WASHINGTON (CNN) - What is an American? Some of the Republican presidential candidates weighed in with their perspectives.
Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, a major illegal immigration foe, said people who come to the United States from other countries need to assimilate, and that they won't be considered Americans "until we no longer have to press one for English and two for any other language."
"It means, number one, cut from the past," Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo added. "If you come here as an immigrant, great, welcome. If you come here legally, welcome. It means you've cut your ties with the past, familial, especially political ties with the country from which you came."
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he was "very uncomfortable with" Tancredo's response.
"We should always be open to legal immigration," Giuliani said. "It reforms us. It makes us better. It brings us people who want to make a better life for themselves and their families. If we lose that, we lose the genius that has made America what it is."
Arizona Sen. John McCain also strongly disagreed with Tancredo's response, saying that "it's beyond my realm of thinking."
"Look, America is a land of opportunity," McCain said. "The question was just asked, what is it to be an American? It's to share a common goal that all of us - a principle - are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights."
–CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich