Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Tom Tancredo & "Ask a Mexican" columnist Gustavo Arellano keep talking in debate videos

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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."

The full transcript from the debate is on the next page....

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun