"For those of us who believe that people ought to come to this country legally and that we should enforce the law, we're tired of being told it's anti-immigrant," Cruz told a cheering, whistling crowd in Milwaukee, Wis., at the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night.
"It's offensive," Cruz said.
"The Democrats are laughing. Because if Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose."
Opponents of programs that would give people who entered the country illegally the ability to get legal status or even citizenship call such policies "amnesty."
The Texas senator — who is surging in recent polls and is increasingly seen as a serious contender for the GOP nomination — said the media would put a different slant on the immigration debate if white-collar workers rather than poor people were pouring across the border.
"I understand that when mainstream media covers immigration it doesn't often see it as an economic issue," he said.
But the politics of immigration "would be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande," Cruz added.
"Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press."
The Republican crowd cheered and laughed.
"Then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation," Cruz continued.