WASHINGTON -- Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will hold a meeting on Wednesday night, where the Texas senator said the two 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls will discuss several issues. Cruz praised Trump for talking about immigration, making him one of the only candidates to defend the real estate mogul and reality television star.

“I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s,” Cruz told reporters Wednesday. “I’ve spent a lot of time meeting with all sorts of friends of mine. I’ve sat down and visited with Donald multiple times before he was a candidate for president. I’m happy to sit down and visit with him now that he’s a candidate for president.”

Trump has quickly risen to be the most controversial candidate in the 2016 Republican field. During his launch speech, Trump said he intends to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said during the speech. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Many Republican candidates were quick to criticize Trump for those remarks. Several said they were personally offended by the statement. Despite the criticism, Trump has risen in the polls and is currently leading in at least one national survey.

GettyImages-480430570 Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump spoke about illegal immigration and other topics in front of an estimated crowd of 4,200. Photo: Getty Images/Charlie Leight

But Cruz has taken a different tack. He is openly praising Trump. “I think Donald Trump is bringing a bold, brash voice to this presidential race,” Cruz said. “I, for one, am grateful that Donald Trump is highlighting these issues. They are critical issues.”

He said the politicians who are criticizing Trump do so because they support amnesty. “One of the reasons you’re seeing so many 2016 candidates go out of their way to smack Donald Trump is they don’t like a politician who speaks directly about the challenges of illegal immigration,” Cruz said. “They don’t like a politician who speaks directly about sanctuary cities, about the law enforcement, safety and security issues that are raised. Indeed, many of the politicians who are running out of their way to smack Donald Trump have for years or even decades been vocal advocates for amnesty.”

In fact, Cruz sought to align himself with Trump -- perhaps in a bid to share in Trump's rise in the polls. “They are issues I’ve been fighting for a lot of years, to enforce the law, to stop illegal immigration, to stop the Obama administration’s practice of releasing criminal, illegal aliens into the population,” Cruz said.

And he attempted to turn the questions about Trump’s remarks into an attack on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He invoked statistics from the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative group that wants to stop immigration. “In 2013 alone, the Obama administration released 36,000 illegal aliens who had criminal convictions, including 116 murders,” Cruz said.

Fact checkers have noted that all of the people released had completed their sentences and many were still being processed for deportation. On the other side of the debate, Obama has come under intense criticism for deporting too many people.

“Anyone should ask President Obama, or especially Hillary Clinton, does Hillary Clinton think it’s appropriate for the federal government to release 116 murders who are illegal aliens? I don’t,” Cruz said. “Does Hillary Clinton think it’s appropriate that in 2013 the Obama administration released over 15,000 illegal aliens who had drunk driving convictions? You know, my girls are 7 and 4. They are driving on the road every day to school, the idea that this administration is allowing over 15,000 people with drunk driving convictions who are here illegally, that [doesn’t] make any sense.”