Congressman calls Miami a `Third World country'
BY LESLEY CLARK
OUTSPOKEN: Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., is no fan of Miami's ethnic makeup.WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Tancredo, the leader of the anti-illegal immigration faction in the U.S. House, spent a recent weekend at The Breakers in Palm Beach.
Ninety miles to the south, he found a symbol to bolster his belief that unfettered immigration is endangering the United States: Miami, he told a conservative online news site, “has become a Third World country.''
In South Florida to attend Restoration Weekend, a gathering of conservative activists, the Colorado Republican, whose district includes suburbs of Denver, pointed to Miami as an example of how ''the nature of America can be changed by uncontrolled immigration,'' the story says.
''Look at what has happened to Miami,'' the WorldNetDaily quotes Tancredo as saying in an interview. “It has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.''
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!''
Miami, Ros-Lehtinen said, is a “world class city where diversity is celebrated. Here people have the opportunity to meet folks from across the globe and honor different cultures. Miami-Dade County is home to many outstanding universities, is headquarters to international businesses and has a vibrant economy.''
Tancredo, who chairs the bipartisan House Immigration Reform Caucus and championed a fence along the border with Mexico, said Monday in an e-mail sent by his office that his comparison was based on crime statistics he believes “are deeply rooted in the immigration debate.
''While a recent documentary comparison of Miami-Dade County to Baghdad was a bit of an overstatement,'' he wrote, referring to an Australian documentary that compares Miami to Baghdad, “no one can argue that it is not one of America's most dangerous areas.''
He noted in the e-mail that the number of homicides in the county recently reached 200 for the year. The number is actually a decrease from the 1980s.
''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.
Tancredo, who has been mentioned as a potential presidential contender, criticized President Bush in the interview for Bush's push for comprehensive immigration reform.
''He is going to do what he can to create a place where the idea of America is just that — it's an idea,'' Tancredo said. “It's not an actual place defined by borders. I mean this is where this guy is really going.''