A Bronx cheer for Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz leaves a Republican Senate caucus Sen. Ted Cruz leaves a Republican Senate caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Sept. 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Tea party firebrand Ted Cruz threw a nasty sucker punch at the Bronx this past weekend and wound up mangling the truth and enraging local politicians.

The Republican senator from Texas told a conservative audience in Dallas he was tired of being lectured about border security by the likes of Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democrat from New York.

"Now I understand that Manhattan is very concerned with their security with the Bronx," Cruz said. "But it's a little bit different on 2,000 miles of the Rio Grande."

The audience -- assembled for a conference called "Defending the American Dream" -- tittered.

But why are "defenders" of the American dream making fun of the Bronx? If any place exemplifies that dream, it's the city's five boroughs -- and the Bronx in particular.

At the moment the Bronx is home to more than 461,000 foreign-born immigrants -- 15 percent of its population.

About a third of them are from the Dominican Republic, 11 percent are from Jamaica and 9 percent are from Mexico. The rest hail from an astonishing list of countries that runs the gamut from Ecuador to Ireland.

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They came here chasing their dreams, and this has worked out well for all of us.

They have helped the borough regain about 75 percent of the population it lost through the grim times of the 1960s and 1970s. They have started businesses and they have provided a workforce for the 54,000 jobs the Bronx has added between 1983 and 2012.

And the borough's crime-ridden Fort Apache image?

Cruz should be told that it's astonishingly outdated. The Bronx homicide rate since 1993 has plummeted 83 percent. Overall crime in the borough during that time has dropped 72 percent. The 2012 Bronx homicide rate was eight killings per 100,000 residents, which beat Houston at 10 killings per 100,000 and Dallas at 12.

Unfortunately, the American dream Cruz was talking about has little to do with prosperity through inclusion. His message is about sealed borders and holding change at bay. As strategies go, it's a loser.

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