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Ted Cruz: 'I'm a Big Fan of Donald Trump'

The Texas senator is slated to meet with his fellow 2016 competitor Wednesday afternoon.

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Wednesday that he's “a big fan of Donald Trump” ahead of a meeting with the real-estate tycoon and fellow 2016 contender.

“I've sat down and visited with Donald multiple times before he was a candidate," Cruz told NBC News. "I'm happy to sit down and visit with him now after he's a candidate for president. Indeed, I've gotten together with quite a few of the 2106 presidential candidates who are friends of mine, I intend to continue to do so."

Cruz will meet with Trump later Wednesday in New York City.

Trump has been heavily criticized for his statements painting Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals." But the Texas senator said that he is "grateful" that Trump has highlighted the issue of illegal immigration.

"I think Donald Trump is bringing a bold, brash voice to this Presidential race," Cruz said. "One of the reasons you're seeing so many 2016 candidates go out of their way to smack Donald Trump is they don't like a politician that speaks directly about the challenges of illegal immigration."

And Cruz said he's been vocal "for a lot of years" on the same policy positions that Trump has pushed regarding undocumented immigrants.

"I for one, am grateful that Donald Trump is highlighting these issues. They are critical issues. They're issues I've been fighting for a lot of years to enforce the law, to stop illegal immigration, to stop the Obama Administration’s practice of releasing criminal illegal aliens into the population."