Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who has devoted much of his career to advocating for stricter immigration enforcement, disavowed Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday for supporting reform -- and for speaking Spanish when he did so.
"Rand Paul began his speech in Spanish and it went downhill from there," he wrote in an op-ed titled "Why I No Longer Stand with Rand Paul" for The Christian Post. "His speech was filled with virtually every single discredited pro-amnesty cliché you could imagine."
Paul gave a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday outlining his plan for immigration reform, which would include allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, work legally, and eventually become citizens. He also called for increased border enforcement and has rejected the claims that his proposal should be considered "amnesty" or even a "pathway to citizenship."
Tancredo, though, was quick to apply that label and said he no longer supports Paul, despite previously endorsing him. He argued that Paul was wrong to imply that the two options are either legalization or deporting the entire undocumented population.
"The problem is that not one congressman or major commentator has called for deporting all 12 million illegal immigrants," he wrote. "Rather, we argue that strict enforcement of employer sanctions and allowing local police to cooperate in immigration enforcement will encourage most illegals to, in Mitt Romney's words, 'self-deport.'"
Of course, the "self-deport" strategy didn't work well for Romney, the failed 2012 GOP presidential nominee whose rhetoric on immigration is considered part of the reason for his dismal showing among Latino voters. Most Republicans, including the Republican National Committee as a whole, have rejected the "self-deport" language and other statements that they believe alienated Latinos.
Tancredo said it could be people like Paul who are alienating Latinos.
"Rand Paul said that the only reason why the GOP is losing the Hispanic vote is because we have turned them off with 'harsh rhetoric over immigration,'" Tancredo wrote. "Paul doesn't give a single example of what that 'harsh rhetoric' was. Presumably it could have included his pre-flip flop position on immigration."
Latinos are likely to be supportive of the senator's shift: Polling consistently shows that most Latino voters support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Tancredo left Congress in 2009, after failing in his efforts to establish English as the official national language and to put a moratorium on almost all legal immigration until the undocumented population significantly decreased. He made a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, when he focused largely on the issue of immigration and ran an ad in Iowa graphically depicting a terrorist attack that he said could happen because of the country's immigration policies.
Since then, he has continued to be a harsh critic of immigration enforcement efforts -- including Arizona's contested SB 1070 law -- and has vowed this year to do what he can to advocate against comprehensive reform packages being shaped in Congress.
Tancredo has been similarly disappointed with an immigration reform framework put forward by the so-called "gang of eight" in the Senate. The group proposes that undocumented immigrants be legalized, then allowed to obtain green cards and eventual citizenship once certain border security requirements are met.
"[W]hat they offered represents the worst from both parties," he wrote of the group in a January Townhall op-ed. "The comprehensive immigration reform they offer reflects the tired scheme of amnesty and massive increases to legal immigration in exchange for vague promises of enforcement."