The driver’s seat in the GOP’s push for a tough response to the soaring border crisis is occupied by a familiar face – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz, the Texas lawmaker who led GOP opposition to President Obama’s health care policy and was a major player in the party’s stance on the government shutdown, is now a driving force in the heated fight in Washington, D.C., over how to address the tens of thousands of Central Americans who have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in the last year alone.

On Saturday, Cruz toured a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facility in McAllen, Texas, that is housing unaccompanied minors. 

Last Thursday, Cruz took direct aim at Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a 2012 initiative that suspends deportation for certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. Cruz, and many of his fellow Republicans in Congress, never supported DACA, seeing it as a reward to lawbreakers.

Now he and many Republicans say DACA and other such initiatives by the Obama administration have created an incentive for Central American parents to send their children on the dangerous trip to the border.

Cruz filed a measure that, among other things, bars the administration from using tax money to expand DACA – something many supporters of it are seeking – and to provide work permits to people who do not have a lawful immigration status. He also plans to outline recommendations for reforming immigration policy.

“We all recognize the terrible humanitarian crisis that is occurring at the border, and all of us should come together to end the policies that have caused it,” said Cruz in a statement about his bill. “Tens of thousands of children are being smuggled into the United States by dangerous drug cartels and transnational gangs; it is heartless to allow that to continue."

“The staggering conditions that children are being subjected to are a direct result of the amnesty that President Obama illegally and unilaterally enacted in 2012,” the statement continued, “which caused the number of unaccompanied minors to skyrocket. The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop President Obama’s amnesty.”

Cruz also has worked on legislation to make it easier to send these minors back home and to authorize the use of the National Guard when there is a crisis at the border.

Those who want more lenient treatment of the minors, including a greater focus by the administration on trying to help them stay here, criticized Cruz’s moves.

They say that raging poverty and violence are looming factors in the reasons people flee Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to come to the United States. Taking aim at DACA, they say, which the recent waves of minors from Central American do not qualify for, is misguided.

“To deal with Central American children at the border, he wants to revoke DACA,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which advocates for immigrants, “which would leave Dreamers vulnerable to deportation two years after President Obama gave these talented and long-established individuals work permits and protection against deportation.”

Sharry told Fox News Latino, “Cruz will get what he wants, which is lots of media attention and lots of love from the extreme right, but it won’t help his party.” He added, “In fact, it will help harden the feeling among Latinos and immigrants that the GOP is an anti-immigrant party, and make it harder for the Republicans to take back the White House in 2016 and beyond.”

Conservatives, in contrast, again see Cruz as a hero for challenging D.C. politics and for taking a tough approach on the border crisis.

“Hooray for Ted Cruz!” said D.A. King, president of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society, which favors strict immigration enforcement, to FNL. “Pro-enforcement Americans should send him a fruit basket for his courage and common sense.”

King, a nationally known activist, said that the Obama administration could stop the border crisis by enforcing the existing laws. King says that the administration must focus efforts on tightening the border and not on relaxing immigration laws.

He argues that the push by conservatives to beef up border security dramatically is bolstered by the misperception many of the Central Americans are reported to have, that if they reach the U.S. they can eventually gain legal status. King said any break for any undocumented immigrants amounts to rewarding law-breakers and invites more illegal immigration.

“What the now panicked Democrats are calling Cruz’s ‘hardline stance’ on immigration is what conservatives simply call ‘enforcement,’” King said. “It looks like Cruz is holding fast on giving Obama more money to enforce immigration law only if he stops refusing to enforce the immigration law… Cruz simply wants the promise of not extending the DACA trick to more ‘victims of borders.’”

Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at elizabeth.llorente@foxnewslatino.com

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