by Chloe Kowalski ’12, Contributing Writer
Rocks breaking windows and yells of violent protest prevented Tom Tancredo from speaking on immigration policy at the University of North Carolina in 2009.
But on Monday night, Tancredo drew a civil audience of students, faculty, and community members who packed Burgiss Theater, which seats 173. The event was sponsored by the Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow.
A Colorado Republican who served in Congress 1999-2009, Tancredo has been a lightning rod for debate for his conservative views on immigration. He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security, which proposes solutions to what he considers major flaws in the U.S. immigration system. Tancredo also ran for president in 2008.
The subject of “cult of multiculturalism” was a common theme in Tancredo’s message at Furman.
“What we have in America is a diversity cult—this idea that it is the most important thing,” he said. “Diversity can be a good thing, but it can’t be the only thing that you have in common. I mean, isn’t that a little oxymoronic? How can diversity be the only thing that holds us together?”
According to Tancredo, cultural diversity harms U.S. culture. Tancredo supports a strict immigration policy and argues that immigrants who refuse to assimilate have a negative impact on jobs, wage rates, the education system and the national identity.
“My discussion on immigration has nothing to do with race,” he said.
Instead, Tancredo cited language, culture, food, attitudes, and history as immigration “baggage” that should be exchanged for a homogenous American identity, rather than the current “hysterical commitment to multiculturalism.”
During his talk Tancredo drew on experiences from his childhood with his Italian grandparents, emphasizing their efforts to become “Americanized.”
Tancredo said the U.S. has struggled with immigration policy “since about 1850, that’s when immigration started to become an issue.”
Since that time, he said, immigration has been a cycle allowing highs and lows to facilitate an immigrant’s assimilation into the American culture. A profound problem, he said, has emerged in the last 45 years due to a steady rise in immigration.
Looking ahead to 2012, Tancredo said the Republican candidate, if elected, should heavily invest in technology to replace low-cost, undocumented immigrant workers. He also said that drones and “boots on the ground” should be deployed at the nation’s southern border line to prevent illegal cross-over.