"It is the law that to become a naturalized citizen of this country you must have knowledge and understanding of English, including a basic ability to read, write, and speak the language," Tancredo said in a release. "So what may I ask are our presidential candidates doing participating in a Spanish speaking debate? Pandering comes to mind."
Tancredo, whose campaign is centered on a hardline stance against illegal immigration, didn't go as far as saying speaking Spanish itself is a bad thing, but did say that it shouldn't be part of this race. "Bilingualism is a great asset for any individual but it has perilous consequences for a nation," he said. "As such, a Spanish debate has no place in a presidential campaign."
The Colorado congressman elaborated further on his decision in a Thursday op-ed in the Miami Herald, in which he said the debate tells recent legal immigrants that learning English isn't a priority and is disrespectful to those who have come to the U.S. from Spanish-speaking countries, writing "Is it not a little bit insulting to our new citizens who were born in Cuba or Mexico or Peru to suggest that political debates need to be translated into Spanish for them to understand what is going on?"
The decision makes sense politically: Tancredo's views on immigration would have made him a top target at the Univision debate, especially after the ad he unveiled this week that suggests illegal immigrants are responsible for bringing gangs into the U.S. who are "pushing drugs, raping kids, [and] destroying lives" – a statement that a large majority of the debate's Hispanic audience would see as inflammatory, and maybe even offensive. In other words, Tancredo would have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by attending.