Less than a day before Nevada Republicans were expected to caucus to choose a potential next president, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took a pointed new position on immigration Monday. His new plan — to round up and deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States — aligns the senator with the bombastic front-runner Donald Trump, who has played a crucial role in starting an intra-party debate over immigration reform.
“Yes, we should deport them,” Cruz told Fox News channel host Bill O’Reilly. He went further by saying that a Cruz administration would play an active role looking for people to deport. “Of course you would. That's what [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws that apprehends them and deports them.”
Cruz has been moving right on the issue for months now, though he has always been considered strong on the issue. In January, Cruz said that he opposed a special force to find and deport undocumented immigrants, saying that he did not intend on sending law enforcement to every door in America.
His changed tune on mass deportations is likely an appeal to some of Nevada’s most conservative voters as he tries to make up for disappointing performances in the two previous primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina. In Nevada, immigration reform has become contentious once again after the state GOP seemed to amend its stance following a decisive electoral loss in 2012 to Democrats that scared the party into a more generous stance toward Latinos.
All eyes will be on Cruz, Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday as they compete in the state. Trump leads in polling in the state, but the caucus system can wield surprises, especially for candidates like Trump who do not have extensive ground operations. Rubio and Cruz are widely seen as competing for second place to stay competitive ahead of the upcoming Super Tuesday contests March 1.