Republican Tancredo opens 2008 White House campaign

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 1:20 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a leading opponent of illegal immigration, said on Tuesday he would take the first step toward a longshot 2008 presidential bid dedicated to the immigration issue.

Tancredo, 61, formed an exploratory committee to raise money for what he termed an "arduous and undeniably uphill battle" for the presidency that would advance his hard-line views on immigration.

"I am considering this campaign because of my commitment to real immigration reform: reform that first and foremost is dedicated to the security and well-being of the citizens of the United States, and to respect for the rule of law in our beloved nation," Tancredo said.

Tancredo has been a leading voice in Congress against proposals for guest worker programs and in favor of stronger border security to block illegal immigrants from Mexico. He recently generated controversy by saying Miami resembled "a third world country."

Tancredo, who made his announcement shortly after Democrat Barack Obama made a more high-profile decision to enter the race, said he did not see any presidential candidate in either party dedicated to a tough stance on immigration.

Tancredo, who visited the early caucus state of Iowa during the weekend, is the eighth Republican to announce an exploratory presidential bid. Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani are the leaders, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Other Republicans in the race include Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, California Rep. Duncan Hunter, former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

None of the White House candidates, he said, "reflects the grass roots, majority belief of Americans that our borders must be secured, that employers who hire illegals must be prosecuted, and that no one who has broken our immigration laws should ever be put on a 'pathway to citizenship."'

Tancredo said Republican leaders had abandoned their conservative principles and paid the price in November, when they lost control of Congress to Democrats.

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