“Imagine a teenage boy, not much younger than many of you here today, growing up in Cuba. Jet black hair, skinny as a rail. [...] And then at age 18, he flees Cuba, he comes to America.” -- Ted Cruz at Liberty University, 3/23/2015

"I came to this country legally [....] I came here with a legal visa, and ... every step of the way, I have been here legally." -- Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, Ted’s Father, in 2013

Cruz roots much of his politics in his father’s immigrant experience, using it to expound his economic philosophies about fairness, free markets, and the American dream. Yet like fellow Cuban American Republican Marco Rubio, his views on immigration are exceptional, and distant from the majority of non-Cuban Latinos.

"Imagine a legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who come to achieve the American dream." -- Ted Cruz at Liberty University, 3/23/2015

Because of America’s “Wet foot, dry foot,” policy, which basically grants Cubans refugee status automatically, Cuban politicians don’t have the same heart-wrenching immigration stories as other Latino colleagues. It’s no internal contradiction then, that Cruz is a stickler for the rules that are already in place. Critics argue that Cruz’s family wouldn’t have had such an easy time as immigrants if Cubans didn’t get special treatment, as Ann Louise Bardach pointed out in her op-ed “Why Are Cubans So Special?

"A path to citizenship for those who are here illegally in my view is unfair to those waiting sometimes a decades in line to come here." -- Ted Cruz, to Univision’s Jorge Ramos.

As I wrote yesterday, Ted Cruz can be described as a tea party patriot. Between his hardline stance against amnesty and his pro-gun positions, he’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t be surprised to see in desert camouflage of minuteman rally.

See Related: Ted Cruz Announces Presidential Bid For 2016: 'A New Generation Of Courageous Conservatives'

"Preventing people from illegally immigrating to the United States should be the primary purpose of Customs and Border Protection." -- Ted Cruz, in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in 2014.

Cruz’s views frustrate non-Cuban Hispanics, whose communities generally support some kind of amnesty as a part of immigration reform. Some, such as Bardach, want to exclude him from the Hispanic umbrella entirely. “Ted Cruz, who is not fluent in Spanish, has been called as Hispanic as Tom Cruise,” she wrote. Others simply say that he can’t use his heritage to appeal to Hispanic.

“Do you think he represents most Hispanics?” -- ABC News

“No. He's anti-immigration. Almost every Hispanic in the country wants to see immigration reform. I don't think he should be defined as [just] as a Hispanic.” --Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico

Cruz and his defenders take offense to invective against his ethnicity.

“[Liberals like Bardach are] going on that route because Cruz doesn’t have the ‘acceptable’ views on immigration, so they make these comments [....] So many liberal Latinos and liberal white journalists dictating who is and isn’t Hispanic based on a policy position.” -- New Jersey attorney Sam Rosado to Breitbart in Feb. 2015

Generally, Cruz’s policy position on immigration isn’t directed at a Hispanic audience, it’s projected to a more caucasian one. This morning for example, he told his father’s story at Liberty University, in Virginia, where a mostly white college crowd packed the school’s sports arena. (Attendance was mandatory). When it comes to courting the Latino vote, he’d rather focus on issues such as the economy and job creation

“I think the reason why Republicans did so poorly in this last election was not primarily immigration, it was [not courting the vote of] the 47 percent.” -- Ted Cruz to Hispolitica in 2013.


Correction: an earlier version of this story erroniously implied that and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) shared Ted Cruz's views on immigration. This has been corrected. You can read Menendez's very pro-immigrant comments in this recent article