Rahm Emanuel and Bill Clinton

On November 20th, 1996, Rahm Emanuel had an idea. Amidst the joy of the re-election of his friend and mentor, President Bill Clinton, Emanuel saw an opportunity for the president to help the Democratic Party maintain a perceived “parity” with the GOP on crime - record deportations. The revelation is contained in recently released documents from the Clinton Library after 12 years of being concealed.

With a focus on “criminal aliens” Emanuel said Clinton should expand immigration hearings in Illinois, California, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, and Arizona “to claim and achieve record deportations of criminal aliens.” This was to be complimented with a one month moratorium on naturalization to review past files for evidence that those applying might be criminal aliens and should subsequently be deported.

Part of the memo also included Emanuel’s analysis of how Democrats could handle the GOP on issues of crime:

Since Nixon’s Law and Order campaign, crime has been a staple in the GOP platform. Over the past four years, your policies have redefined the issue and allowed Democrats to achieve parity. The question you now face is how do we build on the last four years?

The answer to the question from Emanuel was to offer the spectacle of record deportations of those suspected of being criminal aliens along with 10,000 additional “anti-violent gang” prosecutors. Rahm said the 10,000 number was a useful corollary to the 100,00 number of new police officers cited in the 1994 Crime Bill.

Little thought was apparently given as to who exactly qualified as a criminal alien so much as there should be a record number deported. The memo goes beyond feeding into the long echoed ‘style over substance’ critique of the Clinton Administration into a darker streak within Rahm Emanuel’s politics and personality. For Emanuel immigrants were merely a prop to further his political ambitions, he wanted numbers and an image not an actual policy solution.

Photo by White House under public domain.