(UPI) -- Sen. Ted Cruz led a raucous speech at the Values Voters Summit in Washington Friday, interrupted on several occasions by immigration protesters and basking in the cheers of supporters.
The Texas conservative was addressing the ongoing government shutdown when a heckler began to shout at him.
"Sen. Cruz, why don't you support a pathway to citizenship for immigrant families?" the protester yelled, before being escorted out.
"And I only wish the Obama administration respected First Amendment rights that much," Cruz said, in response.
Another protester was met by someone yelling "Shut up! Shut up!" as Cruz blamed the hecklers on President Barack Obama.
"It seems President Obama's paid political operatives are out in force today," he said. "And you know why? Because the men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of them."
"I'm curious, is anybody left at the Organizing for America headquarters?" he added. "I’m actually glad that the president’s whole political staff is here instead of actually doing mischief in the country."
Twice more he was interrupted, and the crowd broke out into fervent chants of "USA! USA!" as the protesters were escorted from the room.
"He is one of the biggest opponents of this," said Salvador Cervantes, one of the protesters, of Cruz's opposition to immigration reform. "He was very, very against it in the Senate, and he is against us despite that he is an immigrant."
"We got the 26 Republicans who are supporting this and we do not understand why these people like Sen. Cruz are not supporting immigration reform," Cervantes said, adding that protesters came from "a bunch of organizations" from Florida and Maryland.