Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke clashed on issues of immigration, police brutality and gun control on Friday night at the first Texas U.S. Senate debate.
The two politicians expressed contrasting opinions on the issue of illegal immigration and whether or not citizenship should be granted to dreamers. O’Rourke took a progressive stance on the issue and suggested that granting citizenship to dreamers would benefit the American economy. He also argued that if most dreamers were deported from Texas they would be sent home to a country they have never been to before. “We should free dreamers from the fear of deportation,” O’Rourke said.
In contrast, Cruz, a strict constitutionalist, stood against illegal immigration. He expressed his view on the issue in simplified terms stating, “Legal good, illegal bad.” He did not agree with O’Rourke that dreamers should be granted citizenship, but he expressed his willingness to accept immigrants who come to the United States legally like his father who immigrated from Cuba in the late 1950’s. “We can welcome and celebrate legal immigrants,” Cruz said.
Following the recent shooting of an unarmed African American man, Botham Jean, in his own apartment by Dallas Police Officer, Amber Guyger, the politicians were asked to share their views on police brutality. Cruz argued that the investigation was not yet complete and that the officer is entitled to a fair investigation. “The officer has contended that it was a tragic mistake,” Cruz said. He accused O’Rourke of using “irresponsible and hateful rhetoric” when speaking about the police. He also accused the Democratic representative of violating Officer Guyger’s right to due process by calling for her to be fired before the investigation is complete. In response, O’Rourke argued, “too many African American men are losing their lives in this country.”
Kavanaugh and Sexual Assault Allegations:
Cruz was asked if he still supported U.S. Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court nominee after allegations of sexual assault were brought by Christine Blasey Ford. In response, Cruz once again said that the investigation was not complete. However, Cruz did express his support for Kavanaugh by praising his strict constructionist views and modest use of judicial review. “I believe Texans want constitutionalists on the Supreme Court,” Cruz said.
O’Rourke argued that the FBI should continue their investigation into Ford’s sexual assault allegations. He disagreed with the Judge’s previous stances on women’s rights issues and gay rights issues and claimed that he will not do enough to protect their rights. “Judge Kavanaugh’s stance on civil rights are in question,” O’Rourke said.
President Donald Trump:
Both Cruz and O’Rourke have expressed negative opinions about President Donald Trump which brings into question how effectively they will be able to work with him as the Senator of Texas. O’Rourke has been criticized for requesting President Trump’s impeachment. Meanwhile, Cruz exchanged insults with Trump during the 2016 Presidential Election, although he claims that it is now in the past.
Cruz maintains that despite past disagreements, he is now willing to work with the President for the good of Texas. “I’ve got a responsibility, to fight for everybody here and every person in this state,” Cruz said.
O’Rourke has very different plans; he explained that he will continue to stand by his beliefs even if they do not align with the President’s beliefs. “This state needs a Senator who will work with the President when they can, and stand up to him when they can’t,” O’Rourke said.
Cruz insulted O’Rourke’s statement that he would vote to impeach the President as being radical and illogical. “As far as I know Beto has never spoken to the President besides to ask for his impeachment,” he said.
Gun Rights and Gun Violence:
One of the most contentious topics of the debate was about whether or not there should be more gun control in Texas.
O’Rourke pushed for more gun control. The El Paso Democrat was in favor of strengthening background checks and tightening regulations. “Weapons of war belong on the battlefield, not in our schools, churches or concerts,” O’Rourke said.
Cruz contested that gun control is not the solution to gun violence. “Gun control is not the answer. More armed police officers in our schools is,” Cruz said. The Senator also called for metal detectors to be placed in schools. He suggested that strengthening religion and family values would help combat gun violence.
O’Rourke responded that arming officers in schools would be a counterintuitive response to gun violence. “Bringing weapons into the classroom is not going to make students safe,” O’Rourke said. The politician also attacked Cruz’s family values solution for being an impractical solution that has not worked for Republicans in the past. “Thoughts and prayers, Senator Cruz, are just not going to cut it anymore,” O’Rourke said.
Cruz responded to the democratic representative by saying, “I’m sorry that you don’t like thoughts and prayers. I will pray for anyone in harm’s way.”
Progressive Democrat O’Rourke has been very vocal about his support for the legalization of medical marijuana. “I want to end the war on drugs, I specifically want to end the prohibition on marijuana,” said O’Rourke. He believes that the legalization of marijuana can help solve violence along the Mexican border and that it can also help those who are addicted to stronger drugs. “We don’t want another veteran in this state, prescribed an opioid because a doctor would rather prescribe medicinal marijuana but is prohibited by law from doing that,” O’Rourke said
Although Cruz believes that legalizing marijuana should be the state’s decision, he personally would not vote in favor of its legalization. The Republican incumbent accused O’Rourke of wanting to legalize not just marijuana but other dangerous drugs as well. The issue is personal to Cruz whose older sister died of a drug overdose.