[Congressional Record: June 17, 2002 (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 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
Mr. TANCREDO. Mr. Speaker, I have often come to the floor of the
House to discuss the issue of immigration and immigration reform. I
have also had that opportunity to do so in a variety of different
settings over the last several years. I have watched with interest in
the way that this debate has evolved, or some may say degenerated.
The fact is that it does seem to me that the debate over immigration
reform is entering a new phase, and unfortunately I think not a
productive one. Nonetheless, it is a phase in which the opponents of
immigration reform have moved from a thoughtful, sometimes thoughtful,
I should say, analysis of a major public policy issue to a darker, more
sinister and far less intellectually based discussion.
I say that because of an article that was run in the Dallas
newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, and I will get to it because it
describes an event and some of the activities surrounding an event that
I attended in Guanajuato, Mexico, a few weeks ago. The event was an
annual meeting of American Congressmen and Mexican parlimentarians and
legislators. It is an annual event, and I think this is the 21st or
22nd year of its existence. I was asked to attend this year, I am not
sure exactly why, but nonetheless I was asked to attend. I did so, and
found it to be a very stimulating and rewarding experience, stimulating
because the debate on immigration and immigration reform is one that
raises a lot of concerns and a lot of emotions; productive because at
the end of the 2 days, 2.5 that we were there, I walked away with a
feeling that at least my colleagues from the Congress of the United
States and our colleagues in the Mexican Congress were much more
understanding of the position that I hold vis-a-vis immigration and
immigration reform, and that which is held by a relatively large
majority of the people in this country.
I made it a point to explain that my observations with regard to
immigration are not borne out of any hostility towards Mexico, any
feelings of ill will, and certainly not any feeling about Mexican
immigrants themselves. In fact, my feelings about immigration are not
in any way, shape or form the result of opinions I have about anyone's
ethnicity or nationality. They are irrelevant. I view everyone who
comes into this country the same way I view my grandfather and great-
grandparents who came to this country at the turn of the century. They
are people for the most part seeking a better life. They come to the
United States for promises of economic prosperity and political
These are, of course, laudable goals. And if I were in their
position, I have no doubt I would be doing exactly the same thing. I
would be looking for ways to come to the United States in order to
better my life and the prospects of a good life for my children,
grandchildren and future generations.
I blame no immigrant for the problems we have in the United States
with regard to immigration. They are two different things entirely. I
am not anti-immigrant. I am certainly concerned about the effects of
massive immigration into this country. And it really does not matter
the country of origin from which the people coming here emanate. What
matters to me most is the numbers. And the fact that massive
immigration has an effect on many aspects of our society seems to me to
make that particular subject worthy of civil debate.
I think it is hard to suggest that the growing numbers of Americans
and/or people living in this country without benefit of citizenship,
many of whom live here without benefit of legal status, it is hard to
suggest that that growing number of people in this country does not
represent some intriguing opportunities and/or problems. Economic
problems certainly, in terms of the cost, the infrastructure that needs
to be created to support the many millions coming into the United
States, the schools, the hospitals, the social services.
The other economic issues deal with jobs. Some suggest that everyone
coming to the United States is taking jobs that no one here will take.
Others, and certainly I side with those who suggest that that needs far
deeper review than what has been given it, and that there are many
thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, even perhaps millions of
Americans who are today looking for a job that someone else holds and
that someone else may very well not even be a citizen of the United
States, or even here legally for that matter.
Then, of course, there is the national security issue. It is
undeniably true that the most recent terrorist activities that have
plagued the United States have been perpetrated by people who have come
into the country as visitors on visas. Some of them overstayed their
visas. Some of them lied about what they were going to do here and
could have been and should have been deported. Others, one in
particular, actually violated the status of his visa by leaving the
country, I believe that was Mohamed Atta, and could have been kept from
returning to the United States, or he could have been deported once he
came back after violating that visa status. Nonetheless, all were here
and all did their deeds.
As we look at the future, there is a great possibility, even
probability, that the United States will suffer other similar types of
terrorist attacks. And there is a great possibility that these attacks
will be perpetrated by people who come to this country from somewhere
else, either by sneaking into the country or coming here on some sort
of legal status but only for the purpose of doing us harm. And so our
ability to control our own borders, limited as they may be because of
the length of the borders, because of the fact that we have about 500
million visits a year into the United States, those complicating
factors make it more difficult
for us to control our borders but do not in any way, I think, give us
the right to ignore the borders as a place where we should be
concentrating our efforts in terms of national security. We may not be
able to stop everyone who is trying to come into the United States
illegally. That is surely true. But it is just as true that we can do
so much better than we are presently doing.
Tomorrow we will have a press conference at which we will discuss one
aspect of border security that is available immediately to us, and it
only needs the signature of the President of the United States to put
into effect. But that is for tomorrow.
I wanted to lay out briefly my own position on the issue of
immigration and immigration reform, because I will share with you, Mr.
Speaker, and actually I am going to quote liberally from two different
articles that I think are very important as we enter this next stage of
this debate that I mentioned to you. It is apparent to me that the
point of view that I represent here this evening with regard to
immigration control is gaining in acceptability and gaining in
political power because the opposition to it is becoming more
frightened, more vitriolic, more bombastic. That is always an
indication that we have struck a nerve and that something out there has
forced the opponents of immigration reform into this new accusatory
An example of what I am describing is an article, as I mentioned
earlier, that appeared in the Dallas Morning News on June 16 which
ostensibly is to describe this meeting that I have mentioned in
Guanajuato, Mexico. It is also designed to focus on me in particular,
my background; my, quote, supporters; the people that I, quote,
represent; and paints a rather negative picture, I should say, of all
of those things. It certainly presents me as someone who is more intent
upon keeping Mexicans out of the United States than I am about general
Remember, the meeting we were having was in Mexico. The discussion we
were having was pertinent to Mexican immigration into the United
States. Mexican immigration into the United States does in fact
represent the largest percentage of immigrants; and, therefore, of
course, it is hard to talk about immigration reform without referencing
periodically Mexico. But the tone of the article that says, ``Colorado
Politician on Guard at Mexican Border,'' that is the heading, would
certainly lead one to believe, if you were to accept everything that is
written here, that there is some great conspiracy or cabal in the works
that I have aligned myself with, as they keep saying here, and I am
quoting, unsavory supporters and unsavory characters.
The article said that all of the people in Mexico, all of the
Republicans and all of the Democrats plus all the people who were on
the other side, the Mexican legislators, were careful to distance
themselves from my views which are widely seen as, quote, anti-Mexican.
It goes on to say, Mr. Tancredo's message, quote, Mexican immigration
is leading to the balkanization of America. It says, he supports a
temporary guest worker program for Mexicans. Mr. Tancredo opposes
allowing more Mexicans into the United States on a permanent basis. He
even blames Mexican immigration for California's energy crisis. I am
called anti-Hispanic throughout this thing. Certainly anti-Mexican.
That is quoted a couple of times.
Suffice it to say that I have been on the floor of the House many,
many times, spent many, many hours in debate on this issue, or
discussion or monologues on this issue as I am doing tonight. I would
challenge anyone to review any of the hundreds, for all I know
thousands, of pages of testimony that I have given either in front of
committees or the transcript from the many hours I have spent on this
floor doing exactly what I am doing now, or the literally thousands,
maybe hundreds of thousands, of words that have been printed in the
media about my position on issues, on this issue in particular, and I
challenge anyone to go to anything I have ever said that would lead
anybody to believe that I have only one concern about immigration and,
that is, Mexico or Mexicans.
As I say, we spend a good deal of time talking about Mexican
immigration. It represents the greatest number. But it is never ever,
and I have never suggested that our efforts to try and curb immigration
be solely directed at Mexico. I have stated here, on I do not know how
many occasions, that it is not the ethnicity, it is not the
nationality, it is not the country of origin, it is the numbers. It is
how many come from a certain place, not necessarily where they come
from. And I am just as concerned about the northern border as I am
about the southern border. I believe there is, if not more insecurity
at the northern border than there is at the southern border, it is
certainly equally as disconcerting when we look at the situation that
exists on both the northern and southern borders.
I am concerned about our ports of entry on both coasts. I am
concerned about the ability of people to come into the United States
via air traffic into any city in the United States, into any
international airport in the United States, coming from countries all
over the world who come here without giving us really a clear
indication of who they are, come here without us knowing exactly what
it is they are going to do here, come here and overstay their visas
which for the most part I think accounts for a huge number of people
who are here illegally.
They are not just people who cross the border from Mexico. There are
people who came into the United States from a variety of different ways
and a variety of different ports of entry, most of them coming in with
visa status, with a legitimate visa status, many of them with bogus
visa status, but nonetheless coming that way and then simply
overstaying their visa and staying here illegally. I do not know the
percentage, but I would suggest to you it is a huge percentage of the
nearly 13 million people who are here illegally.
But this article would suggest that everything I say and everything I
do is designed to attack Mexico or Mexicans. Why would they say a thing
like this? Well, we know why, Mr. Speaker. It is because, of course, if
they can cast me in the light of a racist, someone who is anti-Mexican,
anti-immigrant in general, then they can marginalize me and hence the
things I say.
This article goes on at length to talk about the immigration reform
caucus which I formed here, a Member of Congress, one of I do not know
how many literally, probably hundreds of caucuses there are here in the
Congress, and it is exactly like any other caucus. Members join it
voluntarily. We have no outside support. They suggest that we get
funding from these nefarious groups and that my campaigns are supported
by, quote, what they say are unsavory characters. Quote, his critics
say that money comes from unsavory supporters.
Mr. Speaker, ``his critics say that money comes from unsavory
supporters.'' Who are my critics? Who are their names? What are their
And who are these unsatisfactory supporters? They just use that
phrase ``unsatisfactory supporters.''
Mr. Speaker, the last time I checked, we had something like 7,000
individual contributors who contributed less than $50 to any of my
campaigns, which, by the way, represents the greatest amount of money
that I have ever collected in the two campaigns that I have waged to
become a Congressman; $50 or less from thousands of people across the
These are the ``unsatisfactory characters'' to whom they refer? What
makes them unsatisfactory? Just because they gave to my campaign, in
the eyes of my ``critics''? Who are these critics?
Of course, nothing like this would ever hold up in a court of law.
You have to name your critics, and you have to name these people who
you call unsatisfactory. But in an article that is masquerading as an
article and is really an editorial, an opinion by the two authors,
Alfredo Corchado and Ricardo Sandoval, this is their editorial opinion
they have worked masterfully, I must say, into this ``article,'' an
article that is supposed to be an objective analysis of a news event.
What is objective about ``his critics say that his money comes from
unsatisfactory supporters?'' Anybody could state a thing like this,
because you do not name anyone here. Who are my critics that say such a
Then they go on to identify someone later, a Ms. Hernandez. She is,
let me see here, the head of the Latin American Research Service
Industry, a civil rights group in Denver. Now, I do not know who Ms.
Hernandez is, and I have never heard of the Latin American Research
Service Industry in my life; but they are quoted here, of course, as
some sort of expert on things, and she says that my rhetoric is anti-
Hispanic as well as just anti-immigrant.
Now, they finally did quote a critic of mine in this place; but, of
course, they did not quote anyone who suggests that I am not anti-
Hispanic or anti-immigrant, and there are many people, even, believe
this or not, in the Hispanic community, people who write us all of the
time, people who run organizations even in Denver, organizations that
are devoted to helping immigrants in Colorado, who have met with me,
who have indicated their support for my position, who recognize that
there is nothing in me or what I say that can be taken by a thoughtful
person as being anti-Hispanic, anti-Mexican, or even really anti-
The article goes on to quote the Southern Poverty Law Center. The
Southern Poverty Law Center did a ``four-month investigation'' which is
going to be featured in something they call the intelligence project. I
would question that descriptor there of ``intelligence.'' It charged
that many in the anti-immigrant network are ``increasingly tied to
openly white supremacist organizations and are steadily gaining power
in Mr. Tancredo's Immigration Reform Caucus.''
Let me restate the nature of a caucus in the House of
Representatives. It is made up of Members. Are they saying that Members
of our caucus are tied to openly white supremacist organizations? I
would like to know who those people are.
I have never actually even met anybody in this body who is tied to an
openly white supremacist organization. To tell you the truth, I do not
think I have ever met anybody in my life in that category. They are
certainly out there, I have no doubt; I just do not know them. I have
never come across them. I am lucky in that regard. I have never really
had to discuss anything with people like that, at least to the best of
But they are suggesting in this phrase, look at the way that was
printed, charged that ``many in the anti-immigration network.'' What
are these phrases? Many? Who are they? ``Anti-immigration network,
increasingly tied to openly white supremacist organizations.''
What are these ties? What are these ties that connect us to some
white supremacist organization, and how dare anybody say anything like
that and do so in a way, again, that is designed rhetorically to poke
at those very hot-button emotional issues in America?
A quote here from Martin Potok, the editor of this intelligence
report. This is talking about our caucus Web page. This is the main
page of a large caucus, a group of Congressmen directly linked in the
front page to hate groups. It goes on: ``Tancredo has become an
unofficial mouthpiece for some very unsatisfactory characters. His
message is eerily similar to theirs.''
This is an article. This is not an editorial. This is not some sort
of novel in the stage of trying to get it printed or something. This is
something that purports itself to be an objective analysis of the issue
of immigration, immigration reform, and certainly our own caucus and
who I am.
Well, it goes on like that at length, and it relies heavily on the
information from this thing, this organization called the Southern
Poverty Law Center.
I have noticed in the past that many people have relied on it, they
will use this Southern Poverty Law Center headed by a gentleman by the
name of Morris Dees, as some sort of credible organization, and that we
should somehow pay attention to what this outfit says about who is a
hate group and who is not. So, therefore, I looked back at some
interesting research that was done into this particular group,
organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and now I am going to
quote heavily from an article that was written a little over a year and
a half ago by a gentleman by the name of Ken Silverstein for Harper's
Magazine. This was November of 2000, to be specific. It is called ``How
the Southern Poverty Law Center Profits From Intolerance.'' He spends a
good deal of time focusing in on this Mr. Dees, Morris Dees, who is the
head of this organization.
It says here, ``Cofounded in 1971 by civil rights lawyer cum-direct
marketing millionaire, Morris Dees, a leading critic of `hate groups'
and a man so beatific that he was the subject of a made-for-movie TV,
the SPLC spent much of its early years defending prisoners who faced
the death penalty and suing to desegregate all white institutions, like
Alabama's Highway Patrol.''
That was then, this is now. ``Today, the SPLC spends most of its time
and money on a relentless fund-raising campaign peddling memberships in
the Church of Tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit court rider
passing the collection plate. He is the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of
the civil rights movement, renowned anti-death penalty lawyer Millard
Farmer says of Dees, his former associate, though I do not mean to
malign Jim and Tammy Faye.''
The center earned $44 million last year alone.'' Remember, this would
be 1999, ``$27 million came from fund-raising and $17 million from
stock and other investments. But the organization only spent $13
million on civil rights programs, making it one of the most profitable
charities in the country.''
Mr. Speaker, as an aside, we have been hearing lately about many
organizations, from the Red Cross to others, that have improperly, or
perhaps at least alleged to have improperly, used the funds that people
have given them, charitable organizations that spend way too much in
overhead, paid salaries, paid too high salaries to their administrators
and the like, and really do not do what they should in order to protect
the people they are supposed to be on whose behalf they are supposed to
But, interestingly, in the general media we have never heard much
about this particular organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center;
and I suggest to you it is because this organization's focus is
primarily defending liberal causes, liberal positions, and to the
extent that they are doing even what they say they are doing, or should
be doing, they could still be quite a reputable organization. But this
outfit is anything but reputable.
Mr. Dees, it goes on to talk about this gentleman, and since they
spent so much time in these articles and the law center has evidently
chosen to point fingers at me and my associates, I suppose it is only
fair that we turn the mirror on them, which I am doing, with the help
of this article by Mr. Silverstein.
``Mr. Dees, who made millions hawking by direct mail such humble
commodities as birthday cakes, cookbooks, tractor seat cushions and rat
poison in exchange for mailing lists containing 700,000 names,
including Presidential candidate George McGovern, he is nothing if not
a good salesman. So good that in fact in 1998,'' 2 years before this
article came out, ``the Direct Marketing Association inducted him into
its Hall of Fame. He says 'I learned everything I know about hustling
from the Baptist Church.''' This is Mr. Dees's quote.
``In fact Mr. Dees,'' it goes on to say here, ``does not need
anyone's financial support anymore. The Southern Poverty Law Center is
already the wealthiest civil rights group in America, though the
letter-writing campaign, the solicitations campaigns, naturally omit
that fact. Other solicitations have been more flagrantly misleading.
One pitch sent out in 1995, when the center had more than $60 million
in reserves, informed would-be donors that the 'strain on our current
operating budget is the greatest in our 25 year history.'
``Now, back in 1978, when the center had less than $10 million, Dees
promised that his organization would quit fund raising and live off the
interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached
that figure, the Southern Poverty Law Center upped the bar to $100
million, a sum that one 1989 newsletter promised would allow the center
to 'cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund-raising.' Today
the Southern Poverty Law Center's Treasury bulges with $120 million,''
remember, that is 2 years ago, ``and it spends twice as much on fund-
raising, $5.76 million last year, as it
does on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses.
``The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the center one of the
worst ratings of any group it monitors, estimating that the SPLC could
operate for 4.6 years without making another tax exempt nickel from its
investments or raising another tax deductible cent from well-meaning
In 1986, this well-respected center, this place that this article
refers to in some reverential tone, as if we are supposed to be
concerned and listen carefully to the accusations made by this outfit,
this center's entire legal staff quit in protest of Mr. Dees's refusal
to address issues such as homelessness, voter registration, and
affirmative action that they considered far more pertinent to poor
minorities, yet far less marketable to affluent benefactors than
fighting the KKK, which is like their main thing.
They keep sending out things about the KKK. The KKK is a bad outfit,
I am sure of that; and this outfit, the SPLC, keeps resurrecting that
ghost. It says here they had 4 million members in the 1920s to about
2,000 today, and as many as 10 percent of them are thought to be FBI
informants. So I would not consider the KKK to be the kind of threat it
was in 1920, but this outfit still uses them as their poster boy, sort
of, to get money.
Because the KKK, everybody says, oh, my God, send this money, or the
KKK will rise again. This outfit is a fraud.
The article ends up with this. This is again, quoting back here from
the Church of Morris Dees, the article name. Until the early 1960s,
Morris Dees sat on the sidelines honing his direct marketing skills and
practicing law while the civil rights movement engulfed The South.
``'Morris and I shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of
money,' recalls Dees' business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller.
`we were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be
independently rich.' They were so unparticular, in fact, that in 1961,
they defended a man guilty of beating up a journalist covering the
Freedom Riders whose legal fees were paid for by the Klan.''
``In 1965, Fuller sold out to Dees. Fuller donated his money to
charity and later started Habitat for Humanity,'' a well-respected,
this is a personal observation, a well-respected organization as far as
I know, and certainly one that deserves the support of all of us who
are concerned about homelessness. Dees, with his share of the money,
bought a 200-acre estate appointed with tennis courts, a pool, and
stables, and then in 1971 founded the Southern Poverty Law Center where
his compensation has risen in proportion to fund-raising revenues, from
nothing in the early 1970s to $273,000 last year, again, 1999.
``A National Journal survey of salaries paid to the top officers of
advocacy groups shows that Dees earned more in 1998 than nearly all of
the 78 listed, tens of thousands more than the heads of such groups as
the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the
Children's Defense Fund. The more money that the SPLC receives, the
less that goes to other civil rights organizations, many of which,
including the NAACP, have struggled to stay out of bankruptcy. Dees'
compensation alone amounts to one-quarter the annual budget of the
Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which handles several
dozen death penalty cases a year. `You are a fraud and a con man,' the
Southern Center'S Director Stephen Bright wrote in a 1996 letter to
Dees and proceeded to list his many reasons for thinking so, which
included, 'Your failure to respond to the most desperate need of the
poor and powerless, despite your millions upon millions. Your fund-
raising techniques and the fact that you spend so much accomplishing so
little and promote yourself so shamelessly.' ''
Soon, the SPLC will move into a new six-story headquarters in
downtown Montgomery, just across the street from its current
headquarters, a building known locally as the Poverty Palace. That is
the Southern Poverty Law Center. That is the organization to which we
are supposed to pay attention when it comes to determining who in
America is to be trusted and who is to be characterized in unsavory
Mr. Dees uses a tactic that has been around for a long time. Perhaps
the most familiar, perhaps the most famous individual in recent
American history that perfected a tactic of guilt by association, of
using that guilt by association to attack his enemies, of using
innuendo, half truths, out-of-context quotes, all of the things that we
know to be the tactics of unscrupulous individuals, perhaps we all know
that Joe McCarthy, a Senator from Minnesota, was and has been
characterized as the kind of poster boy for this kind of activity. He
made a career out of destroying other people's careers. He was
responsible for ending the careers and some say the lives, some people
I understand even took their own lives because of the destruction he
wrought upon them and their families. I do not know the degree to
which Mr. McCarthy's accusations were accurate or not; I know that he
is characterized as being a totally unscrupulous individual. But I
suggest to my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, that Mr. Dees and this Southern
Poverty Law Center together rival Mr. McCarthy in terms of the way they
can manipulate, they have attempted to manipulate. And I should say the
authors of the article that I mentioned earlier, Mr. Corchado and Mr.
Sandoval, the way that they use phrases, the way that they use things
like what ``critics,'' unnamed critics say; the way they use heavily
loaded, emotionally loaded language to try and characterize in this
case me and anybody else who believes, as I do, about immigration
reform as people that do not deserve to be heard. It is McCarthyism. I
am glad we have actually coined that term in America, because everybody
now knows what one means when they say McCarthyism.
And it is in its most despicable form that we see here the
reincarnation of it, in this article and in the work of this
organization. Mr. Dees apparently, according to this article, uses it
to line his own pocketbook. Others use it because they want to advance
themselves politically and/or destroy the reputations of people with
whom they disagree. Name-calling, calling people racist as they do in
here, suggesting that that is the motivating factor, that is the last
refuge of a scoundrel. And someone who has shrunk from the intellectual
debate that should occur about this very serious topic, their hope is
that we will cease and desist, that we will shrink from them, and
shrink from this battle because of the fear that someone will think ill
of us, and that someone will believe the scurrilous things that they
print. Well, some may, in fact, do that, Mr. Speaker. I recognize that,
and I am sorry about that.
I know what motivates me. I know what is in my heart. I know it has
nothing to do with race. I know it has everything to do with what I
consider to be an enormously complex and challenging public policy
issue. I believe it deserves debate in this place that we call the open
marketplace of ideas. But if these people had their way, we would be
silent. If these people had their way, I would refrain from any
references to immigration reform for fear that they will come after me,
that they will write nasty things about me, that they will try to
destroy my political career or even my own reputation.
Well, I assure my colleagues I will not stop this discussion, I will
not stop participating in this discussion. And I challenge all of those
who find this an uncomfortable situation and discussion to be in; and I
agree with my colleagues, I wish, in fact, we could move on to other
topics. I wish we could do that, but we cannot, because this issue is
not solved, the problem is not solved. We have not as a country faced
up to the problems of immigration on the scale that we presently see
it. It will change America, maybe for the good, maybe for ill. But
regardless of one's position on this, as I say, I believe it deserves
the debate that this kind of a forum offers.
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