[Congressional Record: October 9, 2001 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
IMMIGRATION: THE POROUS NATURE OF OUR BORDERS AND THE DEVASTATING
EFFECT THAT HAS ON OUR ECONOMY
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of
January 3, 2001, the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tancredo) is
recognized for 60 minutes.
Mr. TANCREDO. Mr. Speaker, I am here tonight to speak about a couple
of topics, in particular, of course, the issue that is always of
interest to me and I believe should be to our colleagues and to the
American people, and that is, the issue of immigration, the porous
nature of our borders and the very devastating effect that has had on
the United States literally and figuratively.
I want to preface my remarks this evening Mr. Speaker with some
observations that I had while I was waiting to address the House.
One of the previous hours was taken by the members of the Hispanic
Caucus, and they spent their hour dutifully recounting the notable
achievements of Hispanic Americans in the United States, both in the
military and in other areas; and as I say, dutifully, and it is
appropriate that those observations were made and those accomplishments
As I listened to them, it struck me just how peculiar it is to have
such a thing in this Congress. Certainly I think it is not unique here.
There are probably State legislatures around the country that probably
have a similar entity as a Hispanic caucus. That is a unique thing
here, of course, and interesting from a variety of different
standpoints. But it brings to mind the problem we are having in this
country with trying to integrate into our society all peoples of
various ethnic origins.
There is to some extent a desire on the part of many people to
integrate into our society and do so as quickly as possible as they get
here, newly arrived individuals, new immigrants to the American scene,
and that is as it has been since the inception of the country. Most
people coming into the United States are coming here for reasons that
help them adjust to the American scene by disassociating themselves
with their past and integrating themselves into the American mosaic.
I think to a large extent, although it is understandable, as I say,
for individuals to form themselves up into organizations to reflect
relatively narrow points of view and attitudes, it is peculiar, I
think, to have organizations like that in this body and in other
legislative groups around the country, and this all came home to me
recently in Denver, when I was asked to speak to a group called the
Hispanic Human Resources Association.
These are individuals who work in companies throughout the State of
Colorado in the capacity as human resource development people. It was
kind of intriguing to me when I first got their offer that there was
such an organization, first of all, Hispanic human resource
administrators. I mean, I think to myself, well, why Hispanic human
resource administrators? Why not Greek human resource, whatever, and of
course, I wanted to go and speak to them.
They wanted to talk to me about my position on immigration, a
position, of course, which is very, very unpopular among a number of
Hispanic organizations, not so unpopular among many Hispanic
individuals who live here in the United States, who themselves see the
problems that are created as a result of massive immigration, legal and
illegal, but many organizations, of course LARASA and others, who
attack my position quite vehemently.
They and this group to a large extent reflected that point of view,
but I wanted to go and I wanted to debate that point in front of them,
and I was there with a representative of another Member of this body,
the gentlewoman from Colorado (Ms. DeGette). And although she could not
be there that night, she sent a representative, and he and I were the
focal point of the evening discussion.
At the conclusion of our discussions, a gentleman in the back of the
room stood up and he was Hispanic. He said to me that he was concerned
about the fact that, as he pointed up to the dais where we were
sitting, that he and the other Hispanics in the audience were not
represented by the people at the dais.
In other words, not by me or by the representative from the office of
the gentlewoman from Colorado (Ms. DeGette). And he was very annoyed by
that. And he indicated that that was really his problem; that that was
a major problem that he has generally with American society, with his
particular situation in living in Denver, as I assume he did.
And I was extremely interested in that observation because it goes to
what I am talking about here tonight in terms of this Hispanic Caucus
that exists in the body. I said to him, I am really intrigued by what
you say, because what you have suggested is that because I am not
Hispanic nor is my colleague, the gentlewoman from Colorado (Ms.
DeGette), I cannot represent you and neither can she for only that
reason; not because we may not see eye to eye on the issue of taxation
or Social Security reform or the degree of support for the military or
any of the wide variety of issues that confront us all on this floor
day after day after day. No, not for any of those reasons did he feel
that he is not represented and could not be represented by either my
colleague or myself. He felt that he could not be represented because
neither of us, neither my colleague, the gentlewoman from Colorado, nor
I, is Hispanic.
That was really a fascinating thing in a way, because this is really
a problem in our society, Mr. Speaker, I believe, this balkanization of
America, this assumption that in order for us to be truly
``represented'' in any body, any legislative body, it can only be
someone of our ethnic background. So I said to him, do you know what
that means, sir? That means if you are telling me I cannot represent
your interests, and I may very well not represent your point of view on
a wide variety of issues, because I assume you are a very liberal, sort
of maybe a Democrat-leaning individual and I am a conservative
Republican, so you are probably right that I do not represent your
political point of view, I will give you that. But it is not because I
am Italian; it is because I simply do not agree with your issues. But
you are also suggesting that my colleague, the gentlewoman from
Colorado (Ms. DeGette), does not represent your point of view, even
though I will bet you anything that on every single one of your issues,
everything that you can talk about, everything that you can possibly
come up with as a public policy issue, I will bet you that she agrees
with you. But you do not think that is good enough; that she agrees
with you on every single public policy issue. You say she has to be
Hispanic to represent you. Well, of course, what that means is that you
cannot represent me. You could never represent me; not because you do
not believe what I believe, but because you are Hispanic and I am
I mean does that make sense to anybody here? Do we really believe
that that is the way we ought to determine who gets elected to office,
based solely on their ethnic background? And yet that is what this is
all about. We draw lines. We are in the process now around the country
of redrawing district lines for the Congress of the United States. And,
interestingly, we continue to think about and courts continue to
adjudicate lines drawn to protect specific minority groups so that
minority groups, black and Hispanic, can have their representation
here. But, of course, that begs the question, does the color of our
skin make us incapable of responding to the needs and desires and
wishes and attitudes of our constituency, if it is not the same color
as the majority of the people who live there in that particular
This is a very dangerous thing, Mr. Speaker. And I do not blame my
colleagues for getting up here tonight and extolling the virtues of
Hispanic Americans. They are wonderful people, and I certainly join
them in their praise of the accomplishments of many people. But in a
way it almost makes you wonder why we have to say it in that way. Why
do we have to say these are the accomplishments of Hispanic Americans?
Is it not just the fact these people did marvelous things and they are
Americans? Is that not what we should really be giving them credit for,
in order to not create and continue this divide that simply, I think,
personally, makes it very difficult for America to succeed in its goal
of a united States of America, of a united people of America?
I see banners and signs all over. I am sure my colleagues have seen
them, too, Mr. Speaker. I saw them on U.S. 66 coming from the airport,
hand-painted banners people had hung over the overpass and they said
``United We Stand.'' Let us be united. That was kind of the underlying
theme of all of these banners I saw; that we were united as a people
against the threat of international terrorism. That is exactly what we
have to be. There is no two ways about it. We must be united in order
to confront this threat and to be successful in that confrontation.
It does not help us, I think, in our quest to be united to constantly
be reminded of our differences, again be they ethnic or religious or
anything else. It is problematic from that standpoint; it is
detrimental to American interests. And I worry about the degree to
which this affects our culture, and I worry about the fact that it has
an impact certainly on this body and it has an impact throughout the
country. Again, what an odd thing, in a way.
I wonder what the founders would say, Mr. Speaker. I would be
fascinated to know what the founders of the Nation would have said if
during their deliberations on the Constitution of the United States and
the Declaration of Independence someone were to have suggested to them
that it would be important to add a provision in the Constitution that
assured that every ethnic group that one could possibly identify in the
United States should have a special area in the country where they are
highly populated, have that special area cut out and have a
representative of that ethnic group especially for them. I wonder what
they would have said about that. I wonder if they would have suggested
that that was ``a good idea'' for American democracy. I do not think
As I say, I mentioned to that gentleman that night that it was wrong,
I believe. And by the way he responded and he said, are you telling me
you really think we should not have separate groups to represent our
points? I said, you are right, if what you are telling me is that your
point of view needs to be represented by someone of a particular ethnic
background. Then I am telling you I am opposed to that. I am totally
opposed to that. I am Italian American, 100 percent Italian American;
but I will tell you this, I would no more cast my vote for another
Italian American simply because he or she was Italian than I would cast
a vote blindly. Because it depends on what they think, what they
believe, who they are politically. That is how I would vote.
I know people in the State of Colorado for whom I have voted, Lilly
Nunez, who is a lady I have known for 25 years, and who I nominated for
national committee woman from Colorado; Bob Martinez, who I supported
for national committee man. I did so not because either one of those
two people are Hispanic, but because they were Republicans and they
were the kind of Republicans that I wanted to see in power, in place.
They were conservatives. And that is the only thing that really matters
to me. It is not their ethnic background.
But if I were to live by the dictates of the folks who come in here
and form these caucuses and develop these groups and keep trying to
divide America into these various balkanized States, then I would say,
no, I could not possibly, evenly though I know Joe and Lilly Nunez very
well, and I believe that they are solid Republicans, I could not vote
for them because, gee whiz, they are Hispanic and they could not really
represent my interests. That is idiotic. But that is the point of view
that these organizations want us to proceed upon, and they go into
court throughout the Nation and try to get courts to adjudicate this
redistricting issue on their behalf so that they will cut up districts
in order to have representation of a specific ethnic group. And I think
that is abhorrent.
I was struck by that, as I say, as I was listening to the debate
tonight. Once again, please do not misunderstand me or misconstrue what
I am stating here tonight. I absolutely agree with and lend my voice to
the adulation for all of the accomplishments of the Hispanic
individuals they mentioned. The Americans they mentioned. The
Americans. No hyphen. The Americans. They did extraordinary things, the
38 members they identified; winning the congressional medal of honor. I
say God bless every single one of them. The Nobel prize, and the
various other things they were talking about. God bless every single
one of those people for what they did for America as Americans. And
that is the way they should be remembered.
Now, let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, that we are confronted by an
incredible dilemma this evening on the floor of this House and as a
Congress of the United States, and that is how to construct the most
powerful alliance that we can possibly think of in order to confront
the terrorists who have perpetrated such heinous acts on the United
States on September 11. The spawn of evil is the way I identify these
It seems to me that there are some interesting things that we
confront in that particular endeavor; and one is, as I say, trying to
build a coalition of countries who will help us in a variety of ways:
Contributing armed forces, contributing financial support, agreeing to
do something within their own financial systems to stop money from
being transferred among and between these organizations, share with us
intelligence information, help us maintain some sort of integrity on
our borders. All of these things are the signs of what a friend would
It is interesting to me, and I think it elucidates the problem that
we are having around the world when we talk about one particular
``friend'' of the United States and what they are doing for us, and
that ``friend,'' and I put that in quotes again, is Mexico. Mr.
Speaker, after September 11, literally scores of nations immediately
rushed to our support, promised various degrees of help and support.
But one was conspicuous by its absence, one of our friends. One of our
neighbors was conspicuous by its absence in support for our endeavors,
and that, of course, was the country of Mexico.
Now, if my friends in the Hispanic Caucus here tonight really want to
do something for the United States, then let me make a suggestion to
them because they have chosen again to form themselves up into this
specific sort of ethnic group. Let me suggest to them that this is a
very positive role that group can play. Instead of trying to divide
America, separate America, it seems to me that they could make a plea
to the Mexican Government and to Vicente Fox.
On behalf of the Hispanic Caucus in the Congress of the United
States, it would have been heartwarming to hear them say, President
Fox, please give the United States the support we need in order to
defend ourselves against these terrorists. Please do not hold back any
more. Please try to overcome the objections within your own government,
which have been noted in the paper here several times, and be
forthcoming and bold in your willingness to help the United States.
This is an article which appeared in the Washington Post on September
26. Mexico City, September 26, President Vicente Fox fighting charges
that he has been lukewarm in reacting to terrorist attacks in New York
and Washington. He came to the United States and sort of wanted to do
some damage control. Fox's comments in the speech Tuesday followed a
period of uncharacteristic quiet from the usually loquacious Mexican
leader who had made friendly relations with Washington a trademark of
his 10-month old administration. After calling President Bush and
offering public condolences after the attacks, Fox seemed to focus on
domestic Mexican issues, at least in public. And despite months of
globe trotting and talking about how Mexico wants a greater role in
foreign affairs, the article goes on to say, there was no trip to the
rubble of the World Trade Center, no photo op of the dos amigos at the
In response, some Mexicans called Bush and Fox distant friends. An
editorial in London's Economist magazine asked whether Fox was a
Since the attacks, it says, Fox has been in an uncomfortable spot.
Voices from the Mexican Congress, intellectuals and the public have
long made it difficult for the Mexican Government to be seen as too
supportive of the United States. Mexico has a tradition of avoiding
getting swept in the U.S. policies and refusing to intervene in foreign
conflicts. Nationalism often has been defined as anti-Americanism,
anti-Americanism from our neighbor to the south. Refusal to provide the
support that we should expect from our neighbors and friends. Refusal
to provide the support that one would expect from a country for which
the word trust was used over and over and over again during President
Fox's visit here to the United States. He must have used that 10 times
during his speech to this body. We need to trust one another he said,
over and over again.
Well, President Fox, if the Hispanic Caucus will not bring this to
your attention, then let me. If you want to develop that trust that you
ask for, there are things we can do. You can help us first of all by
securing our border, our mutual border, our common border. Help us in
defending that border against incursions. Help us in stopping the
traffic of illegal aliens across that border, whatever nationality,
wherever they come from.
Mr. Fox, you recognize the problem, I would say to him, Mr. Speaker.
You recognize the problem in your own country, where you have not too
long ago ordered the military, the Mexican military, to go down and
defend the border between Mexico and Guatemala from incursions of
Guatemalan immigrants whom you identified as people that had to be kept
out because of the problem they caused in Mexico.
Now, in doing that, President Fox, I would say, I do not challenge
you. You make the decisions that are necessary for the well-being of
your country. So then help us, I would ask him, help us in doing
exactly the same thing on your northern border. Of course, he is
constrained from doing that, Mr. Speaker, because the politics inside
Mexico are such that he could probably never get away with such a
The article in the Post goes on to say, Carlos Fuentes, Mexico's best
known novelist, also weighed in noting his concern that the declared
U.S. war against ``an enemy without a face,'' could bring civilian
casualties. Fuentes reminded Mexico of its independence from its
powerful neighbor, saying in widely published comments, quote, ``we are
partners of the United States, not their hangers-on.''
The newspaper Reforma drew a scorecard. This is fascinating, Mr.
Speaker; and I really hope our colleagues pay close attention to this.
This is a Mexican newspaper called Reforma. It drew a scorecard of how
supportive 15 countries have been for Bush. Mexico came in second from
last, tied with China, slightly above Iraq and Cuba. The rankings were
based on 10 signs of solidarity such as holding a national moment of
silence, visiting Bush, granting permission for the use of military
bases or air space.
We have refused so far to make a public issue of this lack of
response on the part of our southern neighbors because I think we do
not want to embarrass them or ourselves. I think the President has not
asked President Fox for overt shows of support, signs of support,
because he knows he cannot get it from President Fox. He knows that the
Mexican people do not support it.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would very much have appreciated hearing tonight
from the Hispanic Caucus on the floor of this Congress how they were
going to deal with this issue, again, since they choose to form
themselves up in that kind of an organization, it is fair for me to
ask. Why will they not talk to the President of Mexico and your
colleagues down in the Mexican Congress and ask them to provide the
same sort of support to the United States that Canada, Brazil,
Argentina, Uruguay have provided?
Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, that the countries I have just noted
were listed in the paper today. As I was flying in, there was a map of
the world and they were listing the countries of the Americas that had
helped the United States. Canada, of course, add to that list. And the
ones I just mentioned, those were identified as being, to the best of
my recollection, those were identified as being the countries in the
Americas that had come forth and helped us in our time of need. One
was, again, conspicuous by its absence, Mr. Speaker. Where was Mexico?
Where is Mexico in this dispute?
Here are excerpts from Mexican newspapers. Many Mexican newspapers
reacted to the first strikes by the United States and England against
Afghanistan by criticizing U.S. President George Bush and questioning
Mexico's governmental support. Daily La Jornada printed an editorial
saying that the attack was ``not about justice or international law. It
was a unilateral and arbitrary act of revenge.''
An editorial called the act ``Bush's holy war'' and said it is the
start of a war in which Mexico has no moral, political, or military
reason to participate. I want to repeat that, Mr. Speaker. This is the
editorial in La Jornada, a daily in Mexico. It is the start of a war in
which Mexico has no moral, political or military reason to participate.
The murder of 6,000 innocent people in the Trade Towers and the
planes that were used as missiles does not create a moral dilemma for
Mexico according to this. Well, what in the name of God would if that
does not do it?
The newspaper Excelsior said, ``Mexico should not distance itself
from its political tradition of rejecting war to resolve even the most
difficult international controversies.'' The Daily added that Vicente
Fox's government ``voiced its support of the actions of the U.S. and
Great Britain.'' Hopefully, it said, ``that was not an effort to
appease the Bush Government.'' The Bush Government.
La Cronica de Hoy printed in its editorial page, quote, ``They will
start two wars. One of the U.S. against the Taliban and one based on
threats. In the first missiles are launched at targets that fail to
feel the power and courage of the most powerful Nation.''
An editorial in that La Jornada was the strongest yet, saying it is
not necessary to go back decades to see the moral similarity between
the U.S. Government and its current enemy at the moment, covert acts of
censorship and lies.
This paper in Mexico compares the United States with its current
enemy. We, I guess according to this paper, are similar to the Taliban,
similar to the bin Laden organization, al-Qaeda.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on here with these quotes from Mexican
newspapers. Suffice it to say that our friend in the south is not
showing us that degree of trust that was called for by its President
when he was here. Nor, Mr. Speaker, should we extend any trust under
Street vendors, I am told, in Mexico are selling T-shirts that say
essentially in Spanish, ``Go Taliban.'' I am told that the sales are
For night after night I have come on this floor, Mr. Speaker, and I
have talked about my concerns with massive immigration; and I continue
to raise those concerns tonight because I believe that this is a
significant problem for the United States, that a country to our south
that contributes the greatest bulk of the immigration to the number of
immigrants to the United States with this kind of attitude, this is not
really all that healthy for the United States. We find ourselves in a
difficult position if these are the attitudes that these people bring
with them. I do not know that they are.
My concern is that they may be. And I am also concerned about simply
the numbers. It is the massive numbers coming from any country. In this
case it is Mexico. But the massive numbers make it very difficult for
integration to occur. It only exacerbates the problem of the divisive
nature of these debates. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, let us go ahead
and talk about the political reality of massive immigration.
One reason we have it, one reason we cannot stop it, one reason why
it is so hard to get people to address it is because there are
political ramifications to it. One party enjoys a great benefit as a
result of massive immigration. People become citizens in the United
States, or even if they do not, many of them still vote illegally.
We have cases of that popping up all over. Just recently one of the
groups of terrorists or it is one in the group of terrorists had
actually voted in United States elections twice and was not a citizen,
needless to say. So it is not hard for voter fraud to occur. We do not
know the extent to which it occurs, but I think it is significant.
At any rate, people come here and are attracted to one particular
party who promises, more than anything else, government largess; and
that is one reason why we cannot stop immigration, legal or illegal.
I hate to say it, Mr. Speaker, but I believe with all my heart that
a serious problem as a result of porous borders and our unwillingness
or inability or a lack of desire to actually create borders with
I have said this before, and I will say it again. If, God forbid,
another event were to occur in this country of the nature of the
September 11 events and if those events were perpetrated by people who
came across our borders illegally, snuck into the United States, or
were here on visas that were extended, overextended, or were here on
visas that were violated because they were not doing what they were
supposed to do or were here because we let them in because even though
they have been associated with terrorist organizations, right now, Mr.
Speaker, that by law, by a law we have, that is not enough to keep them
out. If they put down on a piece of paper, yes, I am a member of al
Qaeda, that does not mean we could keep them out right now. We asked
for the ability to do that. The administration sent a bill to the
Committee on the Judiciary to ask for the ability to do just that, and
it was turned down, it was watered down in order to get bipartisan
So we have this problem. We have open borders, essentially. We have
right now almost a quarter of a million people living in the United
States who have gone through the system and been found guilty of
violating their visa, or guilty of some law, the violation of an
American law, and they were ordered to be deported, Mr. Speaker, but
they are still here. A quarter of a million people have been ordered
deported but are simply roaming the country because the INS chooses not
to go after them. I will say this again, that if anything else happens
and it is the same sort of situation, somebody else coming into this
country and doing that and we choose to do nothing about securing our
borders, not only are we irresponsible in this body but we are
We look to do everything we can. We go to country after country
asking for support. We look to cut off their money supply. We look to
destroy their infrastructure. We look to every single way there is to
try and stop terrorists from perpetrating heinous acts, their acts of
hatred on this country, but we are afraid to do one thing. We are
afraid to actually begin to control our own borders, because there is a
political problem here, a political issue. I think that is despicable.
No one should care about how these people will eventually vote. No one
should care about whose party would be more benefited by the massive
numbers of people coming across our borders. What we should care about
is the safety of the Americans here of every race, religion, creed,
color. We should be concerned about every single Hispanic American
here, citizen, every single black American, every Hindu, Muslim,
whatever, I do not care what.
That is our main concern, Mr. Speaker. It is not some political need
to keep these borders open that we should be concerned about. And if
that concern overrides our major responsibility as a country, as a
Federal Government, then I say shame on us, because our responsibility
is here clear. The Federal Government has one responsibility, primary
responsibility. It is more important than health and human services, it
is more important than the Department of Education, the Department of
Interior, the Department of Transportation. It is more important than
all of that. It is to protect the lives and property of the people in
this country. That is it. That is our main goal. Everything else pales
in comparison. If we refuse to take that one step that would help in
that direction, and I am not suggesting for a moment that even if we
seal our borders, we would be absolutely able to be sure, positively,
undeniably we will never have another attack of this nature, certainly
I cannot say that, but I can say this, we will lessen the chance. And I
will dare anyone, I challenge anyone to stand up and explain to me how
we can possibly keep open borders under these circumstances. I just
simply do not understand it. But we will do it, Mr. Speaker, unless the
people of this Nation rise up in a loud voice and let their
representatives know that they are concerned, more concerned even than
the political problem of closing down the border, the political
ramifications of such a thing.
Again I ask my friends in the Hispanic Caucus, please send a message
to our friends, if they are friends, in Mexico. We need their help. It
is not just our Nation we are trying to protect. It is civilization. It
is not just our morality that we are trying to defend, it is the
morality of civilized men and women all over the world. And we need
their help. The sign of a friend would be to say, we put aside all
these regional differences now, we know that there is something bigger,
more dangerous that affects us all, and we will help you secure your
border, America, and we will do something else: If the Arab nations
that control OPEC, if they attempt to blackmail the United States again
by raising the cost of oil, we will sell you oil from our state-owned
oil company at lower prices, and we will look to see everything we can
do in terms of intelligence gathering to help you in your efforts to
quash al Qaeda and any of the other organizations that are designed for
the purpose of bringing death and destruction to the United States and
the Western hemisphere and civilization.
Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil. Can their efforts be any more in common
with ours than Mexico? But they understood that there is a moral
dimension to this that extends all the way through and across their
borders. How could we not expect the same from our, quote, trusted
neighbor in the South? It is not just our safety that I plead for their
support on, it is their own. It is civilization itself that is
threatened, make no bones about this. This is not just a war between
the United States and Osama bin Laden, or al Qaeda or any of the other
various individual terrorist groups. This is a war about whether
civilization as we know it, where free thought and individual freedom
reign, will be overtaken by the darkness of a barbaric time.
So it is in your interest, Mexico, not just ours, to help in this
endeavor. Until that happens, I do not believe we can call you a
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