- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

DENVER After blowing the whistle on a family of illegal immigrants, Rep. Tom Tancredo has been called "border cop," "mean-spirited" and "the Great Xenophobe," but the Colorado Republican says the label he really deserves is "scapegoat."
Last week, the Denver Post accused Mr. Tancredo of "bullying" after he called the Immigration and Naturalization Service to ask what the agency planned to do about the Apodacas, a family of illegal aliens living in Aurora, Colo.
The newspaper spent the rest of the week taking shots at Mr. Tancredo's action with a series of columns and articles, culminating Thursday with a front-page expose that cited two unnamed illegal aliens who said they worked for a contracting firm that remodeled Mr. Tancredo's basement.
"Rather than pursuing an unrelenting and unseemly vendetta against a powerless family, we'd suggest that Tancredo get his own house in order first," the newspaper's editors said Friday in an editorial.
Mr. Tancredo and his supporters said, however, if anyone is conducting an "unrelenting and unseemly vendetta," it's the Denver Post.
Mr. Tancredo says the only reason he knew about the Apodaca family's illegal status was from reading an Aug. 11 feature in the Post. The front-page story described the plight of Jesus Apodaca, an 18-year-old honor student who couldn't afford to attend the University of Colorado because he was ineligible for in-state tuition, even though he had lived in the state for six years.
The article ran with a color photograph of Mr. Apodaca and included such details as his mother's name, his high school and the year he crossed from Mexico to the United States.
Critics charge that if anyone is responsible for bringing the family to the attention of the INS, it's the Post.
"Tom didn't go looking for these people," said David Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank Mr. Tancredo previously headed. "It appears that the Denver Post has taken the position that it can put people who break the law on the front page of its Sunday paper, then get furiously offended when someone asks law enforcement whether it intends to enforce the law."
Others have accused the Post of trying to shift the blame for exposing the Apodacas to the risk of deportation.
"A Post editorial accused Tancredo of 'singling out' the Apodacas. Wrong," said conservative Denver radio talk-show host Mike Rosen. "It was the Post that singled them out. Having hung the Apodacas out to dry, the Post is now covering its behind and attempting to set Tancredo up as a scapegoat."
Gregory Moore, the Post's editor in chief, called the scapegoat claims "ridiculous" and insisted that the newspaper, considered the more liberal of Denver's two major dailies, hadn't targeted Mr. Tancredo.
"We don't have any agenda around here. I've never even met the congressman," Mr. Moore said. "If you read the stories, they're balanced and they're fair."
The Post's follow-up story on illegal aliens working on the congressman's basement was motivated by irony, he said, not vengeance.
"I don't think we went out of our way to do anything," said Mr. Moore. "We pointed out an irony. That a critic of illegal immigration would have illegal immigrants working in his home is an irony that's it."
In doing so, however, the newspaper held Mr. Tancredo to an impossible standard, Mr. Kopel said.
"The fact is, no normal person who hires a contractor checks the immigration status of its various employees," he said.
The more conservative Rocky Mountain News also criticized Mr. Tancredo for calling the INS, but said it was "extraordinarily unfair" to hold him responsible for the illegal contract workers.
The Post article noted that Mr. Tancredo did nothing illegal because determining the immigration status of such workers is the responsibility of the contractor, not the homeowner. The article also said that the contractor has denied employing illegal aliens.
The article did not identify the two employees making the accusation, making it impossible for Mr. Tancredo to confront his accusers or check their stories. Mr. Moore said their names were deliberately omitted after what happened to the Apodacas.


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