The fourth GOP debate was a multifaceted affair that saw issues of foreign policy, immigration, and economics were discussed. Perhaps the most personal, gripping narratives came from two Republican candidates whose parents had immigrated from Cuba seeking a better life in the United States. When Marco Rubio offered up an opening statement, he touched upon his family's humble roots having been raised by working-class parents. Ted Cruz's immigration story about his father coming to America was a constant topic for the candidate, who even used it for his closing statement. Both Rubio and Cruz's Cuban immigrant stories have become useful tools in a party whose stance on immigration has been heavily critiqued.
Rubio has often told his parents' immigrant story throughout his political career, though it was largely left offstage Tuesday. The Florida senator did mention their story as a marker of pursuing the American dream during his opening remarks.
My father was a bartender. My mother was a maid. They worked for a living. But they were successful people, because, despite the fact that they weren't well educated and had those jobs, they made enough money to buy a home in a safe and stable neighborhood, retire with dignity, leave all four of their children better off than themselves. We call that the American dream, but in fact, it's a universal dream of a better life that people have all over the world.
Rubio's father and mother moved to the United States in 1956, three years before the Castro regime began. Their story is nonetheless incredibly inspiring.
Cruz began his closing statement by championing his father, Pastor Rafael Cruz's journey to America while also rallying his supporters:
Fifty-eight years ago, my father fled Cuba. As he stood on the deck of that ferryboat with the wind and salt air blowing, he looked back at the oppression and torture he was escaping. And yet he looked forward to the promise of America. His story is our story. What ties Americans together is we are all the children of those who risked everything for freedom.
The Texas senator defended the Republican Party's stance on immigration during the debate as well, claiming that it was "offensive" for critics as well as supporters to view current laws as anti-immigrant. Yet again, he mentioned his father coming to America legally. The elder Cruz reportedly suffered greatly at the hands of the Communist Castro regime, fleeing at the age of 18 with just $100 to his name. He would go on to graduate college at the University of Texas.
Cruz's talking points appeared to have been incredibly well-received. In a New Hampshire control group led by Fox News' Ted Luntz, Cruz's name was frequently mentioned as being a strong candidate. And so was Rubio's.
Both candidates clearly see the political gain in discussing their parents' as well as their own successes. Tuesday night's debate certainly won't be the last time that Cruz and Rubio mention their immigrant parents or their own upbringing.
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