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How Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's Position On Separating Immigrant Families Has Changed

Samantha Guzman
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz talks with Krys Boyd (far right), host of KERA's talk show, "Think," while KERA's Stephen Becker records on June 7, 2018 in Washington D.C.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced Monday that he will introduce a bill called the "Protect Kids and Parents Act" to keep what his statement calls "illegal immigrant families" together while their cases are being heard.

That's very different from what he told KERA's Krys Boyd earlier this month.

Cruz's about-face came after a weekend protest outside a detention center in the border town of Tornillo, Texas. Democrat Beto O'Rourke led the protest; he represents the area and nearby El Paso in Congress and is challenging Cruz for his Senate seat this November.

Both candidates taped interviews with KERA's statewide program "Think" on June 7.

Here's what Cruz said about separating families in the "Think" interview: 

“There’s a reason why under the Obama administration that often didn’t happen. Because when they apprehended people here illegally, they just let them go. And when you let them go, you didn’t separate children from parents.
"You know, you think about it, if someone gets arrested for a crime – let’s say an American citizen … you’re separated from your children – you’re put in prison. If you’re the only caregiver for that child, then you’ve got to find alternative care for those children. …
"This is an issue that I think the media has largely constructed, because what’s shifted is that the Trump administration is endeavoring when people cross illegally to arrest them, not to let them go. And so if they have kids, you know there’s actually a court order that prevents keeping the kids with the parents when you put the parents in jail. So when you see reporters, when you see Democrats saying, ‘Don’t separate kids from their parent,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘Don’t arrest illegal aliens.’ ”

In his statement Monday, Cruz struck a different tone:

“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop. Now. We can end this crisis by passing the legislation I am introducing this week.
“Repeatedly, I have visited detention facilities tragically housing young children.  For far too long, children have been the greatest victims of our broken immigration system, with tens of thousands of children who were detained under the Obama Administration and continuing through today, and with far too many of those children facing horrific physical or sexual assault from criminal human traffickers. 
“The answer is not what congressional Democrats are proposing: simply releasing illegal aliens and returning to the failed policy of ‘catch and release.’ Rather, we should fix the backlog in immigration cases, remove the legal barriers to swift processing, and resolve asylum cases on an expedited basis.
“While these cases are pending, families should stay together. Children belong with their mothers and fathers. Once their cases have been adjudicated – under my legislation, in no longer than 14 days – those who meet the legal standard should be granted asylum and those who don’t should be immediately returned to their home country.
“We can fix this. If my Democratic colleagues will join me, not play politics but work to solve the problem, we can start to end family separation this week. And, we can honor the rule of law.”

At the Father’s Day march in Tornillo, Texas, O’Rourke told the crowd:

"There is an open question about who we are as Americans, whether we are a country that would continue to do this. Two thousand times, in the last 45 days, kids have been taken from their moms, from their dads, detained at places just like this tent city here in Tornillo."

Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.