And here we go…….

In my recent, somewhat skeptical analysis of the increasingly prevalent “Rubio vs. Cruz” narrative, I mentioned that should that dynamic take shape down the stretch, immigration is sure to emerge as a major focal point. As fate would have it, the issue bubbled to the surface almost immediately, with the two Senators’ camps exchanging barbs late last week. Cruz fired the first shot, laying into Rubio’s record on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. Rubio, clearly prepared for this line of attack, calmly feigned puzzlement over Cruz’s broadside. Why is he attacking me when he also favors a path to permanent legal status for millions of illegal immigrants? Wait a minute. Is that true of Cruz? Let’s go to the audio and video tape:

The eleven million people who are here illegally would be granted legal status once the border is secure…and indeed, they would be eligible for permanent legal residency.”

That was Cruz back in 2013, during the Senate’s debate over the so-called Gang of Eight’s fatally flawed comprehensive immigration reform bill, of which Marco Rubio was a chief architect. Rubio’s legislation called for simultaneous mass legalization and border enforcement measures (legalization first, in practice) and an eventual path to citizenship. Cruz, by contrast, was effectively advocating a path to permanent legal status, not citizenship, which would only open up after the southern border had been certified as secure. His campaign is offering a technical denial on this point, but his words above aren’t ambiguous. Nevertheless, these amount to significant policy differences, yet Rubio is arguing that he and his GOP rival are more or less on the same page. “Ted’s position on immigration is not much different than mine. He is a supporter of legalizing people that are in this country illegally. If he’s changed that position, then he certainly has a right to change his position on that issue, but he should be clear about that,” he said on Friday.

Cruz responded by “laughing out loud” at the notion that he and Rubio’s immigration stances are remotely similar.