Congress' foremost immigrant basher has declared Miami "a third world country," provoking riots, bombings, and mass murder sprees in lawless Little Havana. Okay, just kidding. Actually, the response has been quite civil. First-world, you might even say.
The remarks drew an instant rebuke from Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who called Tancredo ''flat out wrong'' and extended an invitation for him to come and judge the city for himself.
''I invite my friend, Tom, to visit beautiful Miami, my hometown, and experience firsthand our hospitality,'' Ros-Lehtinen said. ``Come on down, Tom, the water's fine!''
Subsequent responses from Tancredo and his spokesman were rather illuminating:
''Moreover, the sheer size and number of ethnic enclaves devoid of any English and dominated by foreign cultures is widespread,'' Tancredo said in the statement. ``Frankly, many of these areas could have been located in another country. And until America gets serious about demanding assimilation, this problem will continue to spread.''
Tancredo didn't visit Miami on the Nov. 18-19 trip, but has visited before, a spokesman said. And, if Ros-Lehtinen's invitation includes ''a stay at a five-star beachfront resort, he may be willing to look beyond the inherent dangers that he had cited and visit Miami again,'' his spokesman said.
One wonders what Tancredo -- the grandson of Italian immigrants -- might have thought of the early twentieth century smatterings of those Little Italy "ethnic enclaves" across the United States.
In fact, the Immigration Policy Center helpfully did do a bit of research, and found what one of Tancredo's intellectual ancestors had to say about his biological ancestors:
In 1891, then-Representative Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA) expressed similar worries about the wave of immigration that brought Representative Tancredo's grandparents from Italy to the United States. He warned "that immigration to this country is increasing and…is making its greatest relative increase from races most alien to the body of the American people and from the lowest and most illiterate classes among those races." He was speaking principally of the Italians, but also the Russians, Poles and Hungarians. He observed that these immigrants, "half of whom have no occupation and most of whom represent the rudest form of labor," are "people whom it is very difficult to assimilate and do not promise well for the standard of civilization in the United States."
Lodge complained that many of them "have no money at all. They land in this country without a cent in their pockets." Of the Italians in particular he objected that many "stay but a short time in the United States" in order to "then return to their native country with such money as they have been able to save here." He warned that these sorts of immigrants, "who come to the United States, reduce the rate of wages by ruinous competition, and then take their savings out of the country, are not desirable. They are mere birds of passage. They form an element in the population which regards home as a foreign country, instead of that in which they live and earn money. They have no interest or stake in the country, and they never become American citizens."
Lodge was wrong of course. Italians did wonderfully well. In fact, the grandson of two of them grew up to be a modern-day Henry Cabot Lodge. Perhaps next century, a grandson or granddaughter of today's Mexican immigrants will grow up to become a leading voice against the next wave of immigrants, too -- the next Tom Tancredo. It's the American Dream!