Memos: Clinton White House used immigration issue to defeat Republicans

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Immigration,Barack Obama,Bill Clinton,California

Notes and memos just released by former President Bill Clinton's library reveal that the administration's political team schemed to use the immigration issue to defeat Republicans.

Just months into the new administration, memos were swapped inside White House offices discussing how to use immigration to knock out Republicans in California, Texas, New York and other states.

Concerns among current Republicans that President Obama will use the issue against them have helped to stall progress on immigration reform.

They memos were were part of a huge cache just released by the Clinton library in Little Rock, Ark. Many of them revealed that Clinton's political aides, less than a month into office, were already mapping detailed blueprints to position the president for reelection four years in the future.

In one memo to former Clinton deputy Rahm Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, a top aide wrote, “Immigration will be one of the top two or three issues in the California governor's race in 1994, and I suspect the issue will be significant in Texas, New York, and other key states, as well. Therefore, we must establish a productive record and reputation on this subject by mid-1994.”

Republican California Gov. Pete Wilson was cited as the top enemy of the administration on immigration, making him their biggest target.

Some of the files detailed how Wilson had pushed for a temporary worker program while he was a senator. That program, however, ended with some 1 million illegal immigrants never returning to their homes, prompting Wilson to seek federal funds to care for them.

“Wilson has attempted to blame the administration for a panoply of immigration-related ills, but his record as senator makes him extremely vulnerable on the issue,” said one of the memos to Emanuel from an administration immigration expert.

The memo slapped Wilson’s attack on Clinton as hypocritical. “On a purely political level, Wilson is highly vulnerable on this subject. As a senator, he led the fight for a ‘guest worker’ amendment to the 1986 immigration reform law. This provision, strongly supported by major agribusiness interests, permitted undocumented workers to enter the U.S. on temporary visas to pick perishable crops. It is now estimated that as many as 1 million of these ‘seasonal’ workers never returned to their country of origin, leaving the state to pick up the bill for their education, health care, incarceration costs, etc.,” it said.

The May 27, 1993 memo said that Clinton would only OK half of Wilson's request for $1.5 billion and would also bring down a political hammer on Wilson's 1994 reelection by working with the media to hit the Republican governor.

“So Wilson, who played a large role in creating this problem, never delivered a penny for California as senator or as governor during the Bush years. Yet he still tries to blame the current federal administration for his budget shortfall. Our friends will pummel the governor in the free media on this issue at the appropriate time. Meanwhile, we should work closely with our potential Democratic gubernatorial nominees to ensure they stay on the right side of these issues,” said the memo.

Wilson won reelection and helped pass “Proposition 187,” which barred illegal immigrants from receiving state services. The law was overturned in court.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.