Update: The immigration debate continues, two days after the November 16 face-off that pitted Tom Tancrtedo against "Ask a Mexican" columnist Gustavo Arellano. "Gustavo seems to speak out of both sides of his mouth," one commenter suggests.
"Of course Tancredo is a racist although he believes he is not," charges another.
And then there's this:
I have to admit that Tancredo held his own and didn't come off as quite the ignoramus I anticipated. A hypocrite, yes, but not a stupid one, although blithely saying "I don't care about American business owners," using a Bushism like "oxeomoronic," and showing a clear disdain for academia did make me think he's not the brightest bulb on the tree. I thought Arellano held back, was almost too polite. The whole debate was really quite civilized. It was nice to hear people intelligently discussing such a contentious topic. Anyone else think we'll be seeing some sort of Tancredo / Palin ticket in 2012?
Read other responses to the Tancredo-Arellano debate here, and watch video clips of the debate below.
Below is the full video (fast-forward to minute 37 to skip the introductions):
Page down to see our original coverage:
Update, November 17, 6:30 a.m.:
Tom Tancredo, former congressman and presidential candidate, and "Ask a Mexican" columnist Gustavo Arellano agreed on three things at last night's immigration debate at Su Teatro.
For starters, they both like to curse. Early in the face-off, they uttered epithets -- in Italian and Spanish, respectively -- that translate roughly to "shithead."
They also have problems with the current economic system, which encourages the exploitation of illegal imigrants. He'd be willing to pay more for lettuce if it was picked by legal workers earning a fair wage from employers who were obeying the law, Tancredo said. "Let's go smash capitalism!," Arellano cried.
"Fine," Tancredo responded. "You wanna say smash capitalism; I simply say it's obeying the law. And there are all kinds of laws that employers have to obey."
The "smash capitalism" comment may turn into the sound bite of the night, but the big surprise came when Tancredo, asked about the war on drugs and its effect on the border, proclaimed that drugs should be legalized -- winning agreement not just from Arellano, but much of the audience.
Which just goes to show that civilized men can agree to disagree -- and give the audience a hell of an interesting discussion in the process.
Get a feel for the audience's response from our post "Knee-jerk reactions to the debate between Tom Tancredo and "Ask a Mexican" Gustavo Arellano" -- and feel free to add your own to the overflowing comments section below:
Update, November 16, 4:33 p.m.: "We need a better balance between respect for the law and respect for the human," writes one commenter. "We also need healthy debate in this country instead of walls of hate."
And we're anticipating a very healthy debate tonight when Tom Tancredo and "Ask a Mexican" columnist Gustavo Arellano meet for a discussion of immigration.
The ground rules: All questions must be written (and we're going to start with the questions that have been posted below). No signs are allowed inside the theater. If you want to speak your piece, stay out on the sidewalk -- this healthy debate is between Tancredo and Arellano.
It will start at 7:30 p.m. tonight, November 16, at Su Teatro (the former Denver Civic Theatre), 721 Santa Fe Drive. Doors will open at 6:30... and fair warning: Once the auditorium fills (and we're sure it will), the overflow will go into a second auditorium, where a TV will show the debate.
If you signed up for tickets on this site by midnight Sunday, you received an e-mail to pick them up today. If you missed that, you might be able to get them at the theater box office -- but we know there's a waiting list. The show will also be livestreamed above!
Many, many thanks to Tom Tancredo and Gustavo Arellano for agreeing to this event, which was pulled together in just six days:
Original item, November 10: "God has a plan for all of us," Tom Tancredo said last week, after his run for governor ended with 36 percent of the vote, despite predictions from some pundits that he'd win. "I just wish he'd quit teasing me so much." But the next part of this plan is no joke: Next Tuesday, Tancredo will debate the hot-hot immigration issue with Gustavo Arellano, author of the "Ask a Mexican" column.
This meeting's been years in the making. I first tried to schedule it when Tancredo was still in Congress, contemplating a run for the presidency as a way to focus national attention on immigration. At the same time, Arellano's column, which is published in Westword every week, was taking off across the country.
Finally, the timing is right. Arellano -- still a columnist, but also the managing editor of our partner paper, the OC Weekly -- will be in town November 14-16 as the recipient of the Metro State 2010 Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship. And Tancredo? Well, he suddenly has some free time.
"I've never seen a public-policy problem that could ever be solved unless you talk about it," Tancredo says. "and you can't talk about it if you're usually yelling about it."
"I look forward to debating one of the great Know Nothings of our time," Arellano adds, "and just hope that the audience will allow us to make asses of ourselves without any interruptions."
Immigration Debate at Su Teatro 11/16/2010
Patricia Calhoun: We're going to let Gustavo have the first question for Tom.
Gustavo Arellano: Sorry, we're on Mexican territory here, so I get to ask the first question. [Crowd cheers]
Tom Tancredo: It cost a peso. [Laughs]
GA: Exactly. Sure. I want to thank all of you, first of all, for coming out tonight. I really do. I want to say hi to all of the people seeing us on the livestream at home, from Westword, and in my home town of Orange County. I really like that.
Tom is somebody I have slammed, repeatedly, in my column. Tom is somebody, who, well, Tom has never read my column. Which is okay. It is okay. So Tom, I continue to call you, always, a Know Nothing.
TT: Yeah. I've been called worse.
GA: You've been called worse, I'm sure. [Audience laughs.] In my column, I address these issues of Mexican immigration. I do believe you can have rational discussions about the economic impacts of illegal immigration; you can talk about the various factors. But there is one thing in following your work, one thing that I am fundamentally opposed to you about. So I'm going to ask it in the form of a question, because I know you're saying, or you've said a lot, that unlimited migration to this country is causing people to not assimilate, is causing people to not become Americans - and is different from the immigration from your grandparents' or your grandfather's generation of, you know, two generations ago.
So let me ask you this: My dad came to this country illegally, in the trunk of a Chevy. My mom dropped out of school in ninth grade. They've lived their lives in the United States, forty, forty-some years. Ninety-five percent of their lives, they speak in Spanish. My first language was Spanish. I grew up in an all-Mexican neighborhood. I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone from our region of Mexico migrated. So I basically grew up in Mexico. So how is it I'm talking to you in English if we can't assimilate, if the children of illegal immigrants can't assimilate, or if this current generation of immigrants, as you say, does not assimilate as quickly as others?
TT: Gustavo, the fact that you do what you do, that fact that you write the column that you write, the fact that you are so defensive about this issue, is an indication that acculturation and assimilation has not occurred.
TT: [Laughs.] Yeah, that's right.
GA: Because I'm talking to you in English, I'm wearing a suit, and I have Chuck Taylors on. [Crowd laughs.]
TT: I notice, I notice. But hey, hold this up. [Gustavo puts his shoe up for Tom to grab.] Brand-new. [Crowd laughs.]
GA: [Laughs.] They're my magic Chucks.
GA: I use them when I need to slay the dragon. [Laughs.]
TT: Yes. It is the central issue.
GA: Of course.
TT: I think it's excellent that we started off with that, Gustavo, because we can, and do, argue all the time about the economic implications of massive immigration -- both legal and illegal. Especially at times of 10 percent unemployment. But beyond that, even if we had 4 percent unemployment, massive immigration that does not come along with massive assimilation is problematic. And just learning English is not the only way to determine whether assimilation has gone on. Your commitment -- and this is something no one, I think, is actually able to identify in you, because you can say whatever you want to say about how you feel about Mexico, vis a vis the United States. But, I think it was gentleman by the name of Juan Hernandez. Do you know Mr. Hernandez?
GA: Yeah, he used to work for the government of Mexico, right?
TT: He did. He is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico. He taught, and may still teach, at the University of Texas, and was in the Vincente Fox cabinet. He was in charge of a newly created ministry in Mexico called, at the time, right out of the box it was called "The Ministry for Mexicans Living in the United States." It was later changed to be a little more all-inclusive, I suppose. But he was a fascinating fellow with whom I had a number of debates, and, and he was--why I found him to be so fascinating is because he was so candid. And he talked about what his purpose, his role as the head of that ministry.
He said it was to first encourage immigration into the United States from Mexico. And it didn't matter if it was legal or illegal. The government would help provide the transportation, do whatever they could to move as many Mexican citizens into the United States as possible. When I asked why that was what he was doing, he would say, well, it's a win-win situation. We have a huge unemployment problem for people between the ages of 18 and 25, we can essentially ship them to the United States, you get cheap labor, they send back money. And when we got to the real crux of the issue about assimilation, he said, half of his time was spent in the United States. In order to assure that the population, the Mexican citizens that were coming, did not "go native" on him.
GA: Um, hum.
TT: You know? And he went on to say -- I think it was an ABC interview not too long there after -- he said it is the hope of the Mexican government that Mexicans in the United States will not, in fact, assimilate, at least not past the seventh generation. That they will hold their allegiance to Mexico. This was their attitude, the Mexican government's attitude, and think to a certain extent, maybe even yours.
GA: And you really think the Mexican government is capable of succeeding in something like that?
TT: Well, of course, they have a number of things that they can do. [Crowd laughs.] Uh, they work hard at it. You have people who are working along with them. It doesn't take just the Mexican government. In the United States, we have enormous numbers of people who are absolutely committed to this idea of a, sort of, I call it a "cult of multiculturalism."
GA: Um, hum.
TT: The idea that there is nothing of value in the United States. That people coming here from any country, not just Mexico, should retain their allegiance--not just cultural ties--but allegiance, to another country because, who would want to be part of America. So these, most of these are people teaching in college campuses all over the place...
GA: [Laughs.] Of course.
GA: Of course.
TT: And so the Mexican government doesn't need to do it themselves, they have all of these allies.
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 [points to himself] 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, though, do you ask of us? I went through college, graduated from high school, got my masters' degree, I pay taxes, I vote. I don't vote Democrat or Republican, so that will make you happy as a third-party candidate. [Audience claps.] I usually vote Green or Libertarian, I just flip it around. I know, whatever. So then, what more do you want? I've had friends that have served in the military. The first casualty of the Iraq War in Orange County was Jose Angel Garibay, who was an illegal immigrant who came to this country and only got his citizenship after he died in the Iraq War. So what exactly are you asking of us in terms of: at what point to Mexicans become Americans for you?
TT: Here is exactly what I would like to see. Look it, coming to the United States--you're an anchor baby, right? Your parents came here illegally and...
GA: Of course I'm an anchor baby, and I'm proud of it.
TT: Yeah, and so, well, you, good for you! But the fact is, your parents came here illegally, they had a baby here, you became a citizen as a result of that.
GA: Actually, the Constitution allows anybody to be
TT: Oh, no. No, no, no.
GA: Yes it does.
TT: No it doesn't.
GA: It has been held up.
TT: No. It is just an interpretation you have of the 14th Amendment, but one that has never actually been determined by...
GA: What is it? A 1982 law, I think?
TT: No. that was Lau. FIX That was a totally different issue, because the Chinese immigrant that they were talking about was here legally.
GA: Um, hum.
TT: So his offspring was most certainly a citizen. So it's a totally different situation, but the reality is this: you can be a beneficiary of all of the things the United States has to offer, undeniably, as you are. You described yourself. As someone who took advantage of the opportunities and God bless you for it. That's exactly what we all would expect and hope for of anybody living in this country.
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 be, to access the opportunities that America provided. Just like everybody else comes. But, 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 and it was 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.
GA: I just know "vaffanculo," that's all I know. [Laughs.]
TT: I know "cabeza de mierda." That's about all I know. [Laughs] So there we are.
GA: We have a love of cursing.
GA: Anyway, go ahead.
TT: So, but there was this feeling, Gustavo. The essence of it is hard to describe. You can't quantify it necessarily. But it is there, and it was there then, to a much greater extent that I think we can see exhibited today. And that is a feeling that they wanted to disassociate from the past, not because they were ashamed of Italian culture -- we still went to the feast of St. Rocco, I still do. And I must admit to you, as I get older, I keep thinking to myself, there really was a saint named Rocco? What did he do, I wonder? Was he an enforcer for the Apostles or what?
TT: But anyway, St. Rocco feast, we still do that. All of these cultural kinds of things, absolutely, no problem. But this essence, this want to disassociate, 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. Not a connection. And one of the problems with Mexico is that it is our neighbor. If Italy, if Sicily was our neighbor and contributed as many people to the immigration in to the United States as Mexico, we would have exactly the same problem with the culture coming with it, as opposed to being, uh, allowing people to come into the country and actually disassociate.
GA: Sure. I want to read you something, from one of my all-time favorite columns. I've gotta read the question so, "Dear Mexican: Why don't Mexicans have enough gratitude for America to learn to speak English? Are they too stupid? Or too lazy? What. They can't learn two or three words a day? Is this asking too much?"
And in my column--since he's never read it, I have to explain to Tom -- in my column I always do pseudonyms for people. So he signed it "Took Four Years Of Spanish In High School." And my response was, Dear Gabacho: The United States government shares your concerns. Its Dillingham Commission released a 42-volume study on the waves of immigrants that included "the new immigration as a class is far less intelligent than the old. The old immigration came to be a part of the country," as you said. "While the new comes with the intention of profiting in a pecuniary way and then returning to the old country."
When the Dillingham report published?
TT: Uh, probably 1900?
GA: 1910, specifically. And who were the immigrants they were targeting?
GA: Italians, Czechs, Slovaks. So when you say...
TT: Even, I don't have to read your column...to actually know the stuff you're talking about.
GA: Exactly, you don't have to read it to know where I'm going. But you're saying then, that the old immigrants came to be a part of the country, but while the immigrants were coming there were those exact same attacks that you hear about Mexicans and Latinos and other people today. [Audience claps.]
So the point, if you take anything away from me today, on this issue of acculturation, is that immigrants, 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. It was part of your parent's generation. When they were moving, maybe not your grandparents, but they were moving into Little Italy and keeping Italian and printing the Italian newspapers. It was happening, gosh I always forget this; around before the foundation of the United States, when Benjamin Franklin was railing against the Germans in the Pennsylvania Valley saying, they're not going to assimilate. They're not going to acculturate. I would say there is something in our psyche that refuses to accept the reality in front of us.
Tom, I am a member, I am a member of this invading army of Reconquista, and I can tell you, without a fact, it's all hype. It is all, all hype.
TT: Then, how many...if that is the case, Gustavo, I am extremely glad to hear it because of course soon I will see and I will begin to read your column...
GA: Cool! Buy my book. [Laughs, audience claps.]
TT: Um, it's all in English, right?
GA: Westword, Westword. Westword.com.
TT: It's in Westword, okay. And in English. [Audience laughs.]
PC: It's free.
GA: I know. Mexicans type in English, go figure.
TT: I will be happy to do that, because I will soon see condemnation, strong condemnation for things like, organizations, for instance, like MEChA.
GA: Um, hum. Proud Mechista. I was a proud member of MEChA.
TT: A proud member, a proud member.
TT: The Gustavo, something's wrong here, buddy. There is a big disconnect. You cannot tell me you are a proud member of MEChA, and on the other hand, someone who is completely assimilated into the United States and has none of these commitments to Mexico.
GA: I'll tell the world the whole secret of MEChA. I was, [Laughs] a Mechista at Chapman University, which is basically the Republican Party in Orange Country tried to create a Harvard for their kids and they failed miserably. I have a story behind that. So, at MEChA, our main goal was not the eradication of the gringo, was not the taking back of Aztlan--you know what it was?
TT: Then why do you say that?
GA: Because that's what the hype makes people believe about MEChA.
TT: Then say it! Oh, oh, oh yes!
GA: Oh, sure. You could cherry pick certain quotes that people have said, but you know what, Tom, people from your own party...
TT: You can cherry pick what the KKK said, and go, well but it's only a couple of statements, you know. You can't really condemn a whole bunch of people because of what a few KKK members say.
GA: But there is a fundamental difference though. MEChA does not have, as its fundamental mission, the lynching of Jews and Italians and blacks. [Audience claps.]
TT: Talking, talking, it's an interesting thing that you even mention that, because there is a great deal of anti-Semitism in the propaganda of MEChA and other organizations of a similar nature. They are as racist as anything we can point to on a right-wing racist organization. MEChA is a racist organization.
TT: Oh yeah. Because of the things it says, because of the people that they sponsor. It most certainly is. You may say, oh no its not. But I'm telling you, read the stuff. Words matter. Its not as if I'm interpreting or you know, extracting from some sort of vague references. It is very clear what MEChA is all about. And you, of all people, who talk to me about the need to, you know, establish this rapport. It is very difficult for me to field this rapport when you establish yourself, as you say, a Mechista supporter.
GA: A proud Mechista. At our MEChA, at Chapman University. It is not difficult. At our Chapman University MEChA, we had white folks on our campus. Or we call them, Gabachos, in my column. We had African-Americans. We had, oh gosh, Tajikistan, or one of the Stans from the former Soviet bloc. They were all members of MEChA.
TT: Anybody can be a racist.
GA: No, No. But, but why if we are racist,
TT: You can be from anywhere and be a racist.
GA: If we are racist, why would we accept non-Mexicans into our organization?
TT: Because they're racist.
GA: That kind of, makes no sense, but anyways. Anyway, the main purpose of MEChA,
TT: A racist is a racist. You don't have to have color connected to it.
GA: Yeah, but I don't think the Aryan Brotherhood is going to be accepting, ah you know...
TT: They would take Germans, they would take Swedes, they would take anybody.
GA: Any white person, of course. But not a Mexican race, if we're going to talk about it. However, so at MEChA, our main purpose was to get Latino high school students into college. As you know, as we were talking about at dinner before, there is a problem with public education. There is not enough Latino or kids, you know, going into our high education system. That was our main goal, and the way we indoctrinated these students to get a great American college education, we would have to hold carne asada fundraisers so we could fund these high school conferences. And at these high school conferences, we taught these students how to fill out college applications, how to fill out FAFSA, how do your essays. That is the hype of MEChA.
I understand where you're coming from though, when it comes to these allegations of anti-Semitism or this racism--there is a, you know, the founding documents of MEChA, ah, with roots here in Denver, actually. They have pretty inflammatory rhetoric. I agree. But you have to take the history of its context-- it comes from the 1960s--which was at a time, I'm sorry but that whole country was in revolution, at war with each other, frankly. And those are the founding documents of MEChA. Do we believe in those, word for word? At least I will tell you this much, you know, if we could just reduce it before, you know we get to some questions--or do we even need questions at this point?
TT: [Laughs.] That's right.
PA: You've covered almost everything so far.
GA: [Laughs.] You know, the Mechistas of today, sure, we have those documents but they are historical artifacts, just like the American Constitution used to consider a slave a three-fifths of a person. Of course, we X-ed it out, but is still part of the reality of the republic, ultimately more than anything. Historical documents, not so much living breathing documents.
TT: Condemn them. I want you to condemn them. The only way you can convince me of your commitment to this whole idea of assimilation is to condemn that kind of thing, because that's the kind of thing, of course, that creates all of the problem -- not all of the problem -- but many of the problem that we deal with in terms of trying to identify what is part of a true assimilation process and what is truly part of a different kind of thing. A separatist movement. An Aztlan. All of the rest of that stuff that we can, you know, sometimes, you, you pay homage to, and sometimes you make fun of. But the reality is, it's out there. It's out there. And just like it is incumbent upon all of us, everybody in this room, I certainly believe, and I will accept this responsibility entirely to condemn any movement, any organization that is based on, that the organization itself is based on race and a disdain or a hatred, observable, written hatred of the other race, another race. That should be condemned by all of us. All of us. And I guarantee you that I despise that in our culture. It exists on both sides of this debate, and it is a horrible thing, and it's an ugly thing, and it is up to us all, it seems to me, Gustavo, in order to make this kind of, what we're trying to do here tonight, this conversation that we're trying to have, in order to make it meaningful in the long run, its up to both of is to say to everybody, that kind of racism, that kind of ugliness should be condemned by both of us.
GA: Absolutely, I agree with you. [Audience claps.] And there is condemnation of that racism. When it comes to anti-Semitism, there is a strong condemnation from the National Council of La Raza, which I know a lot of folks on your side think, what do they call it? The "tan Klan," this idea that somehow we argue for the separatism, but that is not the case. These are just, basically, part of the history of the United States, again, you have these ethnic groups that unite around their ethnicity to push for the interest of their particular ethnicity.
TT: Nobody argues the need and the desire for anybody coming here from another country to find common elements inside America. To find other people who speak the same language, who have the same kind of backgrounds, eat the same foods. All of that is completely natural. But there is something that is very dangerous when it moves from that to a hatred of another race.
GA: I agree. But it's not hatred.
TT: I'm telling you, that's what's there. It should be condemned. It should be condemned by people like you, who have great respect in the Hispanic community,
TT: And a voice in the column, you should do that. [Audience claps.]
GA: We do. And I am telling you those organizations are not fundamentally racist, they are not set up to hate the white man, to hate the gringo, to hate all of that.
TT: Then we just have to disregard everything they say. Forget what they say, forget what they're about. Forget their documents.
GA: Oh, no no. I could show you those documents.
TT: I mean you can't just say that, Gustavo, it's too easy to try to brush that all aside and go, no, it really doesn't matter; it's not really them.
GA: I'm not brushing at all. In my column, I specifically, I will go after people who do espouse hatred. A lot of the hype, when people say, there is this Nation of Aztlan or La Voz de Aztlan who is saying all of this anti-homophobic, anti-Semitic remarks, that is one fringe website. And who is the person that exposed them for that? Who is the first person to condemn them for that in the mainstream media? Yours truly right here. [Audience claps.]
And not only that? Not only that, I did it for a Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. Here's your anti-Semite, folks.
TT: Okay, I think we beat that dog to death.
GA: It was fun.
PC: Okay, we promised a conversation, and obviously these two have no problem being prompted and you've blown through most of the questions people gave. But now I'm going to ask the one they gave most frequently, 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." [Audience laughs.] Can you tell us now how you would have done it?
TT: Sure. And I used to say it, believe it or not, you didn't listen, because I did say it over and over and over again that there were ways in which we could actually deal with this issue, in a very certainly, I think, humane way. You want to deal with immigration, rounding up people, taking them. Well of course, that's completely untrue and certainly unnecessary and would not be acceptable even if it were a necessary item. But it is not. But 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. Um, Senate Bill 90 and uh, 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. Now, unfortunately, it has never, neither of those laws, have ever been enforced. Even the slightest attempt to enforce them.
The other one talks about the need for people to show proof of citizenship in order to obtain social sevices' benefits. None of those things are never, ever enforced. We, 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, or at least tried to put through, and if the legislature wouldn't have gone along with it, 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, for the most part, is a job. Right? We all recognize that. Um, a job, by the way, often times the job at which these people are exploited. Because they are here illegally, and hence an employer can pay them less than 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, something wrong with it, they could not hire them until it was corrected, until that person went out and said, well, here's what's wrong, and I got it corrected. That one thing has more power in actually reducing the number of illegal immigrants coming into the state of Colorado than anything else. It happened, it actually worked pretty well in Arizona. Interestingly,
GA: Something else there...
TT: Pardon me?
GA: Something else scared people off from Arizona. Joe Arpaio.
TT: [Laughs] Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Right. Well, the interesting aspect of all of this stuff, is that when put to a vote, when put to a test in terms of a poll, most Coloradoans agreed with that particular proposal, ten, I mean, E-Verify, and the Arizona law. Most Hispanics in Colorado, according to the poll, also agreed with it. The Zogby poll that came out a little bit ago--56 percent of Hispanics in the United States agree that there is too much immigration coming into the United States altogether. Now, this is heartening, and certainly something I talked about all during the campaign, and that is, this is not something, people would always say "well, Hispanics don't, they would run away from this, they don't like this." But it is not true. It is not true. Um, and I am proud of the fact that I had, in at least one poll; I had more Hispanic support than Mayor Hickenlooper. There aren't enough.
PC: Was that the one that had you neck-in-neck?
TT: I'm looking for a lot more Hispanics that are able to vote. That is they are here legally. Because you know, I had a majority in those guys.
GA: But just because a certain segment of the population supports something does not make it right. And so, I think in using that as somehow saying somehow Latinos are in favor of stricter immigration reform does not necessarily make it right. [Audience claps.]
TT: You don't think that's true?
GA: Polls? I don't believe most polls.
TT: I wish I did not either.
GA: [Laughs.] But you have to actually be out there and know what the population is saying.
TT: [Laughs] I wish I could ignore them, but I have to pay attention to them.
GA: But, you know that is something that has always fascinated me about you, is that you have this emphasis on, okay, we need to crack down on the employers. We need to crack down, you know, if we stop it, whether it's E-Verify or something else than we can somehow stem the flow of illegal immigration. You see, but that is also the root cause of immigration period. It is the economy. It is worker, or it is businessmen who want to have cheap labor.
TT: Exploit is the word.
GA: Exploit. But that has also been the American way. American has demanded cheap labor, whether it was immigrant laborers coming from Europe--
TT: Is this good?
GA: Is it good?
TT: Is this a good thing, Gustavo?
GA: It's not good. I'm not accepting it. I'm not agreeing with it.
GA: I'm saying that is the true American way, for better or for worse. So I wanna hear your thoughts. I think to truly, completely stem the flow of illegal immigration, you truly have to crack down on capital, on the businesses. But we would never do that because that would reek of socialism. [Audience claps]
TT: Just watch.
GA: Sure, okay. Just watch.
TT: [Laugh] Because I would guarantee you that is exactly where I would go, because that is the nexus. That's where you can deal with this issue because you don't have to be rounding people up; you don't have to be doing anything like that, anything nearly as extreme is that. You simply have to say, the thing for which you came you simply cannot get. And therefore, people either go home or they to someplace else a little more liberal in the way they pay attention.
GA: And what does that do to business?
TT: Hey, listen. They're going to have to deal with it. I'll tell you what it does to business. It tells them, they're going to have to meet the market. You know, labor is a market just like anything else, and so, the fewer number of people you have, the ability to solicit in order to become, to work for you, the fewer number there are, what happens? What happens in any market system? It is not anti-capitalist, it is pure capitalism. Because the fewer number, I mean, the fewer number of people that are applying for the jobs available, creates this other phenomenon. It's called higher wages. Because they meet at some place, they meet.
GA: The last thing the American businessman wants to do.
TT: Tough crap!
GA: I'm just putting it out there. You know...
TT: I'm just telling you I don't care if the American businessman has to raise his rates in order to hire people that are legally present is okay with me. And if I have to pay more for the head of lettuce or whatever else it is that I am beneficiary of, as a result of legal uh, legal labor its okay with me. Do you understand that? It's okay.
GA: I do. But do you know what's going to happen when you force those businesses to pay higher wages? They are gonna go down to Mexico. NAFTA. And you know what's going to happen?
TT: Some can, some can't.
GA: Most do. Most have. Toyota, Ford.
TT: If you run a restaurant down the street and you're hiring a lot of illegal labor, as of course as Mayor Hickenlooper was and maybe still is, in his restaurants,
GA: Patty can answer that one. Not me. [Laughs.]
PC: Not my debate.
TT: But what I'm telling you is, if you do that, if you're doing that, you can't move to Mexico. You can't move your restaurant there. Your restaurant is here. You're going to have to hire help here. And believe it or not, it works. Even in Arizona, where this was put into effect. Where E-Verify was put into effect, you know what? Businesses haven't exited the state in droves. People actually have survived. Wages. The one reason why I think that we see Hispanic support for immigration crackdown, for reducing the number of people, even legally coming in, the reason is because--
GA: It drives down wages.
TT: They see that that depresses wage rates for people in their same category. The people that are looking for those jobs. It decreases their wage rates. It depresses them, and it takes jobs. Why the hell should be give jobs to anybody coming here who comes in illegally at the expense of the person who was born here? There are Hispanics in this state whose parents have been here generations before mine came, have, you know exactly the same sort of commitment to America that I think we all would love to see, and say to themselves, hey look. This isn't fair.
If people came the right way--if you come from Mexico, a million, what. How many? How many come every year, legally?
GA: Five people.
TT: Right. One would think. But it's much higher. We have about a million, two hundred and fifty thousand coming every year, right?
GA: They've been reduced in the last couple of years because of the economy and the recession.
TT: The one thing that our whole entire immigration system is based on is called, "Family Reunification." And right now, almost all of the families that need to be reunified are Hispanic or from Mexico or from South and Central America. Okay, so most, 90-some percent of our immigration is from that area.
GA: Don't say that in Little Saigon in Orange County. But go ahead.
TT: I'm just telling you, ninety percent. Certainly you have these little pockets, but 90 percent come from there. All right now, if, if they come the right way, if they've spent time in the process, coming from Mexico the right way--you go, you apply, you have to wait in the line and you have a visa to get in, and you do all those things, and you get here. And as a result, you are benefited, you are given, a, a sort of an exalted status, in that you are a legal immigrant, as a result you can actually enter in to the process to become a citizen. And with that gives all kinds of benefits, including voting. Why in the world would you think it would be odd for those people to feel somewhat upset, anyway, um, insulted by the fact they did it the right way, but somebody can come the wrong way and get exactly the same benefits? Why would that be surprising to anybody that they would feel that way?
GA: It's not surprising to me at all. I think it's expected. But what I would argue is that those folks are misdirecting their ire at the immigrants, as opposed to the businesses and the industry that does hire them.
TT: Let's go after that business, those businesses. I'm all for it.
GA: Let's go smash capitalism! Let's do it right now. Let's go.
TT: Fine. You wanna say smash capitalism; I simply say it's obeying the law. And there are all kinds of laws that employers have to obey. You have to have, you have to maintain a facility that meets the health code, and do all kinds of things as employers. Now would you say, well, we shouldn't have health codes because that's anti-capitalist? BS. It's got nothing to do with capitalism. These are the regulations that you operate under. One of them is hiring people who are legally present in the United States. There's nothing wrong with demanding that of any employer in this country. And I am all for doing it, do you understand? That's the main issue!
GA: I do. I do, but even those legal immigrants, by your rationale, would depress wages.
TT: Depends on how many you bring in.
GA: But it doesn't matter what those numbers are, they will still depress wages one way or another, because for much cheaper--
TT: It depends on what your unemployment rate is.
GA: They are willing to work for much cheaper for what the going rate goes. That is labor in a nutshell.
TT: Let me ask you this: We have a ten percent, approximately, I mean nobody knows what the actual unemployment rate is--there are two kinds of unemployment rates, the official and the people who've just stopped looking, right. It's high, we not agree?
GA: That's true.
TT: Um, last month, the United States of America brought in, well, first of all, last month, I saw a figure that we were touting the fact that we had produced/created 100,000 private sector jobs. And that was a great, everyone got excited.
GA: Yeah, we all cheered.
TT: We all cheered. 100,000. In terms of changing the situation and solving the recession, it's not even come close, but a big cheer went up:100,000 private sector jobs created. Last year, I mean, last month we brought in 165,000 legal immigrants into the United States, plus of course, however many came illegally. I don't know. Now, they came. Are they working or are they not working? Are they here participating in the process by obtaining a job? If so, was that one of the 100, 000 created? Do you think its at all reasonable for any society, any government to say at this point when we are not creating enough jobs for the people who are here legally, that we should do something about reducing the number of people who are coming both legally and illegally.
GA: The last time we did that was the Great Depression. We repatriated about a million Mexicans, both legal, illegal, and American citizens. That did not solve the Great Depression.
TT: Actually, that was not the last time. No, no.
GA: I know. Last time we did it en masse, you're going to talk about "Operation Wetback" too.
TT: That's right. We did it under Roosevelt, we did it under Truman, we did it under Eisenhower. Each time it was designed, you know, and under Eisenhower of course you cannot say it resulted in any sort of hardship. I mean, the economy, the country went up. And so--
GA: I think that had more to do with suburbia and the world, and the GI Bill. The American GI Bill--
TT: Suburbia, we still have it. No, no. I mean, come on, Gustavo, you know as well as I do--
GA: But I mean the creation of Suburbia.
TT: I mean this is a very simple equation: You've got people here. Of all races, of all nationalities, people, especially of the lower income brackets who are desperately seeking work--
GA: I agree with you on all of this--
TT: So, so why should we put them at risk, why should we bring people in, I don't doubt that those people are coming for that same reason, because they want the job. I understand that. But who's our first loyalty to? Is it not to the people who are here, who have either gone through the process directly, or where born here? And Gustavo, I don't care. I can say this a million times and I don't know if you'll ever believe me, sir, but I will tell you, its got nothing to do with race. In my heart, nothing.
GA: I would believe you, if you did not believe--I know, you've heard a raspberry, that's okay.
TT: This is the kind of thing that you have to deal with when you enter into this discussion.
GA: I understand that. And I feel you, and I respect you for doing that, but again, I would believe you, Tom, if you weren't so insistent on, as we had in our very beginning discussion, that you will not believe that even among this wave of immigrants, whether they are legal or illegal, that we don't become American. That we don't become acculturated. You do not want to believe that, and that's why/where we have this difference in opinion. So when you give me these good, you know, economic arguments, I might disagree, I might agree. But when you start talking about culture, it all flies out the window. And I'm sorry about that.
TT: And I'm sorry too. Because culture is, see, now look. We're having a debate; it's an interesting debate.
GA: You have some people that have been here in Colorado for 400 years. [Audience claps and cheers]
TT: You bet.
GA: And they get mad with you when you start talking about Hispanic culture that way.
TT: Well, I bet you this: Well, this is not provable in any way, shape, or form, but I will bet you that I have as many supporters in the Hispanic community, people who have been here for a long time, people who have come here legally, as I do detractors. And I will tell you that because polling has actually indicated that for us. Now, well, you may laugh at it, but it is the truth. You may not like it, but it's the truth. And so, the fact that we are in a way, it is intriguing--because we are debating this issue tonight, and you wonder, would we debating it, if you were right?
GA: That makes no sense. [Audience laughs.] What's the purpose of a debate, if not to illustrate things?
TT: No, no, no. Because there would be nobody here. You see, you and I could be arguing. But there would be nobody here because everybody had been acculturated. Assimilated. There would be no issue about this.
GA: No, that's not true.
TT: Ah, okay. Not true, not true, I see.
GA: Not true. Not true again, you're the one that believes we're not acculturated. We still have a big huge crowd that's fully acculturated, but still very proud of their roots that they come here. We're telling you, we're telling you that we're acculturated. You don't believe it, hence the interest in the debate. Next question.
PC: In honor of Gustavo's button, can you both justify your stance on the Dream Act? Who would like to go first?
GA: Yes, The Dream Act.
TT: What's your button?
GA: The Dream Act, right here. [Points to button on lapel.]
TT: Yeah, ha ha ha. [Audience cheers]
TT: It's your button--
GA: It's my button, go ahead. Okay, really briefly, the Dream Act is a bill before both Congress and the Senate that would create a pathway to citizenship -- it's not blanket amnesty -- it would create a pathway to citizenship for those undocumented students or members of the military, who came to this country at a young age, came here illegally, and they grew up in this country. Acculturated, assimilated, on to college, some into the military. So it would create a pathway to citizenship, so you have to go to college or you have to join the military. I am fully, of course, in support of the Dream Act, hence this button right here. You know, one of the, I'm in Orange County so I don't know everything about Colorado politics, but I had heard your name over the past couple of years, here or there, you had said something about nuking Mecca, which that made no sense to me whatsoever, and I actually still think you stole it from one of our guys in Orange Country who proposed it back in 2003. But anyways, um, I'll remember the first time you truly peaked my interest, I, forgive me Patty, but was it the Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News that did a front page cover story an undocumented college student?
TT: It was the Denver Post.
GA: Okay, so they did--
TT: His name was Jesus, um, Apodaca.
GA: You remember, like a little notch on the belt. Wait, wait. What was the name, folks? Jesus Apodoca. So then Denver Post does a front page story about Jesus Apodaca, tells his story: College student came to this country, obviously, his parents brought him over illegally, fully acculturated, trying to go to college, and he needs some money. Or tries to get his citizenship, obviously, or whatever. So I think the following day, you said, We need to deport this student right now.
GA: Right, so explain to me then, what exactly you said.
TT: Sure. Well, first of all you said came here, lived here, fully acculturated. As if all of those things happen with some degree of regularity, or--
GA: It happens all the time!
TT: Some immutable fact that all you have to do is come here,
GA: It happens all the time, Tom.
TT: live here, and become acculturated. But of course you know, Gustavo, that you cannot intellectually establish that as an immutable fact, that it doesn't necessarily happen.
GA: Tom, Tom. I know all of these people that have.
TT: Not for Italians, not for Mexicans, not for a lot of people. It just doesn't always happen. So you can't just use that as boom-boom-boom-boom, it always works.
GA: I know these guys, but go on.
TT: So in this particular case, let's, we will, replay the tape. I open the paper and on the front page of the paper, there is a picture of a family that have indeed have come here illegally, they are here illegally, they have a son who wants to go to college, they are upset because he cannot get in-state tuition. I call, the, the what was then the INS, and said, look, I have a question for you: It's just intriguing to me because this is on the front page of the Denver Post. Here is this picture of this family, identified. I said, what if, not without saying that to them, but I said, I jus have a question: What if I were, if I came up to you, if you were leaving your office one day, and I walked up to you and I said, hi, how do you do, I am here illegally, but I am a good citizen, well obviously not a citizen, but a good participant in society and I work and I do all of the stuff. What would you do? I said to the head of the INS. What would you do? What would you do if somebody said to you, I am here illegally, but other than that, I'm a good person.
And he said, well of course I would have to take them in and go through a process. I said, well what happens when they tell you that, and they're on the front page of the Denver Post? What do you do about that? He said, well, we don't have the resources to do anything. I said, well, it says right here: Here's the name, here's the address, they're saying to you, we are here illegally. Now, the next day, or couple of days after the Denver Post prints this thing that says, "Tom Tancredo wants to deport Jesus at Christmas time." I don't know, for all I know, it might have been. But the reality is, I didn't know who that was. The kid they were talking about, I wasn't talking about. I mean, he was in the story.
GA: Who were you talking about then?
TT: I was talking about the family that appeared on the front page. They were here illegally. He was one of them. And yes, I wondered why they weren't deported. So, what's funny about it? Tell me. I would like to know, let's open this up a little bit.
GA: I don't think you want to do that, Tom. Let's stick with you and I. [Crowd Laughs]
TT: That's what I thought, yeah. It's pretty interesting.
GA: Yeah, we'll, we'll--so what motivated you?
TT: Because they were illegal.
GA: Because they were illegal.
TT: That's right. And they were on the front. And I'm just saying, I'm just wondering what happened when somebody says or tells the world; by the way, we're here illegally, what are you gong to do about it? And to me it was like, what do you say? How come, the INS goes, uh, yeah, I'm supposed to be taking people into custody who are here illegally, but, I'm not gonna because, what, I don't have the resources?
GA: Well, as a cousin who works in the ICE and now, she is Migra--go figure the Mexican has a border patrol agent in his family, I know. They say--
TT: Llisten -- down in the Tucson sector I visit every time I go to the border, of course I go to the border patrol stations, I am visiting one, it's called Muster, and they are changing squads, people are coming in and leaving, and the new people coming in are getting an orientation, I, I just showed up, and I walked in and every ingle person in the room was Hispanic. And one of them said, that's Tancredo. And somebody started to applaud. And it worked its way around the table. And I am very proud of it.
GA: I, I don't--I'm sure that did happen, but imagine that, Tom, that same family, my cousin, and I'm not going to name names--
TT: But you're suggesting that just because he was Hispanic that there was some way he was not connected to the United States--
GA: No, no. What I'm saying is that my cousin, same family, same background, her father was also an illegal immigrant, our parents actually came to this country, my mom and her mom came to this country legally, because my grandmother was an anchor baby, fled the Mexican Revolution, my great grandparents worked in the mines, they didn't care about illegal immigrant labor back then, but anyways, now my family is working for the border patrol. If that's not acculturation, I don't know what is.
TT: I'm glad you are.
GA: And that happens on a mass level.
TT: Of course you can, of course they do. Millions have. Millions don't, and that's the problem. And that's the problem. We're not generalizing to every single person who comes here from Mexico, or anywhere else. It is now a problem inside the United States, not just, by the way, for Mexicans, who are here and will not assimilate. The problem is becoming greater by the way, I would suggest to you, for another group.
GA: Ha, ha, ha, ha. The Other "M" group, right?
TT: That's right.
TT: Muslims. Very difficult for Muslims to assimilate into American society, if they are committed so something called Sharia Law. These are facts. You may not like them, Gustavo, but they are, nonetheless, facts. Facts are stubborn things.
GA: Facts are very stubborn things, absolutely. I'd say something else but I will leave it to that. Patty?
PC: All right we're going to get one more question in here. You've already agreed to smash capitalism and you like to curse. Let's see if we can get an agreement on one more thing: Do you think the USA will ever intervene and help out our neighbors fight this war against drugs, or is it part of the US economy? If we stop the drug trade, many more government jobs will be lost here in the USA and that cannot be good for the economy. So where are you with the Mexico drugs in the US?
TT: Legalize them.
GA: Wow. We agree on that!
TT: Legalize marijuana, and that is big--let me tell you, that drug war is lost; it has been lost for years. The billions of dollars spent, the thousands of upon thousands of lives that have been spent also in this war that is completely and totally un-winnable. I always argue, and it's certainly one of the reasons, by the way, I am not governor of the state of Colorado is because I took this position. But the fact is, that is one of the things that certainly is a controversial issue that I encounter.
GA: Did you say these things when you were representing Colorado?
TT: I most certainly did. I voted in the legislature, in congress, for every single time, I voted when it was called the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment or when the Republicans were in, it was the Rohrabacher-Hinchey Amendment and it was to say that the federal government had absolutely no right to say, they had no right to come in and enforce some sort of Federal law about drugs, when a state chose to overturn it. And I believe with all my heart, that we need to legalize it. This whole thing. With marijuana, 72 percent of all of the profits, to the cartels, come from marijuana. One of the most difficult tasks we have in this country is doing that, because one of the most ardent opponents of legalization is the cartel, you see?
GA: Of course.
TT: They don't want it.
GA: But what do the cartels have to do with the legalization of marijuana up here in the United States, in terms of the legislative process?
TT: They don't want it. Believe me. They don't want it and they have influence here, I guarantee you.
TT: Oh my god. You think the money that comes from the sale of drugs to the Mexican cartels does not influence even politicians in the United States.
TT: Well, let's try Texas.
GA: Texas? Where exactly in Texas?
TT: El Paso.
GA: El Paso, really? You got names?
TT: That's right. Well, ha ha. No. Do you?
GA: You're the one that's asserting it. I'm not making assertions.
TT: Do you have a name of someone who's not on the table?
GA: You're the one asserting it.
TT: I'm telling you that it is a corrupt--are you suggesting, Gustavo, that drug corruption stops at the border?
GA: No, not at all. There has been bribings of border patrol agents and police officers. But to suggest that somehow drug money has made it into influencing foreign policy, I think it's pretty silly.
TT: In and around, do you really?
GA: I do.
GA: Maybe I'm naïve.
TT: Maybe, okay.
GA: No, not very.
PC: We promised you one hour, and we're at the end of that time. So will you each wrap up what you would like people to leave with from this debate. Whichever one of you wants to go first: The message that you would like them to walk out with tonight.
GA: Since I had the first thing to say, you can have the last word. I would just like the people out there to take again, my family's story: My dad was an illegal immigrant, he came to this country in the trunk of a Chevy in 1968, he hopped the border fence, back when it was just chain-link and not the stuff you like out there now, three-pronged. He came, he crawled through a sewer, he came to this country every which way but loose. I was the first son of four. Only spoke Spanish when I entered school, this illegal immigrant dad, this illegal alien, this menace invading society, he created three children who have college degrees, two of them advanced, one of them getting their advanced, another son that is doing that, getting college. Votes in every election, he's even against illegal immigration, Tom. Go figure that one out. True story, but my dad didn't want me to say it.
TT: I can figure that one out.
GA: But in this family, this family of Mexicans who still basically live in Mexico in the United States, but you have some of the best Americans you will ever meet, and my family is not the exception, we are the rule. The Reconquista is nothing more than myth coming from three different mythologies which I can't get into but read Westword.com, you can read it right there. But the Reconquista, we could talk about economics all day, but on the issue of acculturation, whether you want to believe it or not, Mexicans acculturate into America, and America did not want to believe that. That's been the case, gong back in Colorado, in the South West for 400 years, but whatever. Us Mexicans will continue to do what we have always done--which is, be part of this country. [Audience claps.]
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SHOW ME HOW
TT: the question, of course that we never really got to deal with to any great extent is, what is being part of the country, being in America does not necessarily mean you are an American. And it doesn't matter where you come from. It is of no consequence. The country of origin, the ethnicity of the people who come--America has been successful in this process of assimilation and acculturation for a long, long time. And we have assimilated people who have come from all over the world, and of every color and background and ethnicity. And it is a tribute to America that it has occurred, as a result of a push inside the United States for assimilation and a desire on the part of the people to assimilate. That was the great secret. I don't know if it's really a secret, but it was the great phenomenon, the thing that described our victory in being able to have a country made up of so many different people. We are, indeed a nation of great diversity. Also, when driven to a certain point, can be unhealthy. You cannot have a nation that is, focused on the idea of diversity as being the central theme. Its oxymoronic to think a homogenous society made up of completely different people who accentuate the differences; we need to accentuate, I would love to see, that process that works so well, continue to work today. But I don't believe it is working. I do not discount for a moment the millions of Hispanic people who have come to the United States of America, and been as certainly as good Americans as my family or anybody else that you could possibly think of. I absolutely know that's true. I have never discounted that, ever. They are out there, I see them, they talk to me all the time. They vote for me. You can't raise you hand there. And, and I appreciate that. What I'm talking about if course is something else that's occurring. And that is this sort of focus on, and almost obsession with the concept of multiculturalism. This to me becomes problematic also, to, bring up the spectrum of what Teddy Roosevelt warned us about, you know, we have massive immigration and its great, but immigration without assimilation creates not a nation, but a polyglot boarding house. And I believe that is what we are becoming. Or at least what we are in danger of becoming, and hence a debate like this is great, Gustavo, because we can at least make people think about this, and come to some conclusion. One way or the other, come to some conclusion with their own experiences, with what they see everyday in their lives and what they know to be true, and what maybe they are challenged by, when you and I both talk. So this is a good thing. Thank you very much for coming, and thank you for doing it.
PC: Thank you all very much. Remember, smash capitalism and we will continue the discussion on the Westword blog.
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