When I dropped out of the running for the GOP presidential nomination, I felt like I could take credit for making the more telegenic candidates at least give immigration enforcement some lip service. It became conventional wisdom that I forced the immigration issue into the primaries. The New Yorker wrote,
"The emergence of Tancredoism as an ideological touchstone for two Republican front-runners is a stunning development, another indication of the Party's rejection of nearly everything associated with the approach taken by George W. Bush."[Return of the Nativist, By Ryan Lizza, December 17, 2007]
John McCain, the same man who had introduced an amnesty earlier that year, began changing his slogan to "Secure the Border First" by the end of the year. He even stopped using euphemisms like "comprehensive immigration reform."
However, as soon as he got the nomination he started running Spanish language ads blaming the Democrats for not passing amnesty!
McCain is currently facing a primary challenge from former congressman J.D. Hayworth, a solid conservative who led the fight against amnesty in Congress. Once again, McCain is beginning to sound a lot like me.
He's vocally supporting Arizona's tough new law—even though he had opposed much more moderate measures in the state such as their Proposition 200. He has an ad where he walks by the border and demands "Complete the danged fence."
Just a few years ago he had the opposite message, but with similar—if slightly more colorful—language.
In 2007 he told a group of business leaders that he thought, "the fence is least effective", but if that's what was needed to pass an amnesty, "I'll build the goddamned fence if they want it."
Republicans have already been fooled in 2010. In California, liberal Republican Meg Whitman ran off against conservative Steve Poizner, who took a strong stand against illegal immigration.
During the primary, Whitman ran ads saying she is "tough as nails on illegal immigration" and is "100% against amnesty." She continues,
"As governor, I will crack down on so-called sanctuary cities like San Francisco who thumb their nose at our laws. Illegal immigrants should not expect benefits from the State of California. No driver's license and no admission to state-funded institutions of higher education. "
Republican voters took the bait and gave her the nomination.
She immediately turned her back on them and started running ads in Spanish stating "se opone a ley de Arizona y proposición 187" meaning "She opposed Arizona's law and proposition 187." Proposition 187 was a ballot initiative that banned the state benefits for illegal aliens that she told Republican voters she opposed.
There are many other races where we face the same problems.
In Florida's 24th Congressional District, I endorsed Karen Diebel—a solid conservative who supported border security and opposed amnesty.
After I made the endorsement, her opponent Craig Miller's campaign called me a "bigot" and a "hatemonger" for my stance against massive immigration.
Now that Arizona's stand against illegal immigration is bringing the issue back into the focus of voters, Miller is beginning to sound like me.
His platform states America is "a nation that believes strongly in the rule of law and we must enforce the law."
"In the case of illegal immigration our worry is not that the Federal Government is overreaching, but rather that it has completely neglected its responsibility…In addition to making sure that the Federal Government finishes building the wall on our southern border, we need National Guard and other assistance sent to the Border States to stop the flow of illegal immigrants right now."
Yet Miller's record is just the opposite. In 2006, he wrote an op-ed for the Fort Worth Star-Tribune stating that our "current immigration policies are impossible to enforce" and that "clearly we can't fix our broken immigration laws simply by enforcing them more stringently." As an alternative, he suggested amnesty and increases in legal immigration.
Miller put his money where his mouth is. The National Restaurant Association spent millions of dollars lobbying for amnesty and against enforcement under his watch.
Make no mistake; men like John McCain and Craig Miller will go right back to supporting amnesty if they are elected.
Tom Tancredo (email him) represented Colorado's 6th Congressional District from 1999 until 2009 and chaired the 100+ member bipartisan Immigration Reform Caucus. He currently serves as co-chairman of Team America PAC and president of the Rocky Mountain Foundation.