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Immigration brawl breaks out between Cruz and Rubio

<p>The immigration squabble among the Republican presidential contenders has turned into an all-out brawl between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, with the two senators challenging each other’s conservative credentials on the hot-button issue.</p><p>While they were by no means the only GOP candidates throwing around immigration accusations on Thursday, the intensity was the highest between Cruz and Rubio, seen as two of the strongest ascending members of the Republican field, especially after Tuesday’s fourth debate.</p><p>&quot;They fought tooth and nail to try and jam this amnesty down the American people’s throats,&quot; Cruz said in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Thursday, speaking about the &quot;Gang of Eight&quot; senators. Rubio’s membership in the group, which unsuccessfully shepherded a comprehensive immigration reform effort in 2013, has haunted him since.</p><p>&quot;Talk is cheap,&quot; Cruz continued, saying Rubio’s actions disprove any claim that he’s as conservative as Cruz on the topic. Cruz later added that the Florida senator opposed a set of amendments introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and himself. </p><p>&quot;He opposed every single one of them, every single amendment,&quot; Cruz said. &quot;The ‘Gang of Eight’ voted as a gang against enforcing and securing the border.&quot; </p><p>Rubio, in roughly the same bracket of hours Thursday morning, took a few shots at Cruz while campaigning in South Carolina, hitting the Texas senator from the right.</p><p>&quot;Ted is a supporter of legalizing people that are in this country illegally. In fact, when the Senate bill was proposed, he proposed legalizing people that were here illegally,&quot; Rubio said during a campaign stop in Hilton Head, according to a readout from his campaign. &quot;He proposed giving them work permits. He’s also supported a massive expansion of the green cards. He supported a massive expansion of the H-1B program, a 500% increase. So, if you look at it, I don’t think our positions are dramatically different. I do believe that we have to deal with immigration reform in a serious way, and it begins by proving to people that illegal immigration is under control.&quot; </p><p>A Cruz aide shot back that Rubio’s comments were not an accurate indicator of where the Texas senator stands on immigration. &quot;Laughably FALSE. No one fought harder to prevent Gang of 8’s amnesty bill than Ted Cruz. Record is remarkably clear,&quot; Cruz rapid response director Brian Phillips <a href=”https://twitter.com/RealBPhil/status/664854110932303872″ target=”_blank”>tweeted</a>. </p><p>The back-and-forth didn’t stop there. On Thursday afternoon, Rubio’s campaign blasted out an email with the subject line “Senator Cruz’s ‘remarkably clear’ record on immigration.” They featured Phillips’ tweet with a paragraph from The Texas Tribune in September 2013. </p><p>“‘The amendment that I [Cruz] introduced removed the path to citizenship, but it did not change the underlying work permit from the Gang of Eight,’ he said during a recent visit to El Paso. Mr. Cruz also noted that he had not called for deportation or, as Mitt Romney famously advocated, self-deportation,” the Tribune clip reads. </p><p>The email also featured video of Cruz in May 2013 discussing his amendment which he said would bring undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows.”</p><p>The tinder fueling the fighting between Cruz and Rubio has been growing for some time now. Cruz has styled himself as a hard-liner on immigration reform, and opponents of Rubio often accuse him of flipping back and forth on immigration reform, notably taking a <a href=”http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/marco-rubio-immigration-sanctuary-cities-214931″ target=”_blank”>rightward turn recently</a> in throwing his support behind legislation cracking down on sanctuary cities. </p><p>Immigration has become a central litmus test among conservatives this cycle, especially after billionaire Donald Trump kicked off his presidential run with a bold promise to build a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a later pledged to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. He noticeably pushed the field further right on the issue, after the Republican party tried to find a more central position in the wake of Mitt Romney’s bruising loss in 2012.</p><p>Other candidates looked to join in on the skirmishing that started during Tuesday night debate’s in Milwaukee. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum tried to get into the mix by tweeting out on Thursday a link to a clip of Cruz describing how he’s introduced &quot;two amendments to significantly expand legal immigration, to double the caps on legal immigration from 675,000 to 1.3 million and to increase temporary high skilled workers by 500 percent.&quot;</p><blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>It is clear what candidate is not a real conservative on immigration. Watch <a href=”https://twitter.com/tedcruz”>@tedcruz</a> in 2013. <a href=”https://t.co/TlCUYfgOi4″>https://t.co/TlCUYfgOi4</a></p><p>— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RickSantorum/status/664817868056457217″>November 12, 2015</a></p></blockquote><script async=”” src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script><p>Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, in a separate interview with Ingraham, moved to jab Rubio on his tax plan by tying it to immigration. </p><p>&quot;I think Rubio’s plan would explode payments to illegal aliens. And this is a real problem. Until we fix the current tax credits, do we really want to double and triple the amount of tax credits we’re giving? I mean really, $4 billion to illegal aliens? I think Rubio’s tax plan will extend more tax credits to illegal aliens, and I think there’s no way in the world that we should be supporting something like this,&quot; Paul said. </p><p>The two candidates currently leading in the polls — Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — also tangled in the wake of Tuesday’s debate. </p><p>Carson said in an interview with The Washington Examiner on Wednesday that Trump’s moves to build a wall along the border would backfire in the long run. &quot;I think there are enough people who know that there are others in the race that are very reasonable,&quot; Carson said. &quot;I don’t think he necessarily is the representation of the Republican Party — far from it.&quot;</p><p>On Thursday, Trump hit back, <a href=”:https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/664885790061813760″ target=”_blank”>tweeting</a>: &quot;Wow, pres. candidate Ben Carson, who is very weak on illegal Immigration, just said he likes amnesty and a pathway to citizenship.&quot;</p><p>It wasn’t the first time on Thursday that Trump banged the stronger borders drum, <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/664787273184108545″ target=”_blank”>tweeting</a> earlier in the day: &quot;We, as a country, either have borders or we don’t. IF WE DON’T HAVE BORDERS, WE DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!&quot;</p><p><i>Eliza Collins contributed to this report. </i><br /></p><br>

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