Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum took aim Monday at a rival who has been getting a lot of buzz in Iowa lately, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Santorum said Cruz, a Texas Republican, falls short on immigration.

Santorum, who is lagging in the polls, was in Davenport on Sunday night for a house party. Monday morning, he spoke to about two dozen people at Scott County Republican Party headquarters.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who has made curbs on immigration a key part of his campaign, renewed complaints that Cruz has proposed a significant increase in the number of H-1B visas, which are aimed at luring people with advanced degrees to the U.S.

The comment came in response to a questioner who insisted that Santorum should take on Democrats more forcefully on the issue.

"It's not just the Democrats. It's Democrats and Republicans," Santorum said. "It's Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and, yes, it's Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz wants to take the H-1B program and increase it by 500 percent. He wants to go from 65,000 to 330,000. Again, 'Mr. Conservative.' Everybody (says) how conservative he is. He wants to increase it by five times."

Santorum says the program is used to bring in cheap labor and costs U.S. citizens job opportunities. In addition to opposing illegal immigration, Santorum has separated himself from much of the GOP field by also saying legal immigration ought to be limited.

Santorum also said that an amendment Cruz offered to a bipartisan immigration reform bill two years ago would have allowed people in the country illegally to stay after the border was secured.

The Cruz campaign did not immediately reply to a request for a response. But Cruz has previously said high-skilled immigrants generate jobs and productivity and there is a shortage of high-skilled workers in the U.S.

Immigration is a big issue among Iowa Republicans, and in part, it's fueled the rise of Donald Trump, who has been the Republican front-runner.

Santorum, who is in the low single digits even in Iowa, which he won in 2012, has argued that his focus on immigration will help the party with blue-collar voters in a general election campaign.

Cruz has been on the rise lately. He was praised for his performance in the CNBC debate last week, and he has broken into the top tier of candidates in Iowa.

A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll last month put him in fourth place, behind Trump, Ben Carson and Rubio.

A poll conducted by Burlington-based KBUR-AM and Monmouth College in Illinois had Cruz in third place in Iowa. Carson and Trump were leading.

Santorum faced a feisty group of activists Monday, with one arguing the Senate's filibuster is a roadblock to change and ought to be jettisoned.

"It's a tool for Democrats," said Roger Mall, who is uncommitted but likes Cruz.

Santorum defended the tactic, which allows a minority in the Senate to block proposals. Santorum said the country would be "a lot worse off" without it.

Both parties have used it in the past to head off legislation.

Afterward, Mall said Santorum's answer makes him less likely to support him. But he also was curious about Santorum's criticism of Cruz on immigration.

"I'll investigate further," Mall said.

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