Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich has rejected a proposal made by his opponent Ted Cruz to immediately deport the undocumented Irish in the US.

Speaking at a campaign event in New York five days before the state’s primary on April 19, the Ohio governor said he would instead offer the undocumented a path to legalization but not to citizenship.

In February, Texas senator Cruz vowed to deport the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently living the US, using a story of “Tommy O’Malley from Co. Cork” as an example of the way in which he’ll use Immigration and Customs Enforcement to track down illegal immigrants in their homes.

The vow showed a remarkable toughening of the first-time Senator’s stance on immigration. Previously Cruz, who has Irish roots on his mother’s side, stated that the rounding up of all the country’s undocumented was impractical and authoritarian.

Read more: Ted Cruz vows to deport undocumented Irish if elected

Speaking in Jericho, NY after recording a town hall interview for MSNBC, Kasich stated that although he would not grant a means to citizenship to those who had broken US immigration law, he disagreed with the methods of deportation proposed by his rival Cruz, that would see an estimated 11 million undocumented, including 50,000 Irish, removed from the country.

“I’m not rounding anybody up. That is not my view,” he said.

“They’re going to pay back-taxes and maybe other fines. We want to give them a path to legalization, not to citizenship.”

The second-term governor, who is trailing far behind his two remaining rivals, Cruz and Donald Trump, disagreed, however, that to offer undocumented immigrants a path to legalization but not the opportunity to gain citizenship would create a tier of second-class citizens.

“Well, the fact is they came here illegally and you don’t want to reward somebody who jumps the line,” he said.

Despite admitting that the process through which an illegal immigrant would become legal still needed to be worked out, he went on to say that there was “absolutely” no doubt that such a proposal could be brought through Congress.

Speaking on the Fox News program “The O’Reilly Factor” earlier this year, Ted Cruz took a page out of the controversial immigration policy of billionaire GOP front-runner Donald Trump by announcing that he would not allow those who had previously lived in the country illegally to re-enter the US by legal means after their deportation.

He was pressed further by O’Reilly, with the Fox commentator asking Cruz to clarify his position using the story of fictional Irish man “Tom O’Malley.”

“So Tommy O’Malley from Co. Cork in Ireland is over here and he overstays his visa and he has got a couple of kids and he has settled into Long Island. And you, President Cruz, are going to send the Feds to his house, take him out and put him on a plane back to Ireland?”

“You better believe it,” Cruz replied.

Cruz continued, “Right now, we actually can’t do that because we don’t have a biometric exit-entry system so we don’t know when, in your example, Tommy goes home,” he explained before pledging that if elected President, he would introduce a system by which authorities would be informed as soon as an immigrant overstayed his visa.

Kasich completely rejected Cruz’s stance on Wednesday evening, however, during an MSNBC interview which will be broadcast on Thursday night.

“We’re not going to go yanking them out of their home and deporting them,” said the governor, the most moderate of the three remaining GOP candidates in terms of immigration reform.

Kasich is currently running ahead of his rival Cruz in polls in New York, although he is still 32 points behind native New Yorker Donald Trump.

Earlier in the year, Cruz courted controversy when he referred to “New York values” during a Republican debate.

In what he hoped would be a direct attack on Trump, Cruz stated: “Listen, there are many wonderful working men and women in the state of New York, but everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal,” claiming that the city is full of those who are “pro-abortion,” “pro-gay marriage” and “focused around money and the media.”

 H/T: Irish Times

Governor John Kasich of Ohio speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.Gage Skidmore / WikiCommons