Tancredo Scores Immigration Crisis
What guides Tancredo's attitude toward immigration, he says, is a principle as old as the republic itself -- that "we are a nation bonded by a common language, culture, manners and customs." Principled, conservative leadership ... that works for us ALL!
July 30, 2003
By Paula R. Kaufman
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Thomas Tancredo is a third-term Republican congressman from Colorado. As chairman of the 65-member Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus he deals regularly with such facts as these:
More than 33.1 million immigrants live in the United States, a number unprecedented in U.S. history.
Poverty rates for immigrants and their U.S.-born children are two-thirds higher than for native-born Americans and their children -- and account for approximately 25 percent of those now living in poverty in this country.
Twenty-four of the southernmost U.S. states have accrued almost $1 billion in unpaid medical care -- all attributed to illegal immigration.
Tancredo worries about the innumerable U.S. jobs he says have been wiped out by immigration.
He outspokenly faults the Bush administration for its open-border policy, which Tancredo believes not only has put Americans out of work but also suppressed their wages.
"I speak to people who lose their jobs to immigration: electricians, carpenters, high-tech workers. They call my office all the time. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs to immigrants, both legal and illegal," Tancredo tells Insight.
He likewise is concerned about the number of people -- between 6 million and 10 million -- in the United States with dual citizenship. What does this mean for America's sovereignty and the future of the country?
Tancredo is not alone in his concern: Polls show that 75 percent of Americans support immigration reform.
Tancredo also blames the immigration crisis on the "liberal agenda," which he sees as encouraging immigrants to retain their language and their political allegiance to a foreign government -- while seeing themselves as separate and distinct from other Americans.
It's a situation, he says, created by the liberal "cult of multiculturalism."
Tancredo warns about what he sees as the continuing encroachment of Mexico in the affairs of the United States.
He regards the controversial matricula consular, an identification card issued by Mexico, as an effort to regularize illegal immigration into the United States.
He points out that the suspected murderer of Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff David March -- arrested and deported not once but three times -- lives openly in Mexico and has not been arrested by Mexican officials.
The Colorado congressman seeks changes in the U.S. extradition treaty with Mexico, and is considering calling for congressional-oversight hearings on the influence of Mexican cartels on U.S. politics.
What guides Tancredo's attitude toward immigration, he says, is a principle as old as the republic itself -- that "we are a nation bonded by a common language, culture, manners and customs."
Insight: The U.S. economy is in a slump and Americans by the millions are out of work, yet the wholesale replacement of our workers by immigrants is underway. What gives?
Rep. Thomas Tancredo: We have a cheap-labor policy. This government has determined that part of its economic policy is to undermine the value of American jobs. We have record-high unemployment rates. We have a stagnating economy. Yet this administration refuses to take any action to reduce the number of immigrants who are coming into the country [illegally], removing Americans from their jobs and replacing them with cheap labor.
Q: What is the H-1B visa program?
A: This program was designed to bring into our country people who had sets of esoteric skills, primarily in the high-tech areas such as computer analysts, computer programmers.
At the program's inception, the government allocated about 65,000 H-1B visas per year. It has climbed to 195,000 per year. What we found is that the program is severely abused. Through loopholes and fraud the number of visas has risen well above the quota cap to over 350,000 in the years 2001 and 2002.
The law dictates that H-1B visa holders must return home upon losing or leaving their jobs. The INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] doesn't have the foggiest idea of the number of people who are breaking the law and, even worse, they don't even pretend to care about violations. Not a single soul has been prosecuted.
The L-1 visa program is replacing the H-1B and is yet another method for bringing more foreign workers into the U.S. Unlike the H-1B, the L-1 is not capped. Last year, about 200,000 to 300,000 L-1s entered the U.S. In fact, corporations will use H-1B and L-1 visa categories to train foreign workers with the intention of moving these jobs overseas.
Q: So, in the end, U.S. citizens are fired?
A: Yes. Foreign workers are trained here; in fact, they are trained by Americans whose jobs are then exported overseas.
Q: Doesn't this weaken the position of American workers?
A: Oh, it most certainly does! Years ago, foreign workers came across the border to perform agricultural labor. That continues. Today, however, illegal aliens in very large numbers are taking jobs in construction, meatpacking and technology -- jobs that Americans not only can do but want to do.
It is becoming a pervasive problem for the American economy. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs to illegal aliens.
Q: Will immigration fill the coffers of the Social Security trust fund, as some argue?
A: It is a fiction that immigration is necessary to support old-age workers. We all know that the demographic profile is getting older. But it is inaccurate to say that immigrants will provide the worker base to sustain a large population of retirees.
Right now we bring in about one-and-a-half million legal immigrants each year through the regular immigration process (excluding visa programs) and another 1 million illegals. The vast majority of immigrants are low-skill, low-wage earners, and are a drain on this nation due to their level of poverty.
Rather than functioning as a support base for the elderly, these immigrants make very little money, depress the wage rate and should not be looked upon as a salvation for the Social Security trust fund.
At this pace, immigration will devastate the Social Security system. We are reducing the standard of living for millions of Americans. We are creating linguistic ghettos where millions of immigrants speak no English, while replicating living standards such as those found in Haiti, Calcutta and poor nations.
Immigration produces what in economic jargon is known as "junk growth." Virginia Abernathy of Vanderbilt University has written a great deal on this topic and points out how massive immigration of low-scale/low-wage people creates profits for the few and costs for the many.
Q: How can Congress ignore American workers hit hard by immigration?
A: I try my best to get voters to demand that their congressmen do more to support immigration reform. Most of my colleagues, certainly those on the Republican side, tell me privately, "You are right about this issue, but I simply cannot support it."
There is no greater gap between what the people of this country want -- and what the Congress is going to give them -- than there is on the issue of immigration. The dynamics are as follows: The Democrats support a massive flow of immigrants as a potential source of new voters; the Republicans view immigration as a way to make inroads into the Hispanic community, which is growing fast due to open borders. Another faction of the Republican Party looks at immigrants as a good source of cheap labor.
However, there is evidence to suggest that Hispanics, on average, do not vote Republican. Yet you have the president of the United States trying to use immigration as a wedge issue in the next election.
Now it is [senior adviser] Karl Rove's job to get President [George W.] Bush re-elected. However, Rove doesn't consider how crucial issues such as immigration influence the nation. He views the Hispanic bloc as a source of voters, so the president will do nothing to rile the pro-immigration establishment.
Q: Is it true that special interests have contributed $22 million during the last 10 years to lobby Congress on immigration?
A: That's exactly right. High-tech industries, major corporations, restaurant and home-builder associations come in here all the time. These groups support Republicans, and those Republicans are absolutely opposed to any sort of immigration reduction or border controls.
Q: What about the recent attempts that have been made to grant amnesty to the 3 million illegal Mexicans in the United States?
A: About two years ago the administration was pushing to legalize 3 million Mexican immigrants. It was called Extension 245i. Members of Congress were able to block it by the skin of their teeth. I was able to rally enough Republicans to come within one vote of stopping it in the House.
It went to the Senate where Sen. [Robert] Byrd [D-W.Va.] pocketed it. But the effect was debilitating, stirring up a rancorous debate in the Republican Conference.
Q: Isn't Mexico responsible for providing jobs for its own people? Why are Americans burdened with providing jobs for Mexicans who don't have them?
A: That's a good question! It should not be a burden the American people have to bear. I'll never forget a conversation I had two years ago in Mexico with Juan Hernandez, who headed up the newly created Ministry of Mexicans Living in the United States.
Hernandez is a very interesting fellow, a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, and a good friend of presidents Bush and [Vicente] Fox [of Mexico]. I asked about the purpose of the government agency he heads, since I had never heard of such a thing.
He said its purpose is to increase the flow of Mexican nationals to the United States. I asked, "Why?"
"It serves Mexico's needs," he said, and ticked off a list of such things as remittances to Mexico of $10 billion a year, which is 30 percent of the Mexican GDP [gross domestic product]. It provides employment for an exploding population, it alleviates social instability due to rising unemployment and it provides training for Mexicans, ultimately repatriating those skills back to Mexico.
I responded to his final aim -- repatriation of trained and skilled Mexicans back into Mexico -- and asked, "Then your government would oppose amnesty for the illegal Mexicans in the United States?"
He cried, "Oh no! We support amnesty totally."
I replied, "I don't understand." I assured him that if amnesty were in effect in the United States, then Mexicans would never return. He then said something riveting: "By populating the United States with millions of Hispanics who are tied economically, politically and linguistically to Mexico, we are able to exert enormous influence and pressure on U.S. policy and its dealings with Mexico."
Q: That sounds very much like a Fifth Column.
A: Yes! Just by having the numbers here! President Vicente Fox believes the U.S. border is a figment of the imagination. In fact, Fox and/or members of his government stated at one point that the borders of Mexico extend much farther north than currently drawn on the map.
Q: Isn't that encroaching on U.S. sovereignty?
A: Oh, you're kidding! Well, what about the matricula card? The president of Mexico can't get amnesty for Mexicans in the United States, so he is pushing the matricula card.
It is amnesty! Illegal aliens in the United States are issued identification cards by a foreign government -- Mexico -- to obtain all the services afforded U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens.
Mexico instructs Mexican consular officers stationed here in the United States to lobby U.S. states and localities to accept these cards and, in effect, break the laws of the United States. It is an egregious violation of protocol.
Mexican officials have stated, quite candidly, that their end goal is to regularize illegal immigration. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If the United States did what the Mexican government is doing in this country, there would be hell to pay.
Even worse, the Mexican government is breaking our laws -- in full complicity with U.S. authorities. I believe that the White House supports this, recognizing it as a way to get amnesty which they couldn't get through Congress.
I surreptitiously received a State Department memo from the U.S. Embassy in Managua [Nicaragua] that stated they required assistance in aiding Nicaragua in advancing a matricula-card program. This is an outrage!
It is also incredible that our southern neighbor, Mexico, who is supposed to be our friend, allows Guatemalans entry into Mexico for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of drugs into the United States. For the most part, various and sundry generals on the Mexican border are dirty. They are being paid off by the drug cartels. In fact, they provide security for the drug cartels.
The Mexican military on more than several occasions has crossed the U.S. border and exchanged gunfire with U.S. security forces. Americans should ask themselves: How can these dangerous dealings take place and why are we so accommodating to Mexico? What's the purpose?
[The answer is] because it works. Mr. Hernandez's policy has come to pass.
Q: What does the word "Aztlan" mean? It's frequently heard when questions of Mexican immigration into the U.S. Southwest are raised.
A: It's a rallying cry. Aztlan is a name given to the area of the United States ceded by Mexico at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
Certain Mexican nationalists strongly believe a separate country called Aztlan will be carved out of the United States and "reconquered." Mexicans refer to it as "la reconquista."
Q: The U.S.-Mexican border remains a danger point as far as international terrorism is concerned, does it not?
A: That's undeniably true. There are terror cells in Mexico. We have identified terrorists who have come into the United States through Mexico.
In Arizona, there's a road just north of the city of Douglas called the "Arab road." They charge $30,000 to smuggle Arabs or Middle Easterners into the United States and $1,150 to $1,500 for a Mexican peasant.
Q: What is the government doing to stop this problem?
A: Little that I am aware of. We certainly are not doing everything possible to protect us. As long as the president and the Democrats stay silent on this issue, who's going to bring it up?
Personal Bio of Tom Tancredo:
Rep. Thomas Tancredo: An outspoken crusader for U.S. immigration reform.
Currently: Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado's 6th District since 1998.
Born: December 20, 1945; North Denver, Colorado.
Family: Wife, Jackie; two sons, Ray and Randy; three grandchildren.
Education: B.A . in political science, University of Northern Colorado, 1968.
Career: Teacher of civics, Drake Junior High; elected Colorado state representative in 1976 and 1980; appointed by President Ronald Reagan and reappointed by President George H.W. Bush as U.S. Secretary of Education regional representative; president, Independence Institute, a Golden, Colorado-based conservative think tank and policy center, 1993-1998.
Committees: House Budget; International Relations; Resources. Chairman, Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.
Paula R. Kaufman is a free-lance writer for Insight magazine.
By Steve Brown
To submit a Letter to the Editor: http://www.frontpagemag.com/contact/contact.asp
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO, stands alone as the most vocal proponent of sweeping immigration reform in Congress.
He spent much of 2003 on the front lines of the House of Representatives trying to give law enforcement authorities greater authority to prosecute illegals.
When California Governor Democrat Gray Davis signed a bill granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens, Tancredo immediately introduced a bill cutting off all federal highway funding to states issuing licenses to illegals. (It failed, despite overwhelming groundswell of public support for it exhibited in numerous polls and state voter referendums.)
As the year winds down, Tancredo spoke with Frontpagemag.com's Steve Brown about the immigration crises that threaten national security and how he proposes to solve them, now and in the coming year.
While his occasional sarcasm masks the frustration over the amount of opposition to protecting our own borders, by visiting personally with those voluntarily taking on the thankless task of border enforcement and pushing for reform in Congress, Tancredo proves his deep commitment to getting the job done that voters in Colorado and nationwide have been emphatically pleading for over the past decade, which elected officials have continually refused to do.
Frontpagemag: What initially prompted you take up immigration as an issue in your political career?
Tancredo: Well, it could go all the way back to my days as a state representative in Colorado. In 1976, I was elected and started working on the issue. (Previously I was a teacher in a public school in Jefferson County.) Colorado had just passed the first bilingual education act in the nation and I thought it was a bizarre situation to take children out of my class, where they were learning English, and put them into classes where they were being taught only in Spanish. They weren't being taught very well, and so we ended up with people who were illiterate in two languages. That caused me to wonder why anybody would do such a thing; what was the purpose of such a bill, to do something that impeded a child's ability to learn. It then became apparent to me that it was much more of a political idea than an educational idea, and that's what really got me interested in the whole issue.
Earlier in 1975, as a teacher I remember attending a rally on bilingual education. It was being conducted on the steps of the capital in Denver by a guy in a red bandanna and long black hair, ripped jeans and a megaphone. They were handing out leaflets, one of which read, "Return to Aztlan." It gave a series of steps to be taken to re-establish Aztlan, and the first one said, "Be sure the mother tongue is retained in the school system." That's when it really hit me that this was about politics, not education. So I ran for the state legislature. I won and began trying to attack that whole concept of bilingual education. By the way, the same guy who was on the steps of the capital also ran and won; he cut his hair, got a suit and went on to become the minority leader in the Colorado House of Representatives. His name is Frederico Pena. He later became mayor of Denver and eventually state Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy.
Later on, I served as the region director of the U.S. Department of Education. It was amazing, the Office of Civil Rights within DOE was doing everything it could to harass school districts, forcing them into this bizarre plan to take children out of the path that would lead to some sort of success in American and [instead] put them on a path that would lead them to poverty.
When Clinton was elected president I took over the reins of the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank in Colorado. They commissioned a paper on the impact of immigration in Colorado and it came back saying some astounding things. It said that the impacts were primarily negative and the economic impact was enormous. It also indicated that we were not receiving enough tax revenues to pay for the infrastructure costs that we were having to foot.
Then I came to the U.S. Congress and told then-Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TN) that I wanted to work on immigration. He said, "Here, take it," and I was stupid enough to say, "Great, thanks." That's when I formed the Congressional Immigration Caucus. I began talking about it night after night on the floor -- and of course nobody paid a bit of attention. Then 9/11 happened and the issue got elevated. Since then it's all been a barrel of laughs.
FPM: Looking back on this year, can you trace the roadblocks to immigration reform that have been put up and what kinds of things are being done to address them?
Tancredo: We have to start off with the understanding that a strategy has been developed by the Mexican government that is now being followed by several other South American governments to get around the obstacle of congressional inaction on amnesty.
They basically said, "Well, if we can't get it through Congress we're going to start using our Matricula Consular ID cards," which they hand out to Mexican nationals. They said we're going to begin using our consular offices throughout the United States as lobbying agents to get cities and states to accept these cards. Once you accomplish that goal, once you get a state or city to accept the Matricula Consular, you end up in the same place: de facto amnesty.
Most people haven't got the slightest idea what a Matricula Consular is. They don't know and don't care, so it's hard to set up a defense against it.
When we saw California pass legislation offering driver's licenses to illegal aliens, it really did get a lot people's attention.
You have to remember that eight or nine states had already done so and it kind of flew under the radar screen. We tried to raise Hell about it, but nobody cared. So people started noticing it in California, but we still have this Matricula Consular problem and it's not going to go away until the White House does something about it -- and I don't know that they will.
FPM: I know that you went down earlier this year to the southern border area and visited with U.S. Border Patrol officers. Can you tell us a little bit about what you learned from that visit?
Tancredo: I always try to get other Congressmen to go with me but they're always reluctant to go down there for fear they might see something they cannot ignore. It's quite an experience because what you will find is that you'll be talking to Border Patrol people on the front lines who are so frustrated they're pulling their hair out. They are detaining people by the thousands; well over a million-and-a-half people have been detained so far this year for entering the country illegally. And remember, conservative estimates are that for every one we get, five get through. So with people talking about number like maybe eight million illegal aliens in the country, a conservative estimate would put that number at between 13 and 20 million people living here illegally.
Those numbers are significant because they affect the entire culture along the border. One of the problems in Mexico and in many South and Central American countries is that there is an enormous amount of corruption, and it goes from the cop on the beat to the highest levels of government. That will always stymie their attempts to improve their economy.
But it also is something that's happening on our own border.
I talked to a man who headed up a gang unit out of Los Angeles. He told me that there were five cities -- Compton, California, near Los Angeles, was one -- that were completely taken over by the Mexican Mafia. He said they had taken over the city council, the mayor's office, the police chief -- it has become simply another place for illegal drug activity in an institutionalized fashion. He said they couldn't bust anybody in town. They can't talk to the police in these towns. And the same thing is happening in places like Douglas, Arizona, which I think was rated as the most corrupt town in the country by one magazine recently.
So what we are seeing is a phenomenon that is really disturbing and it's all about numbers. People talk about illegal immigration being a problem. It's not just illegal immigration: it is immigration -- both legal and illegal -- on a massive scale.
We have a philosophy in this country that I call the cult of multiculturalism, that permeates everything.
It tells people when they come here that they should remain separate, that they should never buy into Western ideas or American values, they should retain their own language, customs and even their political affiliation with their country of origin.
When we do that to ourselves we are creating enormous problems. It doesn't matter if they're here illegally or not, once you have that kind of internal dynamic.
Our Border Patrol is charged with trying to stop that flood of illegal immigrants and they've been given a sieve in order to do so.
How would you like to risk your life to detain someone at the border?
When you take them in, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement [BICE] asks them where they were going. You say, Los Angeles, then BICE says here's a letter that you need to take to the federal courthouse in Los Angeles on such and such a date for your deportment hearing -- and here's a bus ticket to Los Angeles. We give them a bus ticket! We pay for a bus ticket for an illegal alien that has just come into the country. You know they're not going to show up in court; they never do. But why the Hell would we be buying a bus ticket to a destination in the United States for an illegal alien? There's a lot of frustration on the part of the Border Patrol.
FPM: Can you explain to our readers, what are "incursions," and what significance to they have?
Tancredo: "Incursions" are incidents where members of the Mexican military have crossed the border into the United States without our permission or knowledge.
There have been over 200 in the last five years.
When they get to be identified as incursions its after they've gone through a whole bureaucratic process that makes sure it wasn't just some guy who wandered across the border by accident -- that it was, in fact, members of the Mexican military [that] purposefully entered the U.S. without our permission.
Some of the incursions have resulted in shots being exchanged. In one incident not too long ago, a border patrol agent came along and saw a Mexican military vehicle with a number of military personnel around it. He called it in and they told him to get out of there as soon as possible, you're outgunned. He turned his vehicle around and was shot at as he left the scene. The reason we've had these incursions is because the Mexican military is actually supporting drug running. They provide protection for some of the larger shipments of drugs into the U.S. Sometimes they protect the shipments themselves; other times they just cross the border to draw Border Patrol to them -- and away from the shipments.
FPM: Is it just drugs, or is there any smuggling of human beings involved?
Tancredo: Lately it's become more lucrative for the drug cartels to move people across the border, because Mexicans will pay up to $1,500 for the ticket -- and Middle Easterners will pay up to $50,000. So we're getting an increasing number of what border patrol calls "OTM," or "Other Than Mexicans" crossing the border. The revenues are so huge now that the cartels have become involved. However, I don't have any information that the Mexican military is actively involved with this. I wouldn't doubt it if they were, but I just don't have any hard data verifying that.
FPM: Tell us about the legislation you introduced recently, the Be Real Act.
Tancredo: My purpose in introducing the bill is to emphasize that what we have to do to enforce our own immigration laws is to focus on the enforcement side of things: defend your border, apply pressure to step up internal enforcement of immigration law. Then you can develop some sort of guest worker plan that allows people to are truly needed to fill the jobs that "no one else can fill" to come into the country -- for a short period of time. While they're here, they cannot get amnesty, they can't bring family, and they have to return home in order for them to be legally employed in the United States. You can only do that only if you control your own borders.
There are a lot of bills that have been introduced by other members that are really amnesty plans disguised as guest worker plans; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has introduced such a bill, as have Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Christopher Cannon (R-UT) in the House. I just want to be able to give my colleagues an opportunity if they want to enact some kind of guest worker act, one that is a true border security and guest worker act because believe me, our bill requires a very aggressively defended border. It authorizes 20,000 more Border Patrol. It authorizes the use of the military on the border. We quadruple the number of personnel assigned for the internal enforcement of our immigration laws. We require this president to certify that only a few people will be coming across the border illegally, and then and only then will there be a guest worker plan. We think that might give us a chance to protect our borders from terrorists and other needless abuse.