DENVER – A congressman who has been demanding tighter immigration controls is defending himself against allegations that illegal immigrants remodeled his basement.
Two employees of a contracting company say they and other illegal immigrants from Latin America helped install a home entertainment center and a bedroom in the Littleton home of Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., The Denver Post reported Thursday.
Last month, after the Post wrote about a young illegal immigrant's struggle to pay for college, Tancredo reported the teen and his family to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
On Thursday, Tancredo said that when the remodeling was done last fall, he never asked about the workers' immigration status.
Even if the workers were in the country illegally, "what is my responsibility at this point in time?" Tancredo said in a telephone interview from Washington. "I go to dinner at restaurants and probably have come into contact with people who are here illegally. I do not ask, of course. It is actually illegal and you can be sued."
The contractor, Creative Drywall Designs, and subcontractor Denver Audio Design said all their employees are in the country legally.
The newspaper said it would not identify the workers because they could get in trouble with INS.
Tancredo said enemies he made in lambasting the INS and in seeking strict enforcement of immigration laws are trying to discredit him.
"The fact is that I am a controversial figure," he said. "I have rankled the feathers of people who are immigration support groups and illegal immigrants themselves, so I am not surprised that somebody might make this accusation to embarrass me."
Tancredo called the INS after reading about honor student Jesus Apodaca and his family, illegal immigrants from Mexico who live in Denver. The congressman said INS officials told him they did not have the resources to try to take the family into custody.
Tancredo has pushed for use of troops to guard the borders.
"It is the government's responsibility to enforce our immigration laws, and if the INS were doing its job, no illegal immigrant would be available to violate our labor laws," Tancredo said in the Post.