The lights were on, the cameras were rolling, but the special guest star was nowhere to be found. Last Friday afternoon, 55 men and women from 30 countries sat in a Denver conference room, clutching small American flags as they waited to be sworn in as U.S. citizens. The 12:15 starting time had come and gone, and some people were getting impatient. "For heaven's sake," one woman said, sighing. "What is the holdup?" A few minutes later, they had the answer. Tom Tancredo, the Republican congressman, was coming to welcome the new citizens. He was hard to miss when he breezed in, 25 minutes late, dressed in a dark suit and an American-flag necktie. Even so, few in the room recognized him until one man whispered, "He's the guy who sits on the border chasing illegals."
Tancredo may not be a household name yet, but he's doing everything he can to change that. As the House and Senate debate the nation's immigration and border-security laws, the four-term Coloradan has positioned himself as the loudest, angriest voice against the estimated 11 million illegal aliens now living in the United States. They are "a scourge that threatens the very future of our nation," he says. He laments "the cult of multiculturalism," and worries about America's becoming a "Tower of Babel." If Republican presidential candidates don't put the problem atop the agenda in 2008, he says he'll run himself, just to force the front runners to talk about it. Not that he thinks he'd win the White House. He declares himself "too fat, too short and too bald" to be president. If the Republicans lose the election because he's too tough on the issue, he says, "So be it."