Providence College blocks anti-immigration former congressman’s speech

Tom Tancredo / Providence College
Tom Tancredo / Providence College

.- Providence College has blocked a campus speech to be given by the vocal illegal immigration opponent and former congressman Tom Tancredo, saying that the speech was sponsored by an unofficial group and that the congressman’s position on immigration contradicts the Catholic approach to the issue.

A Monday statement from the Rhode Island college said that the student group which planned to host Tancredo, Youth for Western Civilization, was not officially sanctioned. According to the Associated Press, the statement also said that the former congressman’s stance on illegal immigration “directly contrasts” with that of Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin.

Bishop Tobin, who is a member of the college’s Board of Trustees, has called on federal immigration authorities to halt mass work enforcement raids and to grant conscientious objector status to agents who refuse to participate.

Tancredo was elected to Congress in 1998 and stood for the Republican nomination for president in late 2007 instead of running for re-election. He is known for his strident views on illegal immigration and has proposed a bill that would have limited citizenship to children born to at least one parent who was also a U.S. citizen or lawful resident.

A Tuesday statement from the Diocese of Providence said that Bishop Tobin was not involved at any time in the decision to prohibit Tancredo from speaking.

“Nonetheless, as the local Bishop and as a proud member of the Board of Trustees of Providence College, Bishop Tobin fully supports the decision of the administration regarding this matter,” the diocese said, adding that the bishop appreciates the college’s recognition of the Church’s position on immigration in the United States.

The diocese’s statement said Bishop Tobin has called for “comprehensive immigration reform” and supports debate on the issue that is “robust” and “productive and respectful” while “avoiding inflammatory rhetoric that unfairly stereotypes groups of people and further divides our nations.”

The group Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement said it will host Tancredo on Wednesday at the Pawtucket Veterans of Foreign Wars building where it normally meets. Its founder Terry Gorman told the Associated Press that Tancredo would speak that same day at the gates of the college.

Providence College said that if a similar request is made in a future semester it would encourage and facilitate the hosting of a discussion on illegal immigration in a format that “allows for multiple points of view to be expressed.”

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