Rep. Tancredo on Illegal Immigration as Election Issue

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This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," November 7, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: First, to election and the big issue in this border state of Arizona, illegal immigration.

If my next guest gets his way, it will be the big issue, not only this election year, but right to 2008, a presidential election year where some suspect he could play a very big role, Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

Congressman, good to have you.

REP. TOM TANCREDO, R-COLO.: It's a pleasure, as always, Neil.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you something.

TANCREDO: It's a pleasure to be here.

CAVUTO: When people are polled on the big issues, Congressman, this was not. Illegal immigration was not. What do you make of that?

TANCREDO: Yes, well, a couple of things. First of all, it has become an issue upon which everyone agrees. And that's — that's really kind of the interesting thing.

At least here in Colorado, I will tell you, every single piece of mail I get at the door, every single television commercial I see, every radio commercial I hear talks about what that candidate is going to do about illegal immigration, how they're going to crack down. Or they're attacking their opponent for not cracking down on it.

So, in a way, I guess, you know, which way do you go? Everybody is in favor of cracking down on illegal immigration. That is a very good thing.

Plus, I — I also think...

CAVUTO: But for Republicans...

TANCREDO: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

CAVUTO: ... though, Congressman, it's a divided thing, right? I mean, some are saying, yes, go after them, you know, build a fence, shut down the border. But, then, there are the more moderate members — and we will get into this a little bit more in the show — who say: You know what? This isn't as big or hot an issue as we thought. We're going to go soft on it.

TANCREDO: Well, like I say, if they think it's not a hot issue, then, just simply explain to me why every single person running, of which I am aware — I saw something from Harold Ford in Tennessee a while back. I think it was a brochure that had how Harold Ford was going to crack down on illegal immigration.

I don't know. If it's not an issue, then, why is every single politician I know playing it like it was the banjo that they came in with?

CAVUTO: You know, Congressman, you and I have talked about this before, but your party has had a split view on this, more moderate position in the Senate, more hard-line position, led by you and others, in the House. Is this a divisive issue for Republicans? They certainly didn't get their act together this election year on it. I'm wondering about '08.

TANCREDO: I'm wondering about it, too. I think it is confusing. And here's one reason why it's confusing, Neil. The Republican Party is trying — many people in the party, certainly a lot of people running, are — are trying to — to distinguish themselves with this issue. They — they really are. As I say, they put it on every brochure. They talk about it all the time.

However, if the president doesn't talk about it, who is the head of our party — and if he does talk about it, he's sort of on the side of the the — of the — quote — "moderates," and he wants, you know, the amnesty thing and the guest-worker deal, that's a very mixed message.

It's hard to formulate a Republican policy on this, or a Republican position, when you have got the head of the party, the president, going off in one direction and most of the members who are running going off in another.

CAVUTO: Are you angry at your party?

TANCREDO: Oh, I am so frustrated with them. Frustrated is a better word than angry. I'm just frustrated that we did not see this, no matter how much certainly and — and I'm sure J.D. will tell you, he — I know he tried also — to convince our party of the power of this issue. They simply ignored it. And they have done it to their peril, I think...

CAVUTO: All right. You're talking about Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

TANCREDO: ... as the party itself.


TANCREDO: ... the president.

CAVUTO: And he — and he is going to be on later.

But I did want to ask this of you. If the party still have this sort of mezza mezza position, they're not really changing their mind, they don't think it's front and center, they think guys like you are maybe on the extreme end, is that enough to run for president for you?


TANCREDO: Why did I know you were going to come up with this toward...

CAVUTO: I don't know.

TANCREDO: Inevitably...

CAVUTO: It just came...

TANCREDO: Inevitably...

CAVUTO: It just came into my mind.

TANCREDO: It just came to you.


TANCREDO: Believe me, I will tell you this. If we — I think that this election is going to be important for a lot of reasons, of course. If the Democrats win, you're going to have open borders, and you're going to have amnesty.

And I will tell you this. That means that the 2008 election for president will be for all the marbles, as far as I'm concerned, especially about the immigration issue. And you bet your life, I'm going to be doing every single thing I can to make it that issue, and that includes running, if I have to.

CAVUTO: All right. We will see.


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