by Alabama Gov. George Wallace that declared: "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
Cruz also railed against the tax and spending package passed by Congress on Friday, calling the $1.1 trillion spending measure and $650 billion in tax breaks an “abomination” championed by weak-kneed Republicans.
“People are volcanically frustrated that we keep winning elections but we don’t do what the people sent us to do,” he said of his fellow Republicans.
Cruz was in Kennesaw for a campaign stop amid a weeklong tour that of several states holding votes on March 1 - a round of primaries and caucuses known in Georgia as the SEC primary.
The event attracted more than 1,000 Cruz supporters, who packed a frigid airport hangar that also featured a wandering Santa Claus and speeches by two former presidential candidates from Georgia: Bob Barr and Herman Cain.
Cruz, in his remarks to reporters and to the raucous crowd, equated border security to national security.
"If you’re not prepared to keep our border secure, you’re not able to keep this country safe. Because the front line with ISIS isn’t just Iraq or Syria," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. "It’s also Kennedy Airport and the Rio Grande."
Read more about Cruz - and his Southern strategy - by clicking here.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.