WASHINGTON — Congress may have moved past the debacle that was the wreckage of comprehensive immigration legislation, but "The Tanc" rolls on.
That would be Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.
His single-minded devotion to combating illegal immigration — and the wishes of President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress to deal with it comprehensively — launched him from backbench obscurity to an improbable presidential campaign, one featuring the most hard-core nickname in the GOP field. ("The Tanc" is a term of affection coined by supporters.)
Tancredo, fresh from playing a leading role in torpedoing what he insisted was an "amnesty bill," began his victory lap on Wednesday with a Capitol Hill press conference. He introduced his latest effort to rein in immigration: The Optimizing Visa Entry Requirements and Demanding Uniform Enforcement Immigration Reform Act of 2007.
"OVERDUE. It really works. It's an acronym," The Tanc said, explaining the bill's cumbersome title.
Overdue since 1868, apparently: Tancredo's bill would do away with automatic citizenship for anyone born in the United States, something enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
The bill also would eliminate the visa lottery system (currently set at 50,000 annual visas) and green cards for unskilled foreign workers (currently set at 135,000 annually). The bill also would direct the government to enforce current laws against illegal immigration.
"Some people will see this as draconian," Tancredo acknowledged. "Well, that's tough."
The bill may be tough, but The Tanc, a bogeyman to many immigration advocates, comes across more as a charming goof than a hard-nosed tough guy, with a quiet voice that sounds eerily like that of actor Mark Wahlberg.
In a departure from standard congressional procedure, to say the least, Tancredo introduced himself to and shook hands with each reporter at his press conference.
Asked if the bill had support from other lawmakers, Tancredo giggled and looked exaggeratedly over both shoulders at the empty space around him.
"Well, as you can see, I'm sure they would like to. They just couldn't get here," he said.
The congressman conceded that drumming up interest among his colleagues wasn't really the point.
In fact, OVERDUE arrives right on time for Tancredo's "Save America Tour," which kicks off tomorrow with a speech in Detroit, then serendipitously includes 21 stops in Iowa, site of the first presidential caucus in January.
"It's to keep the issue in front of the American public," The Tanc said. "Not just for myself. To the extent that it attaches to me personally as I proceed down the highways and byways of Iowa, so be it."
For more information, go to www.teamtancredo.org