A failed Republican presidential candidate who specializes in nativism and xenophobia was able to get himself some good press last week thanks to the vigilance of Providence College.
Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, a rabid opponent of undocumented immigrants, had been invited by the fledgling right-wing group Youth for Western Civilization to speak at Providence College. However, the group who offered the invitation to Tancredo is not officially recognized by school officials. PC President Father Brian Shanley voiced his desire to establish a forum where the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on immigration could also be represented alongside those who disagree and disinvited Tancredo’s side show from the campus.
To suggest that Tom Tancredo disagrees with the Catholic Church’s position on immigration is an understatement at best. Although raised and educated as a Catholic, Tancredo now belongs to an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Colorado and has not been shy in expressing his anti-Catholic sentiments under the guise of debate on immigration. Last April, when Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States for his pastoral visit, he spoke very powerfully about protecting immigrant families, not dividing them. Tancredo, then a congressman, gave a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives laced with anti-Catholic invectives not heard since the 19th century. He suggested the pope’s trip was a ploy to support illegal immigration and to lobby the president “to give the 20 to 30 million illegal aliens in this country a free pass to stay here.” Tancredo went on to suggest that the Holy Father was engaging in “faith-based marketing” and that his comments “may have had as much to do with spreading the Gospel as it does recruiting new members to the Church.”
Tom Tancredo’s nativist and xenophobic attitudes have done nothing to reform the immigration system in the United States. Rather, they serve only to highlight his shallow self-promotion and the failed policies of a disgruntled ex-Catholic. His shameful anti-Catholic attacks against Hispanic immigrants as well as his bigoted attacks targeted at Catholic bishops and Pope Benedict XVI deserve no welcome at Providence College or in Rhode Island. Equally shameful is that a few Rhode Islanders, including a number of Catholics, would welcome Tancredo and provide a forum for his ranting and raving about immigration and the Catholic Church. Without a doubt, the immigration system is broken and needs reform. However, it will never be fixed with the failed ideas and bigoted prejudice of a demagogue like Tom Tancredo.