The thing about Sen. John Cornyn is that he’s just as god-awful as junior senator Ted Cruz—he’s just better at trying to hide it. Like Cruz, he’s opposed bipartisan legislation that would put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship. That opposition has included denying legalization to first responders like Houston paramedic Jesus Contreras, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who helped save lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Cornyn wants to deport people like Contreras—that’s just a fact.
But now that he’s facing a formidable challenger in Democratic nominee MJ Hegar—along with Texas being seriously in play in the 2020 presidential race—Cornyn’s running a Spanish-language ad featuring a jaw-dropping claim that he’s actually supported legalization for young undocumented immigrants. “On the Senate floor, Cornyn has had numerous opportunities to vote yes” on the DREAM Act, immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice (AV) noted. But “[e]very time, he’s voted no.”
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The Spanish-language ad, entitled “Tranquilo,” or “Calm,” starts with a wide shot of the U.S. Capitol as silhouettes of people arguing and screaming at each other fill the screen. It then segues into a shot of a seated Cornyn serenely looking back into the camera. You see, he’s the calm amid Washington’s infighting, and he’s the one who’s actually been busy working to solve problems, thank you very much. “And while Senator Cornyn is in favor of secure borders,” the narrator claims, “he firmly supports the legalization of Dreamers.”
A lie in Spanish is no different from a lie in English, and Cornyn, dear friends, is a mentiroso: “Although Cornyn voted for the DREAM Act in 2003, he subsequently voted to block its passage—once in 2007 and again in 2010—arguing that it would lead to ‘chain migration’ and widespread fraud,” San Antonio Current reports. “Cornyn blasted the latter effort to pass the act as a ‘political football in a political stunt.’”
The senior senator from Texas would know a thing or two about political stunts. When the Senate was debating a historic comprehensive immigration reform package back in 2013, Cornyn filmed an exploitative video at the unmarked graves of migrants who died attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border. Cornyn feigned concern in the video, but his goal was to derail the bill at all costs. In the end, the package passed the Senate by a historic and bipartisan margin—and without Cornyn’s support. In fact, Cornyn’s status as the Lucy-pulling-the-football of the Senate is so infamously known among those who work in the immigration world that his shenanigans have a nickname: the “Cornyn Con.”
AV notes one of his tricks back in 2007: “Cornyn voted against the comprehensive immigration reform bill that included Dream Act provisions even though it was drafted by his partner at the time, Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) and supported by President Bush,” the organization said. “Just after helping to defeat the bill, Cornyn had the audacity to deliver a speech on the Senate floor about the need to pass immigration reform.” Seriously.
Not much has changed over a decade later. House Democrats passed legalization that would put young immigrants, including DACA recipients like Jesus Contreras, onto a path to citizenship over a year ago, but Cornyn has done nothing to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the bill to go to the floor. Cornyn has a particular responsibility to act here: His state is home to the second largest population of DACA recipients in the nation. It’s on him to act. He hasn’t.
"Cornyn’s claim that he strongly supports the legalization of Dreamers is a bald-faced lie," AV founder and executive director Frank Sharry told San Antonio Current. "When you look up the phrase 'two-faced politician,' you’ll find a photo of John Cornyn." Daniel Briones, a Texas resident and DACA recipient, called Cornyn’s ad “completely false” in an AV release received by Daily Kos.
“Sen. Cornyn has had multiple chances of supporting legislation to protect Dreamers but instead he has decided to vote against us,” he said. “Unlike Cornyn, we immigrant youth are committed to continue to fight for a permanent solution that protects us without harming or deporting others. In Texas, we need a senator that is committed to support legislation that would give permanent solutions to immigrants and not use us as bargaining chips for more enforcement.”
Cornyn isn’t remotely concerned about immigrant families, including those who call his state home. But he’s suddenly very concerned about his job—and he’s clearly saying anything to keep it.