GA: But Tom, listen to a Mexican. Listen to a Mexican whose parents, again, only spoke Spanish at home. They could speak to you in English, but they prefer to live their lives in Spanish. These are Mexicans who try to instill in this son, Gustavo, and my fellow siblings, yes, you are a Mexican, yes, be proud of your Mexican roots, but it's a failing effort. I'm telling you as somebody who, when I entered kindergarten, all I did was speak Spanish; within two years, I spoke English. I technically am probably much more American than I am Mexican. I am not an exception, I am the rule. Millions of people of my generation, sure, we have sentiment for our culture, Mexican culture, Mexican society, but at the end of the day, we're still here in the United States.

And what exactly do you ask of us? I went through college, graduated from high school, got my master's degree, I pay taxes, I vote. I don't vote Democrat or Republican, so that will make you happy as a third-party candidate. I usually vote Green or Libertarian — I just flip it around. So then, what more do you want?

TT: The question becomes one of not just the opportunities that America provides, because everybody came here for that. My grandparents — 1890s, early 1900s — they came here to access the opportunities that America provided. Just like everybody else comes. But there was this difference, and it was observable. It was observable in any conversation you had with them about their desire, their deep-seated desire to cut the ties, especially any political ties that held them to the country of origin, and become an American — and what did that mean for my grandparents? And my parents, who were first generation-Americans? It meant they couldn't speak Italian, because their parents wouldn't let them. And in a way, I'm sad about that, because I wish that I were bilingual. I had a hard enough time with the only language that I have.

Tom Tancredo (left) and Gustavo Arellano met for a debate — and both survived.
Tom Tancredo (left) and Gustavo Arellano met for a debate — and both survived.

GA: I just know vaffanculo — that's all I know.

TT: I know cabeza de mierda — that's about all I know. So there we are.

GA: We have a love of cursing.

TT: But there was this feeling, Gustavo...wanting to become Americans emotionally, as well as every other way. Wanting to feel themselves as American citizens, not as citizens of any other country....

GA: But you're saying, then, that the old immigrants came to be a part of the country, but while those immigrants were coming, there were those exact same attacks that you hear about Mexicans and Latinos and other people today. So if you take anything away from me today, the point on this issue of acculturation is that we love to lionize the immigrants of the past while reviling the immigrants of the present. But that has been part of America since the very beginning....

PC: This one is for Tom Tancredo: During the election that, as we know, just ended two weeks ago —

TT: What election?

PC: You said you would immediately stop illegal immigration. But we never heard exactly how, except "Just watch me." Can you tell us now how you would have done it?

TT: Sure. And I did say over and over and over again that there were ways in which we could actually deal with this issue in a humane way.... Here is what you can do: You can enforce the law. We have, on the books in the state of Colorado, a couple of laws that are really pretty good — Senate bills 90 and 1023, both of which are designed to reduce the amount of illegal immigrants in the state of Colorado by saying, number one, you cannot have sanctuary cities; the other one talks about the need for people to show proof of citizenship in order to obtain social services benefits. Now, unfortunately, neither of those laws have ever been enforced. Had I been governor, I certainly would have enforced both of those laws. But there is a more important one that we would have put through, and if the legislature wouldn't have gone along, I would have gone to the people of the state because I think they would have passed it. And that is something called "mandatory E-Verify."

The great allure, of course, for people who are coming here illegally is a job, right? We all recognize that. Oftentimes a job at which these people are exploited. Because they are here illegally, and hence an employer can pay them less than what would be the going rate for somebody who is a legal resident. And the threat always of turning you in to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is there, and so many, many people are exploited by employers. The way to deal with that is to enforce something called E-Verify. E-Verify is a process by which employers would have to go to a Social Security website and put in the Social Security number of someone who is applying for a job, and if that Social Security number came back as being defective, they could not hire them until it was corrected.... That one thing has more power to actually reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming into the state of Colorado than anything else. It actually worked pretty well in Arizona.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help