Off Limits

I Am Curious, Yellow

Q: Does that affect you much, or do you keep home and politics separate?

A: I try to keep our lives normal, but that's easier said than done. He is a very public figure at this point. People ask what's it like being a congressional wife. I always joke that instead of three toilets to clean, I have six. It's just juggling a lot of balls. I have to admit that he worries me a lot, too. This Mother's Day, he went to Iraq. He felt very compelled to go, and I said, "Can't you just watch it on TV? We have children and grandchildren. Really, Tom, I don't understand this." But he said, "We send our young men over there, so I need to be over there and see what's happening." My greatest Mother's Day present was getting the call that they had cleared Iraqi air space.

Q: It's been said the only person who can keep him under control is you. Do you rule the house with an iron glove?

Want the real story? Find the yellow arrow.
Want the real story? Find the yellow arrow.
Jackie Tancredo
Jackie Tancredo

A: I don't think anyone can keep Tom under control. He listens to me, and I listen to him. We both respect each other. But I don't control him. If that was the case, I don't do a very good job. He would not be in Congress if I were in control, let's put it that way. He didn't even ask me when he decided to run. Well, he did. He called me one night and said, "I want to take you to dinner, wherever your heart desires." I knew that was a bad thing. Black-Eyed Pea, Macaroni Grill, those are fine. But anywhere my heart desires, I know it's a bad thing. Then he told me everyone wants him to run, but not to worry because John Elway is going to run, so he'd just have to say he was running for a couple of days. I don't know John Elway, but I've never liked him since then. He didn't come through for me.

Q: Did other teachers treat you differently when Tom worked for the Department of Education?

A: I've never had anyone say anything directly to me. I'm sure there are people I know who have strong opinions about what Tom does, but everyone understands that he's my husband; it's not me.

Q: Has immigration always been a hot-button issue?

A: When he was in the Statehouse, it was bilingual education. As teachers, both of us believe that the most important thing the government can do is provide the best possibilities for children, and we saw bilingual education as being harmful to them because they were not learning English and getting the fruits of the American society. That was the precursor to immigration. It wasn't a new issue to him; he's always been on the forefront of issues. He started the immigration caucus when he first got to Congress. At that point, there were thirty or forty people. Then 9/11 happened, and it all changed. At that point, everyone started saying we have to re-evaluate immigration.

Q: As a teacher, what would you say to the two illegal immigrants living behind me? They're two young girls about to enter junior high, brought here when they were just babies. They're doing great in school and are really bright. But at a certain point, what do teachers do to encourage them when the reality is they won't be able to go to college or live the American Dream?

A: All children are victims of their parents' choices. These children were given a better life for a certain amount of time. It's incredibly unfortunate that their parents didn't do things the right way. I taught Russian and have lists and lists of Russian people who are here who spent hours, days, months, years trying to get here. They did it the right way. These parents, for whatever reason, did it the wrong way. But certainly if I were a parent in Mexico with two starving children, I would run across the border. That's why the policy of the government is so wrong. We let them in here and then slam the door. Those children are in a quagmire of what do we do and how do we do it. We have to change those things so that in the future the people come with our approval and with the possibility of becoming the citizens we want them to become. It's a terrible problem our country has exacerbated by not allowing the polices to be enforced.

Q: Will Tom run for president, and would you support that?

A: No. Well, I shouldn't say no, but what he wants is for immigration to be talked about by the real presidential candidates. It's a people issue. Neither of us want to see people mistreated and maltreated. The people coming across are brutalized and then exploited. They're paid less than minimum wage and treated badly. They shouldn't have to be treated badly. People say, "Well, then what are going to do? We need them." Well, you might have to pay more for a hamburger. But why should we exploit people so we can have cheap labor at your house or restaurant or Wal-Mart?

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