Cruz framed his immigration plan as a matter of national security: "And let me mention, this issue is actually directly connected to what we've been talking about (national security)," Cruz said at the CNN-hosted debate Tuesday night. "Because the front line with ISIS isn't just in Iraq and Syria, it's in Kennedy Airport and the Rio Grande. Border security is national security. "And, you know, one of the most troubling aspects of the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight Bill was that it gave President Obama blanket authority to admit refugees, including Syrian refugees without mandating any background checks whatsoever. Now we've seen what happened in San Bernardino. (To be clear, the gang of eight bill never passed.) "When you are letting people in, when the FBI can't vet them, it puts American citizens at risk," Cruz said. He promised to secure the border and "triple the border patrol." "We will build a wall that works, and I'll get Donald Trump to pay for it," Cruz joked. (The two were chummy on the stage.)
In response, Rubio said there was no massive Syrian refugee crisis in 2013 like there is now. "Up until that point, a refugee meant someone fleeing oppression, fleeing Communism like it is in my (Cuba) community," Rubio said. "As far as Ted's record, I'm always puzzled by his attack on this issue. Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally. Ted Cruz supported a 500-percent increase in the number of H-1 visas, the guest workers that are allowed into this country, and Ted supports doubling the number of green cards. "So I think what's important for us to understand, and there is a way forward on this issue that we an bring our country together on...And it will begin by bringing illegal immigration under control."
Cruz, in return, accused Rubio of trying to "raise confusion." "It is not accurate what he just said, that I supported legalization. Indeed, I led the fight against his legalization and amnesty. And you know, there was one commentator that put it this way that, for Marco to suggest our record's the same is like suggesting 'the fireman and the arsonist because they are both at the scene of the fire.' "He was fighting to grant amnesty and not to secure the border, I was fighting to secure the border..."
Rubio asked Cruz if he would "rule out ever legalizing people that are in this country now?" "I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization," Cruz responded. "What you do is you enforce the law." He directed people to the 11-page immigration plan on his website. "You enforce the law," Cruz repeated. "That means you stop the Obama administration's policy of releasing criminal illegal aliens. Do you know how many aliens Bill Clinton deported? 12 million. Do you know how many illegal aliens, George W. Bush deported? 10 million. "We can enforce the laws and if we secure the border, that solves the problem."