By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
If there’s one Republican politician who has become associated with the GOP’s strongest anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, it’s Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo.
Tancredo, who ran last year for the Republican presidential nomination in a campaign based mostly on his hardline immigration approach, is retiring from Congress.
The Colorado representative leaves Washington not a highly popular figure — especially among supporters of comprehensive immigration reform.
In an article about his announcement, The Associated Press said,
Tancredo was called racist for presidential campaign ads that suggested Latino immigrants are rapists and drug dealers. He once said Miami was like a Third World country because of its growing non-English-speaking population. He suggested America should threaten to destroy Islam’s holy city of Mecca in case of a future terrorist attack.
The Rocky Mountain News’ M.E. Sprengelmeyer put it this way,
His name has become a sort of shorthand within the national immigration debate, meaning one thing to his fans and another to his critics.
Google “Tancredo” and there are hundreds of articles that either credit him with advancing a hard-line position opposing illegal immigration or accuse him of intolerance that has made it harder for the Republican Party to claim its old “big-tent” credentials.
The incendiary debate on immigration in recent years has been identified as one important factor that pushed Latino voters away from the Republican brand in the last election. Their votes have been credited with giving President-elect Barack Obama the victory in at least four — and possibly six — key states.
But Tancredo disagrees with that argument. In a column he wrote for the Colorado politics web site Face the State, he said Hispanics had voted this year along a historical pattern of support for the Democratic Party, and that the immigration reform debate was not a major factor in the high level of Latino support for Obama:
The Republican Party should stop trying to design an “appeal to Hispanics” and instead appeal to Hispanic citizens on the same broad range of issues that are important to all Americans – national security, education, job creation, small business opportunities, and family values.
He also wrote, “the real problem goes much deeper than John McCain’s inept campaign. We can and must do a better job of reaching Hispanic voters, but we can do that without pandering or compromising conservative principles.”
Tancredo, however, is “not done with politics,” he told the Rocky Mountain News. He may run for Colorado governor in 2010, work on an immigration think tank or on talk radio. He called the gubernatorial race the “most alluring” option.
Also, before leaving, Tancredo left a suggestion for the incoming president: use construction of the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico as a source of jobs.
“It is imperative that the President-elect use his new public works programs to build the border fence he voted for in the Senate,” he said in a press release. “Not only will this create new jobs — as Obama said was his main goal — it will drastically improve our national security in these perilous times.”