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Thomas Tancredo is a third-term Republican congressman from Colorado. As chairman of the 65-member Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus he deals regularly with such facts as these:
More than 33.1 million immigrants live in the United States, a number unprecedented in U.S. history. Poverty rates for immigrants and their U.S.-born children are two-thirds higher than for native-born Americans and their children and account for approximately 25 percent of those now living in poverty in this country. Twenty-four of the southernmost U.S. states have accrued almost $1 billion in unpaid medical care – all attributed to illegal immigration.
Tancredo worries about the innumerable U.S. jobs he says have been wiped out by immigration. He outspokenly faults the Bush administration for its open-border policy, which Tancredo believes not only has put Americans out of work but also suppressed their wages.
Rep. Thomas Tancredo R-Colo.
”I speak to people who lose their jobs to immigration: electricians, carpenters, high-tech workers. They call my office all the time. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs to immigrants, both legal and illegal,” Tancredo tells Insight.
Tancredo also blames the immigration crisis on the ”liberal agenda,” which he sees as encouraging immigrants to retain their language and their political allegiance to a foreign government while seeing themselves as separate and distinct from other Americans. It’s a situation, he says, created by the liberal ”cult of multiculturalism.”
He’s also concerned about the number of people – between 6 million and 10 million – in the United States with dual citizenship. What does this mean for America’s sovereignty and the future of the country?
Tancredo is not alone in his concern: Polls show that 75 percent of Americans support immigration reform.
Tancredo warns about what he sees as the continuing encroachment of Mexico in the affairs of the United States. He regards the controversial matricula consular, an identification card issued by Mexico, as an effort to regularize illegal immigration into the United States.
He points out that the suspected murderer of Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff David March, arrested and deported not once but three times, lives openly in Mexico and has not been arrested by Mexican officials. The Colorado congressman seeks changes in the U.S. extradition treaty with Mexico and is considering calling for congressional-oversight hearings on the influence of Mexican cartels on U.S. politics.
What guides Tancredo’s attitude toward immigration, he says, is a principle as old as the republic itself – that ”we are a nation bonded by a common language, culture, manners and customs.”
Question from Insight: The U.S. economy is in a slump and Americans by the millions are out of work, yet the wholesale replacement of our workers by immigrants is under way. What gives?
Rep. Thomas Tancredo: We have a cheap-labor policy. This government has determined that part of its economic policy is to undermine the value of American jobs. We have record-high unemployment rates. We have a stagnating economy. Yet this administration refuses to take any action to reduce the number of immigrants who are coming into the country [illegally], removing Americans from their jobs and replacing them with cheap labor.
Q: What is the H-1B visa program?
A: This program was designed to bring into our country people who had sets of esoteric skills, primarily in the high-tech areas such as computer analysts, computer programmers.
At the program’s inception, the government allocated about 65,000 H-1B visas per year. It has climbed to 195,000 per year. What we found is that the program is severely abused. Through loopholes and fraud the number of visas has risen well above the quota cap to over 350,000 in the years 2001 and 2002.
The law dictates that H-1B visa holders must return home upon losing or leaving their jobs. The INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] doesn’t have the foggiest idea of the number of people who are breaking the law and, even worse, they don’t even pretend to care about violations. Not a single soul has been prosecuted.
The L-1 visa program is replacing the H-1B and is yet another method for bringing more foreign workers into the U.S. Unlike the H-1B, the L-1 is not capped. Last year, about 200,000 to 300,000 L-1s entered the U.S. In fact, corporations will use H-1B and L-1 visa categories to train foreign workers with the intention of moving these jobs overseas.
Q: So, in the end, U.S. citizens are fired?
A: Yes. Foreign workers are trained here; in fact, they are trained by Americans whose jobs are then exported overseas.
Q: Doesn’t this weaken the position of American workers?
A: Oh, it most certainly does! Years ago, foreign workers came across the border to perform agricultural labor. That continues. Today, however, illegal aliens in very large numbers are taking jobs in construction, meatpacking and technology – jobs that Americans not only can do but want to do.
It is becoming a pervasive problem for the American economy. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs to illegal aliens.
Q: Will immigration fill the coffers of the Social Security trust fund, as some argue?
A: It is a fiction that immigration is necessary to support old-age workers. We all know that the demographic profile is getting older. But it is inaccurate to say that immigrants will provide the worker base to sustain a large population of retirees.
Right now we bring in about one-and-a-half million legal immigrants each year through the regular immigration process (excluding visa programs) and another 1 million illegals. The vast majority of immigrants are low-skill, low-wage earners, and are a drain on this nation due to their level of poverty.
Rather than functioning as a support base for the elderly, these immigrants make very little money, depress the wage rate and should not be looked upon as a salvation for the Social Security trust fund.
At this pace, immigration will devastate the Social Security system. We are reducing the standard of living for millions of Americans. We are creating linguistic ghettos where millions of immigrants speak no English while replicating living standards such as those found in Haiti, Calcutta and poor nations.
Immigration produces what in economic jargon is known as ”junk growth.” Virginia Abernathy of Vanderbilt University has written a great deal on this topic and points out how massive immigration of low-scale/low-wage people creates profits for the few and costs for the many.
Q: How can Congress ignore American workers hit hard by immigration?
A: I try my best to get voters to demand that their congressmen do more to support immigration reform. Most of my colleagues, certainly those on the Republican side, tell me privately, ”You are right about this issue, but I simply cannot support it.”
There is no greater gap between what the people of this country want and what the Congress is going to give them than there is on the issue of immigration. The dynamics are as follows: The Democrats support a massive flow of immigrants as a potential source of new voters; the Republicans view immigration as a way to make inroads into the Hispanic community, which is growing fast due to open borders. Another faction of the Republican Party looks at immigrants as a good source of cheap labor.
However, there is evidence to suggest that Hispanics, on average, do not vote Republican. Yet you have the president of the United States trying to use immigration as a wedge issue in the next election.
Now it is [senior adviser] Karl Rove’s job to get President [George W.] Bush re-elected. However, Rove doesn’t consider how crucial issues such as immigration influence the nation. He views the Hispanic bloc as a source of voters, so the president will do nothing to rile the pro-immigration establishment.
Q: Is it true that special interests have contributed $22 million during the last 10 years to lobby Congress on immigration?
A: That’s exactly right. High-tech industries, major corporations, restaurant and home-builder associations come in here all the time. These groups support Republicans, and those Republicans are absolutely opposed to any sort of immigration reduction or border controls.
Q: What about the recent attempts that have been made to grant amnesty to the 3 million illegal Mexicans in the United States?
A: About two years ago the administration was pushing to legalize 3 million Mexican immigrants. It was called Extension 245i. Members of Congress were able to block it by the skin of their teeth. I was able to rally enough Republicans to come within one vote of stopping it in the House.
It went to the Senate where Sen. [Robert] Byrd [D-W.Va.] pocketed it. But the effect was debilitating, stirring up a rancorous debate in the Republican Conference.
Q: Isn’t Mexico responsible for providing jobs for its own people? Why are Americans burdened with providing jobs for Mexicans who don’t have them?
A: That’s a good question! It should not be a burden the American people have to bear. I’ll never forget a conversation I had two years ago in Mexico with Juan Hernandez, who headed up the newly created Ministry of Mexicans Living in the United States.
Hernandez is a very interesting fellow, a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, and a good friend of presidents Bush and [Vicente] Fox [of Mexico]. I asked about the purpose of the government agency he heads, since I had never heard of such a thing.
He said its purpose is to increase the flow of Mexican nationals to the United States. I asked, “Why?”
”It serves Mexico’s needs,” he said, and ticked off a list of such things as remittances to Mexico of $10 billion a year, which is 30 percent of the Mexican GDP [gross domestic product]. It provides employment for an exploding population, it alleviates social instability due to rising unemployment and it provides training for Mexicans, ultimately repatriating those skills back to Mexico.
I responded to his final aim – repatriation of trained and skilled Mexicans back into Mexico – and asked, ”Then your government would oppose amnesty for the illegal Mexicans in the United States?”
He cried, ”Oh no! We support amnesty totally.”
I replied, ”I don’t understand.” I assured him that if amnesty were in effect in the United States, then Mexicans would never return. He then said something riveting: ”By populating the United States with millions of Hispanics who are tied economically, politically and linguistically to Mexico, we are able to exert enormous influence and pressure on U.S. policy and its dealings with Mexico.”
Q: That sounds very much like a Fifth Column.
A: Yes! Just by having the numbers here! President Vicente Fox believes the U.S. border is a figment of the imagination. In fact, Fox and/or members of his government stated at one point that the borders of Mexico extend much farther north than currently drawn on the map.
Q: Isn’t that encroaching on U.S. sovereignty?
A: Oh, you’re kidding! Well, what about the matricula card? The president of Mexico can’t get amnesty for Mexicans in the United States, so he is pushing the matricula card.
It is amnesty! Illegal aliens in the United States are issued identification cards by a foreign government – Mexico – to obtain all the services afforded U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens.
Mexico instructs Mexican consular officers stationed here in the United States to lobby U.S. states and localities to accept these cards and, in effect, break the laws of the United States. It is an egregious violation of protocol.
Mexican officials have stated, quite candidly, that their end goal is to regularize illegal immigration. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If the United States did what the Mexican government is doing in this country, there would be hell to pay.
Even worse, the Mexican government is breaking our laws in full complicity with U.S. authorities. I believe that the White House supports this, recognizing it as a way to get amnesty which they couldn’t get through Congress.
I surreptitiously received a State Department memo from the U.S. Embassy in Managua [Nicaragua] that stated they required assistance in aiding Nicaragua in advancing a matricula-card program. This is an outrage!
It is also incredible that our southern neighbor, Mexico, who is supposed to be our friend, allows Guatemalans entry into Mexico for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of drugs into the United States. For the most part, various and sundry generals on the Mexican border are dirty. They are being paid off by the drug cartels. In fact, they provide security for the drug cartels.
The Mexican military on more than several occasions has crossed the U.S. border and exchanged gunfire with U.S. security forces. Americans should ask themselves: How can these dangerous dealings take place and why are we so accommodating to Mexico? What’s the purpose?
[The answer is] because it works. Mr. Hernandez’s policy has come to pass.
Q: What does the word ”Aztlan” mean? It’s frequently heard when questions of Mexican immigration into the U.S. Southwest are raised.
A: It’s a rallying cry. Aztlan is a name given to the area of the United States ceded by Mexico at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
Certain Mexican nationalists strongly believe a separate country called Aztlan will be carved out of the United States and ”reconquered.” Mexicans refer to it as ”la reconquista.”
Q: The U.S.-Mexican border remains a danger point as far as international terrorism is concerned, does it not?
A: That’s undeniably true. There are terror cells in Mexico. We have identified terrorists who have come into the United States through Mexico.
In Arizona, there’s a road just north of the city of Douglas called the ”Arab road.” They charge $30,000 to smuggle Arabs or Middle Easterners into the United States and $1,150 to $1,500 for a Mexican peasant.
Q: What is the government doing to stop this problem?
A: Little that I am aware of. We certainly are not doing everything possible to protect us. As long as the president and the Democrats stay silent on this issue, who’s going to bring it up?
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Paula R. Kaufman is a free-lance writer for Insight magazine.