Arellano vs. Tancredo: Top 5 Highlights From Meeting Of Immigration Minds, From "Tough Crap!" to Assimilation

Tancredo and Arellano
Political season is behind us, for now, but that doesn't mean we can't pull together a good ol' fashioned immigration debate throw-down, does it? Besides, as we all know, when it comes to the topic of immigration, the conversation never stops.

That said, a stage at Su Teatro in Denver, Colorado became the platform for the most recent discussion.

In the leather chair to the left, wearing khakis and a black sport coat and your typical politician haircut was the man known for his outspoken dislike of our neighbors to the South, Tom Tancredo. In the opposite chair, sporting a black suit with black Chuck Taylors, ¡Ask A Mexican! columnist Gustavo Arellano.

The meeting of the immigration minds was a long time coming. After years of skirting the get-together while in political office, Tancredo was finally sweet-talked into the meeting by Westword's editor, Patricia Calhoun--"because he now had more time on his hands." It also helped that Arellano was in town for a few days at Metro State for the Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship.  

They met, they talked, voices were occasionally raised, Tancredo said "crap," and what follows are a few other points of discussion and highlights.

1. Assimilation
Assimilation, along with acculturation, were major buzzwords of the evening. Gustavo told the story of his parents coming to this country--his dad came in the trunk of Chevy in 1968 and his mom dropped out of school in 9th grade--and his upbringing in a Spanish-speaking household. (Regular Weekly readers, you've heard all this before.) He told of his determination to learn English, and his parents insistence that he go to college. Of his assimilation and acculturation, Arellano claimed, "I'm not the exception, I'm the rule.

"Just knowing English is not a sign of assimilation," Tancredo countered. He went on to claim that Mexicans or Mexican-Americans did not want to assimilate, based on some far-flung belief that the Mexican government has some unwavering control over "allegiance" of its people, whether living in Mexico or the United States. Later in the conversation, Tancredo would say later, in a seemingly contradictory statement: "I've never said Mexicans can't assimilate, because millions have, but millions don't."

2. Stopping Illegal Immigration
During Tancredo's recent run for governor of Colorado, a major point of his platform was that he could immediately stop illegal immigration. Calhoun's question was simple: "How?" Years ago, Tancredo's response was, "Just watch me." He finally answered in a few more than three words.

"Enforce the laws," Tancredo said. The primary concept: E-Verify. The idea being that employers would have to submit Social Security numbers to a system that would determine if an individual was qualified for employment. Tancredo insisted his push for this system "has nothing to do with race." Which doesn't exactly jibe with his earlier statements about the "cult of multiculturalism" in this country.

When Tancredo started talking about cracking down on employers who hired illegal immigrants, Gustavo paraphrased is opponent thusly: "Smash capitalism!" Good one.

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