[Congressional Record: July 24, 2001 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of
January 3, 2001, the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tancredo) is
recognized for half the time until midnight as the designee of the
Mr. TANCREDO. Mr. Speaker, I will assure those Members, and
especially the staff here this evening, that I will give them something
to look forward to, and that is that we will probably not go half the
time available to me, but I do appreciate the opportunity.
I wanted to address an issue of concern to me, and it is an issue
that I have risen before to discuss here on the floor of the House and
I think certainly deserves our attention again this evening, and that
issue is immigration, and specifically the problems created by massive
numbers of people coming into the United States illegally.
Recently, Mr. Speaker, a trial balloon was floated. It was floated by
a working group that was appointed for the purpose of coming up with
some proposals to deal with the issues of immigration, illegal
immigration to the United States, and a variety of other related
issues. That trial balloon was a proposal, and the proposal was to
provide amnesty for up to 3\1/2\ million Mexican workers.
Now, I say it is specifically designed for Mexicans who are here in
the United States. It is not Guatemalans, it is not Haitians, it is not
any other nationality, it was for 3\1/2\ million Mexican people here in
the United States illegally, and it was to essentially just give them
amnesty if they had been here a long enough period of time. Well, that
trial balloon was met with a great deal of resistance, to say the
least. Certainly our office received many, many calls. I am sure the
offices of many Members of the House and Senate were similarly affected
by this trial balloon, and the response was almost unanimously in
opposition to such a proposal.
There is a basic fairness issue here, a fairness issue that I think
most Americans see. And it does not matter how one feels about the
whole issue of immigration in general, those who are pro-immigrant, as
I think most of us are. As a matter of fact, I think all of us have to
be very cognizant of and very sensitive to the fact that we are all
here as a result of someone's decision to come to the United States at
some time in the recent past. Even those of us in the country who
identify themselves as Native American probably came here, their
ancestors, over a land bridge from Asia. So we are all in one way or
another immigrants to this country.
The issue of immigration in general is not the point in this case.
The point in this case is whether or not we are going to simply ignore
the fact that people have chosen to violate the law of the United
States to come here and then be rewarded for that action by being given
amnesty. Now, we recognize that that, as I say, is at least unfair. I
think most people would agree that it offends their sense of justice.
And it should. It should.
What would happen if we would suggest that any other kind of crime be
treated in such a manner? If someone comes here, if they were in the
United States and involved with some criminal activity, and for a long
enough period of time and they did not get caught, would we simply say,
King's X, it is okay, they were able to avoid the authority long
enough, so we should give them amnesty? Well, we do not do that. Of
course not. And we should not do that in this case, and I think a
majority of Americans feel the same way.
Well, as a result of the kind of reaction that that proposal had, we
saw that today another proposal has been floated. This one is designed
to be a ``compromise proposal,'' and it says, all right, we will not
just go ahead and grant three, four million people, and by the way it
will be far more than that when all is said and done, but let us just
take their numbers for the time being, we will not grant three to four
million people amnesty who are here illegally just because they are
here illegally, we will establish some sort of guest worker program
into which these people can enroll and then we will grant them amnesty.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that is really not a compromise. That is really
not something anybody can get too excited about and say, oh, in that
case, absolutely, all right, I see that it is worthy of doing. It is,
of course, exactly the same proposal. We are simply going to reward
illegal behavior by providing amnesty if they have been here long
The other interesting aspect of this whole thing, Mr. Speaker, is
that we have tried this before. The idea of giving amnesty to people
who are here illegally and who have been here for a long time, or some
period of time anyway, and can prove that they have paid rent here or a
variety of other criteria that we establish to determine how long
someone is here illegally, has been tried before. In 1986, we did this,
exactly the same plan, and it was a result of the fact that people were
concerned about the massive number of people who were coming across our
borders illegally. And in order to get a handle on that and to strike a
compromise with people who want massive immigration, people who
essentially frankly want to essentially erase the borders, in order to
strike a compromise with them and to not look as though we were being
too antagonistic to these people who have arrived here and come in here
illegally, we decided to have an amnesty program.
That was 1986. We adopted exactly the same thing. And it was designed
to stop the flow of illegal aliens into the country. At that point we
were going to get a handle on it and say, okay, if someone is here, if
they have been here a long time, we are going to give them amnesty.
Eventually they can become a citizen of the United States, even though
they broke our laws to get here.
Well, of course it did not work. As anyone may have guessed, to
that rewarding someone for that kind of behavior would stop that kind
of behavior is counterintuitive, to say the least. It is hypocritical,
I suppose, to even suggest that we should think that somehow or other
the millions of people waiting outside our borders to come into the
United States, tempted to do so illegally if they need to, are told if
they do that, if they come in illegally, and if they can hide from the
authorities long enough, they will be given legal status.
That was the message, right, that is the message we send. Just
exactly as anyone would have expected, they came. They came in massive
Now, Mr. Speaker, first of all let me say I do not blame them for
trying. I am sure that if I were in the situation they are in, many of
these people, I would be trying to do the same thing. I would be
seeking a better life as my grandparents did, perhaps yours. Certainly,
as I say, everyone here at some point in their history looks back to
someone who made that decision.
But I must say, Mr. Speaker, that there is a process we have
established for immigration into this Nation. The process is one that
we must actually adhere to if we are to even pretend that we are a
Nation that has control of its own borders.
If you look on a map of the world, you will see every country
identified by an outline, by a line around that country separating it
from its adjoining neighbors. We have such a line separating us from
Mexico and from Canada.
Why is the line there, I guess I would ask. If there is no purpose
for a line that separates one nation from another, then we should erase
it. We should just simply forget about the idea that we have
established one nation a little bit different than any nation around
us. That, therefore, we are identifying ourselves as this separate
entity, separate laws, separate history, separate culture, certainly
open to immigration but with a separate identity.
I happen to believe that that is an important aspect of nation state.
I believe it is okay to, in fact, have that line. We have it whether it
is good or not. The reality is if we are going to have a line that we
call a border, then there is a responsibility of this House and of the
other body and of the President of the United States to establish the
policy of who comes across that border.
That is the true and one unique responsibility of the Federal
Government. It is to decide who can come in and who does not have
whatever it is we believe is important for entrance into this country.
It could be on any set of criteria you want to establish. It could be
because we need workers in various industries. We need farm workers. We
need workers in the construction industry. We need workers in the high
tech industry. All of these things can be used as a reason for
We establish a policy. We say, okay, here is how many we need this
year for this particular task. Here is who we want to come into the
United States. We want people that perhaps are going to bring capital
into the United States. That is a pretty good thing. Maybe we need more
lawyers, I do not think so, but, whatever it is, if it is lawyers, if
it is engineers, if it is agricultural workers, it does not matter.
What is important, Mr. Speaker, is that we make that decision who it
is we believe with what attributes we think necessary to come into this
country, the attributes we believe would be important and enhance life
in the United States. That is why we have borders. That is why we
pretend to have an immigration policy. But, Mr. Speaker, if you ignore
that, if you pretend as though that border does not exist and you
simply allow people to come across in the kind of numbers we have seen
for the last 2 decades, many things happen.
Massive immigration into the United States both legally and illegally
has been a factor in certainly the growth of the Nation, the population
of the Nation. As a matter of fact, 50 percent of the Nation's growth
in the last census was a result of immigration legally, legal
immigration, and illegal immigration, 50 percent or more.
That is the census figure and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the
census figures are far too conservative. But let us use them for the
Fifty percent of the growth in the Nation is due to immigration,
legal and illegal, far more illegal than legal. That means that 50
percent of the pressure applied in communities all over the Nation for
more highways, more hospitals, more schools, the infrastructure that
has to be built to support that kind of population is a result of this
immigration pressure. It also has other ramifications.
The day before yesterday I happened to pick up the paper in my
hometown, Denver, Colorado, and I read a story about the fact that
several police agencies are having to either hire or ask volunteers to
come on board that would go out with policemen on their calls,
especially domestic violence calls or, in the case that was cited in
the paper, it was an accident, a boating accident. People were drunk
and they crashed their boat and about 8 or 10 had fallen overboard and
some were drowning.
When the police got there, when the rescue teams got there, they
could not communicate with any of the people who were in dire straits,
and there was a lot of concern about the fact that this is not unique,
that this particular situation is not unique, that there had been many
times when police had been called out to a variety of different
situations but had trouble communicating because the people did not
So now police departments all over the country, this is not unique to
Colorado, they are putting people on who have a variety of language
skills so that they can perhaps respond to these issues. They are
Businesses are becoming concerned because they are fearful of
lawsuits being brought by people who cannot speak English or read it;
and, therefore, cannot read the safety warnings or whatever kind of
instructions are on the product. So consultants are telling businesses
that now they should be hiring people, they should be, of course,
printing things in different languages and/or hiring people to be able
to communicate in various languages.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how many languages will we have to try and
communicate in in order to satisfy this sort of legalistic tendency on
the part of many people in our country and to avoid lawsuits? In my
district, I have school districts where there are over 100 languages
that are spoken right now.
Mr. Speaker, we can handle immigration. I am not for a moment saying
that we have to slam the door shut tight behind us and that no one else
can come into this country. We can and should continue to allow people
to seek access to the United States and to the freedom and the economic
opportunity we offer. We should do so mindful of the fact that there is
a certain number above which we cannot really accommodate that easily
Mr. Speaker, I suggest that a million legal immigrants, plus those
that we bring in under the status of refugee, plus the four or five
million that stream across our borders illegally, I suggest that it is
too much. We cannot handle the massive numbers coming in here. That
does not mean that we, in fact, are opposed; or that I am opposed to
any sort of immigration, but we cannot handle it at these numbers.
There are ramifications to it. There are ramifications to it in our
schools with attempts to impose bilingual education in classrooms,
teaching children in a language other than English so they accomplish
very little in terms of achieving the skills necessary to be successful
in our society.
The pressures are there. Why? It is because the numbers are here at
such a level as to force a change in the structure of society.
There are ramifications to massive immigration. It behooves us, it is
our responsibility as the organization established, the entity
established to, in fact, determine who comes into the country and who
will not be allowed to come in. It is our responsibility to set an
immigration policy that is good for the immigrants who we allow in and
good for the United States on the receiving end.
An amnesty program for millions of people who came here illegally,
that is not a good proposal. That is not a plan, Mr. Speaker. That is
surrender. It may be, it has been suggested, as a matter
of fact, that this plan was proposed with the thought in mind that it
would attract a certain number of voters from various ethnic
communities, that they would support our efforts and the efforts of the
party in the White House, my party.
Well, I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if that is true or not, but I will
tell my colleagues this. Even if it were true that we would find a huge
number of Hispanics in this country changing their attitude about the
Republican Party and, therefore, voting for us in massive numbers, I do
not know whether that is true or not but it does not matter. We should
not make laws in this country for specific groups in order to entice
them to support us, our party or our candidacy.
We should make laws that benefit all members of our society.
I believe with all my heart, Mr. Speaker, that we can in fact entice,
encourage, explain our position. We can provide an explanation of who
we are as Republicans, let us say, explain the principles upon which
our party is founded, principles of individual freedom, individual
responsibility, and I believe we can make a case for someone to become
a Republican on that basis. Certainly the Democrats are free to do the
same thing. But that is the free marketplace of ideas. That is the
whole concept behind this government, that people should be encouraged
to support us one way or the other because of who we are, not because
we make a law especially for them, not just because their ethnic group
or their sexual preference or whatever. We have already divided this
country up in so many ways, it is hard to really understand who we are
as a Nation as opposed to some balkanized country in Eastern Europe.
We have divided ourselves into so many camps, Mr. Speaker, with so
many different interests. We have constructed a political system that
is supposed to now sort of accentuate these differences, but this is
not healthy for this democracy, not healthy for this republic, and it
is certainly the wrong reason to make law.
Mr. Speaker, the other day we had an event in Denver. A gentleman
came up to me at this event and he told me a story. This was an elderly
gentleman. He told me about an acquaintance of his who was a Filipino
by birth. He had fought against the Japanese in the Filipino resistance
in the Second World War. He eventually became associated with and
worked in some capacity or other with American military in the Second
World War. He was wounded in that process. After the war, this
gentleman, after having, remember, fought the Japanese, supported the
United States in that endeavor, fought on the side of the United
States, fought shoulder to shoulder with American servicemen in the
Philippines, this gentleman applied for citizenship to the United
States. Well, he waited one year and one year grew to two and two grew
to three and eventually it was 20 years that went by before this
gentleman, remember, a person who had put his life on the line, who had
fought shoulder to shoulder with American servicemen, it was 20 years
before he was allowed to come into the United States as a legal
citizen. Not too long thereafter, I think 2 or 3 years after he was
here unfortunately, he died. He had waited most of his life to come to
the United States and to do so legally took him, as I say, 20 years.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what do we say to his relatives? What do we say to
his memory? If we suggest, not only suggest but propose a law that
would give what he so desperately sought, access to this country
legally, if it would give it to millions of people who snuck into the
country, who did not fight in any way, had no greater claim to come
into this Nation than anyone else, except that they wanted the benefits
of this life, of this society. What do we say to people like that? How
can we look them in the face and tell them that they live in a just
Mr. Speaker, there are literally hundreds of millions of people like
this gentleman who would give anything to come to the United States and
who have in fact applied for entrance into this country. But we have a
quota for people from certain areas and we establish how many can come
in, supposedly. If you are going to do it legally, you wait. That is
exactly the way it should be. You do it by the rules. It is a travesty
to offer amnesty to people who ignored these laws. Again, I am not
blaming them individually, but I am also saying that it has not been in
our interest to reward them for that action.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that massive immigration into this Nation in
the numbers we are talking about is one of the most serious domestic
policy issues we face. It is extremely difficult to get many of my
colleagues to stand up here and talk about this because there is a fear
that if you do so, you will be branded as a racist, a xenophobe, a
variety of relatively unpleasant things that no one likes to be called.
Certainly I do not consider myself to be any of those things. I believe
that I am pro-immigrant, having come from an immigrant family. I
believe that the United States has been made richer in many, many ways
by the contributions of immigrant families from the time our Nation was
founded. I am not against immigration. We can handle a certain number
of people in here every year. But we cannot handle the millions and
millions of people who are streaming into this Nation and who are
waiting to stream into the Nation.
What if we really did eliminate the border? What if we really said,
``Well, if you want to come, come. Come on ahead.'' Does anybody wonder
about what would happen? How many hundreds of millions of people would
stream into the country? Could we really handle this? Could we really
provide for them and for ourselves and for our children the kind of
quality of life that we have come to build and expect in this country?
I do not think so. I do not believe anybody believes that.
So I ask to be rational in our approach to immigration. I believe
that most of the immigrants who have recently arrived in the United
States legally would agree with me, that that is the way it should be
done. I believe most of the immigrants here today would say that the
people coming in should not be rewarded for that kind of behavior, when
they themselves, the people who came here legally, had to go through
all of the hoops and did it right. So I do not think we are unique in
calling for a complete reversal of this peculiar policy that has been
proposed to give amnesty. I hope that we will once again regain control
of our borders, I hope that we will establish guest worker programs
that will satisfy the needs of business and industry in the United
States, those that tell us day after day--they tell me, anyway--that
they would go out of business if they did not have the opportunity to
use guest workers, but in reality all of that can be handled through a
guest worker program.
We do not have to rely on illegals in order to serve us, because the
illegals themselves are exploited more often than not by these
employers. They are paid less, they are ill-used, they are ill-treated,
because they know that if you are here illegally, you are afraid to
turn anybody in. This is not a good deal.
Illegal immigration is not a good deal for the immigrant, it is not a
good deal for the United States, and it should not be rewarded by
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