Tom Tancredo, the former Colorado Congressman who touted Trumpian nationalist views long before Donald Trump rose to power, joined with conservative radio host Peter Boyles last week to discuss the destruction of the Colorado GOP.
Tancredo, who once ran for president on an anti-immigration platform, voiced his disdain for Colorado Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, as well as former Republican Senator Cory Gardner, for not taking a heavy-handed stance against undocumented immigration.
“Who in Colorado–has anybody asked Bennet, or Hickenlooper…Or Cory–what are you going to do about [undocumented immigration]?” Tancredo asked. “Well Cory, what’s he gonna do,” he added with a note of sarcasm.
Boyles then claimed that if Gardner had run an aggressive advertisement during his run for reelection in 2020, calling now-Senator John Hickenlooper out for helping pass legislation to allow non-citizens access driver’s licenses while Colorado Governor, he could have stood a better chance of winning the race.
“Hey Cory, here’s a commercial: remember when Hickenlooper gave driver’s licenses to illegal aliens? Remember that Cory Gardner ad that said that? Because I don’t,” said Boyles on air.
Gardner actually tried to sell himself as a friend of DREAMers during the 2020 Senate race. His past voting record on the issue, however, is mixed. He co-sponsored a bill along with Bennet in 2018 to grant said young, undocumented immigrants legal status in the U.S., but prior to that, he actually opposed a historic bill in 2013 that some argue would have put immigration fights in the rearview mirror.
Tancredo is still just as haunted by undocumented immigration as he always has been:
“The border, the border, the border. Oh my god, it’s just unbelievable. The cartels–you know, Mexico is a narco-state, has been for a long time, but it is now completely and totally run by them,” Tancredo said to Boyles. “And so all those people come across that border–they have been paying–especially ones that are coming up from South and Central America–they have paid the cartel thousands and thousands to get them there.”
Tancredo, during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored and supported many anti-immigration bills–not just against undocumented immigration by undocumented people, but sometimes broader immigration as well, such as the RIGHT Act of 2005, which proposed caps on almost all immigration into the U.S.
The Latino population in Colorado is both sizable and diverse; the same can be said for Coloradans who lean Democrat.
The Hispanic population in Colorado was the eighth largest in the country in 2014, and 21% of the state’s population was Hispanic. Also in 2014, 15% of Colorado’s eligible voters were hispanic.
With Colorado’s current demographics, is Boyles’ hypothesis that Gardner could have seen success with a stronger platform against undocumented immigration a plausible one?
Hugo Chavez-Rey, Chair of the Colorado Hispanic Republicans, thinks that most Latino voters here legally are strictly against undocumented immigration:
“Do I think that it’s a bad idea to voice an opinion against illegal immigration? No, I don’t,” Chavez-Rey told the Colorado Times Recorder. “Because Hispanics, for the most part, if they’re here legally and came here legally through the process, they resent illegal immigrants just as much as anybody else. You never hear that in the news. You never hear that the majority of Hispanics who are citizens here do not approve of illegal immigration.”
Chavez-Rey could not cite a credible source for his statement that Hispanics resent undocumented immigrants.
According to the American Election Eve Poll, Coloradan Latinos overwhelmingly agreed in 2020 that U.S. immigration policy should focus on compassionate and streamlined solutions for undocumented immigrants, with 81% in favor.
A majority of Coloradan Latinos also said they are more inclined to vote Democratic, that they have seen racism and discrimination against Latinos increase–and they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Hickenlooper over Gardner.
The Republican Party in Colorado hopes to attract more Latinos, and Chavez-Rey agrees, stating last week that Latinos and Hispanics tend to hold “Republican values.”
But the Latino community is diverse in its views and its priorities, and if a party wants to win them over, they’ll need to focus on what effects the community the most.
Dusti Gurule, director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, says the Latino community is “not a monolith.” Chavez-Rey employed the same phrase to me, using Cuban-Americans as an example, who lean more conservatively.
Regardless, an ad about driver’s licenses wouldn’t have been enough for Gardner to win, Chavez-Rey claims.
“I didn’t like [Gardner’s] campaign; some of the ways he ran his campaign,” he said. “I think Hickenlooper was beatable, but he definitely had the inside track simply because of the nature of the electorate here in Colorado changing over the years. Peter Boyles has his opinions–they’re not always what I agree with.”
Chavez-Rey also pointed out that as long as the driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants can’t be used for voting, they likely do more good than bad.
“The driver’s license issue has two problems,” he said. “One is, do you want drivers running around without licenses and/or insurance, and B, is that license going to be used for something besides driving? You know, like obtaining a voter registration or something like that.”
The Colorado driver’s licenses granted to undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action Childhood Arrival immigrants say on the front, “Not valid for federal identification, voting or public benefit purposes.”