As a Canadian citizen and decent human being, I am pleased to no end that Ted Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014. In a somewhat unfortunate twist, this action virtually guaranteed that he is eligible to run for president. It is not problematic in itself that Cruz is eligible. Instead, the conversation is emblematic of the Republican party’s refusal to effectively tackle citizenship and immigration issues.
Donald Trump is, rather notoriously, one of the worst offenders. Facts elude him yet again when he questions Cruz’s citizenship and eligibility. The Congressional Research Service concluded he is eligible to run, and many high-profile legal scholars agreed. Trump is deliberately ignoring the truth for political gain.
The issue extends beyond Trump, however. Several other leaders within the party, John McCain and Rand Paul among them, joined Trump in questioning Cruz’s eligibility. When Trump ignores facts, it is easy to interpret this as a personal issue. But, when one-third of the party does, as a recent Monmouth University poll indicated, it shows an institutional problem.
These intentional misinterpretations prove problematic in more ways than one. When Republicans call for undocumented immigrants to “get in line” or “obey the law” to enter the country, they craft a false image that the line is the same for all immigrants. The green card quota systen which allows individuals into the country discriminates based on where they come from, even after adjusting for skills and education. The line can be well over a decade shorter for Canadian workers than it is for people from Mexico.
The policy effects of this discrimination are immediate. Those lines can take up to 20 years for individuals to legally immigrate to the U.S. For many, a line that long is not worth the wait. If these candidates are serious about reform, they need to prioritize fixing these discriminatory practices. Before demonizing immigrants for crossing the border, politicians must make waiting in line a viable option.
Beyond willfully misinterpreting the problems, Trump and Cruz have obscured what kind of solutions are within their power. Trump’s suggestion to register all Muslims with the government and ban Muslim immigration are both certainly unconstitutional. Cruz’s solutions are no better. Last year, he argued he would eliminate birthright citizenship, despite saying doing so would be impossible in 2011.
The Republican party has no obligation to be antagonistic to immigrants, nor should it be. During the summer of 2013, former President George W. Bush was the one to give my mother her naturalization certificate in a ceremony at his presidential library. That day, he spoke on the value that immigrants bring to the United States and the need to reform our immigration system.
“We must remember that the vast majority of immigrants are decent people who work hard, and support their families, and practice their faith and lead responsible lives,” Bush said.
In the Republican National Committee’s analysis of its losses in 2012, it concluded that considerate, moderate views, like Bush’s, are exactly what it needed. Instead, zealots derailing the conversation have kept the party from making progress. If voters truly care about fixing immigration issues, they need to ask the right questions, and they deserve candidates committed to real solutions in return.
Chase is an economics and Plan II junior from Winnipeg, Canada. Chase is an Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter @alexwchase.