Ted Cruz: I’m 'grateful' for Donald Trump
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Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science MORE (R-Texas) said Wednesday he was "grateful" to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE for elevating immigration policy as a central issue in the the Republican presidential race.

“I for one am grateful that Donald Trump is highlighting these issues," Cruz told reporters. "They are issues I’ve been fighting for a lot of years — to enforce the law, to stop illegal immigration.”

Cruz and Trump are scheduled to meet later Wednesday in Manhattan.

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Trump have been heavily criticized — including by Republican leaders — for remarks about undocumented workers. He said last month that some illegal immigrants are "bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington, Cruz told reporters that Trump is elevating "critical issues."

He said Republican politicians who "are running out of their way to smack Donald Trump have for years or even decades been vocal advocates of amnesty."

Trump has since surged in early Republican presidential polling, with several polls showing him at the front of the pack.

Cruz said that many Republican presidential candidates are attacking Trump because "they don’t like a politician that speaks directly about the challenges of illegal immigration."

“They don’t like a politician who speaks directly about sanctuary cities, about the law enforcement and safety and security issues that are raised.”