Tancredo's congressional district includes suburb after suburb, an expanse of new homes, schools, shopping malls and golf courses spreading across the high plains south and west of Denver. The district is about 88 percent white, and the residents are prosperous, with a median income ($74,000) almost twice the national average. The share of Hispanic residents, 6 percent, is the lowest of any Colorado district.Tancredo pinpoints his disgust and anger towards undocumented immigrants as something he first felt 30 years ago-- which, frankly, explains a lot.
The first time Rep. Tom Tancredo got really angry about immigration, the year was 1975, and he was a junior high school social studies teacher in Denver. The state had recently passed the nation's first bilingual education law, and Hispanic kids were taken from his class to study in Spanish.Tancredo, now 60, formed anti-immigrant views in 1975 that haven't evolved or changed in 30 years, except they've only gotten more extreme and increasingly hostile. Why? Immigrants are perceived as a threat to the white, Anglo-Saxon way. Notice he isn't preoccupied with the immigrants who must fly or take ships to get here, only the ones who can walk here. The ones that are divided from America by an abritrary border.
That idea made zero sense to Tancredo, the grandson of Italian immigrants. He believed that newcomers should be assimilated into the country, as they had been for generations. The image of America as a beacon for people from all over the world uniting under one flag and one language was threatened, he contended, if the country started adapting to immigrants, instead of the other way around.
I wish I could relieve Tancredo and his supporters of the ignorant, nostalgic notion that all immigrants used to totally assimilate and become fluent English-speakers and embrace all things American. Immigration patterns of the past show us our immigration future-- that first generation Americans don't always assimilate well, but their children and grandchildren eventually do. America just seems to have that effect on people. What are the differences between Tancredo's grandparents and today's Latino immigrants? Are they really assimilating less? Are they really any more insular than the all of the 'little Italys' than were established a century (or more) ago?
What Tancredo and his ilk seem most worried about is the possibility that this country-- founded by immigrants, largely claimed by people who had no "right" to it-- may eventually have to become bilingual. The horror! Two languages in one head? It just can't be done! Frankly I think we'd solve a lot of these problems if the the US would just get it over with and annex Mexico, Canada too. Have we lost our spirit of conquest? Of the great American empire? Isn't the official American mantra bigger is best? Uh oh, but then we'd officially be trilingual! But then we'd have no trouble protecting our borders from infiltrating terrorists-- just expand our borders to the very edges of the whole North American continent. Then build a wall or a magical force shield or whatever. Problem solved. It will never happen but I'm sure the idea is enough to make Tom Tancredo's head explode.
I came to the conclusion long ago that if there were a way to pass legislation that would make all change just stop in its tracks, to freeze America exactly it is (or was, maybe 50 years ago, before women and blacks got all uppity) I don't doubt that there are plenty of people, namely conservatives, who would wholeheartedly support it. But guess what? There are few guarantees in life except for that we all will die one day and that change is inevitable. To fight either is a pretty futile waste of life. The best you can do is work for progress, for change that will help this nation live up to its promise of equal justice for all.