The death of a GOP nightmare
By By Roger Hernandez
If you don't know whether to laugh or cry about the absurdities of anti-immigrant hysterics, the recent antics of anti-immigrant hysteric Tom Tancredo will have you doing both.
Last month, three college students whose parents came to the United States illegally went to Capitol Hill at the invitation of Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin to show support for the DREAM Act, which makes children of illegal immigrants eligible for permanent residency if they keep out of trouble and are enrolled in a college.
Tancredo, the Colorado congressman occasionally spotted among Republican presidential candidates, tried to sic the cops on them.
"I call on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to detain any illegal aliens at this press conference. Just because these illegal aliens are being used for political gain doesn't mean they get immunity from the law," he said in a press release. "If we can't enforce our laws inside the building where American laws are made, where can we enforce them?"
Problem was, the three college kids all had legal immigration status. It's on a temporary basis, to be sure, which is why they stand to gain from the DREAM Act. Still, when they entered the U.S. Capitol, they were not illegal aliens subject to arrest and deportation. What would have been illegal would have been for ICE to harass them like Tancredo demanded.
Of course, nobody really expects la migra to raid a congressional press conference, which is why Tancredo's outburst comes off like little more than a clownish tantrum.
But the defeat of the DREAM Act on a cloture motion later was no laughing matter. Sadly, hardworking college kids who are here illegally through no fault of their own got the heave-ho from the Republican Party (only 10 Republicans voted in favor), even though many are culturally American because the only life they know is in the United States.
So yes, Republicans gave kids the heave-ho. And you can bet Hispanic voters are going to give Republicans the heave-ho too. Even Cubans in Miami, who once voted 80 percent-plus for Republicans, are turning away.
There are conservatives who realize the Republican Party will not win the White House if in 2008 Hispanic voters again turn away as dramatically as they did between 2004 and 2006. These conservatives realize that even Hispanics who want much tougher enforcement at the border are appalled at the incendiary rhetoric coming from the likes of Tom Tancredo, and at the quieter fears of Republicans who voted against giving college kids a chance.
But we have been down this road before. "No nation in human history ever undertook to deal with such masses of alien population," said an article written by one Francis A. Walker that appeared in the June 1896 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. "The problems which so sternly confront us today are serious enough without being complicated and aggravated by the addition of some millions of Hungarians, Bohemians, Poles, south Italians, and Russian Jews."
It was a road Tancredo's own ancestors knew too well.
Roger Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.