Monday, August 27

Tancrazy Train: Geraldo Schools Tancredo

It’s not often one finds oneself in agreement with Geraldo Rivera.

But when he squared off against Tom Tancredo on FOX News' Hannity & Colmes last Thursday, Rivera was actually the more rational of the two. And that’s not saying a lot — for either of the two fellas.

Shortly after authorities announced that two undocumented immigrants were among those suspected of murdering three New Jersey college students, Tancredo hopped a flight to the Garden State. He wasted no time positioning himself on the steps of Newark City Hall, where he blamed the city and its “political leadership” for the killings.

Newark, like New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and a slew of other cities throughout the U.S., has a policy that bars city employees and police from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status when rendering services. (Read about Fort Collins' 2005 attempt to pass a similar Human Rights Protection Ordinance here.)

With his characteristic tactlessness, Tancredo asserted the victims would still be alive if not for the city’s “sanctuary” policy. Rather than addressing the city's crippling unemployment rate, child poverty problem, gun control issues or high school dropout rate, Tancredo instead wants the Justice Department to pursue federal criminal charges against Newark for “aiding and abetting illegal aliens.” And he publicly encouraged the victims’ families to sue the city.

Two days later, on the pundit playground Hannity & Colmes, Tancredo defended his statements, only to be schooled by perhaps the first guy ever to dedicate a TV show to Men in Lace Panties and the Women Who Love Them.

That’s gotta be embarrassing.

Geraldo pointed out that the schoolyard shootings bring the homicide count to 60 this year in Newark. And he outlined several non-immigration-related failures in the legal system that could easily have prevented the crime from occurring.

“I’m sure Congressman Tancredo has not opined about any of the other homicides [in Newark], and only became interested in this one when it became clear that one of the six alleged perpetrators came to this country illegally at the age of 11,” Geraldo said. “[The incident is] just being used by advocates of this crushing anti-immigration policy to make a cheap political point.”

Oh, snap!

With that statement, Geraldo defined a pet tactic of the anti-immigrant pack. Brandishing rare and extreme examples of misbehavior by immigrants, they stoke a latent sense of misplaced fear and xenophobia among a largely uninformed populace. Worse, their distorted logic is being allowed to shape the debate, with skewed language like “sanctuary city” becoming commonplace.

Back in N.J., Tancredo is milking everything he can out of the tragedy. But his political chest-thumping isn’t making inroads among New Jersey residents, many of whom would no doubt like to deport him back to Colorado. In fact, more people showed up to protest Tancredo than to support him. A New Jersey prosecutor involved with the case called Tancredo’s antics “absolutely abysmal,” and Newark’s mayor denounced his words as “vulgar.”

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