RENO, Nevada — Ted Cruz asserted Monday night that he would "of course" support federal law enforcement agents actively looking for undocumented immigrants to deport.
"Of course you would," Cruz told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. "That's what [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws that apprehends and deports them."
O'Reilly pushed Cruz to definitively answer whether he would "go look for them," referring to undocumented immigrants in the country.
He then laid out a specific scenario for Cruz: a hypothetical father who "overstays his visa — and he's got a couple of kids." O'Reilly asked Cruz whether he, as president, would "send the feds to his house, take him out and put him back on a plane."
Cruz responded: "You better believe it."
The position matches the tone of Donald Trump, who suggested to NBC News in November that there would be a "deportation force" under his presidency.
But Cruz's response runs counter to his own comments to CNN in January, when he dismissed a "deportation force" and said: "I don't intend to send jackboots to knock on your door and every door in America. That's not how we enforce the law for any crime."
A campaign spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio, Joe Pounder, tweeted late Monday night: "Tonight, @tedcruz endorsed an idea he expressly rejected just five weeks ago. What changed? SC."
In previous months, Cruz had gone only so far as to suggest that any undocumented immigrant apprehended should be detained. He had yet to suggest law enforcement should actively look for undocumented immigrants.
While campaigning at an event in Winterset, Iowa, in early January, NBC News asked Cruz whether there would be any exception under his administration in which an undocumented immigrant would not be detained — a mother or a 20-year-old college student.
"I believe we should enforce the law," Cruz said at the time. "The law requires that anybody here illegally who is apprehended should be deported. That's what we need to do."