Undocumented, elderly and Rahm Emanuel.
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I strongly recommend you read the series of articles that are appearing in Chicago’s great Injustice Watch and the Chicago Tribune.
If you know or have been following me for a while, and I’ve been writing about the issues facing the elderly for years, then you know I care deeply about it as a social justice issue, and not just because I’m personally impacted.
The thrust of the this series is that there is a unique issue that the elderly and undocumented face.
There are at least 3,900 undocumented immigrants age 65 and older living in Illinois. But by 2030, the number of undocumented seniors in the state will top 55,000 — a 1,300% increase in just a decade, according to a report published by Rush University Medical Center last year.
Most undocumented immigrants arrived in the country decades ago and have lived here without a viable pathway to citizenship. Mexican immigrants will make up two-thirds of the undocumented older adult populations in Illinois, followed by immigrants from Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeastern Asia, and Central America.
Now, this generation of immigrants faces the prospect of having lived and died in the shadows. Undocumented immigrants are blocked from accessing social programs that many seniors rely on, such as food stamps, public housing, Medicare and Social Security Insurance — programs that they pay billions of dollars into every year. Their families and communities weave a patchwork of formal and informal resources to make up the difference.
What is clear is that in many ways the current problem facing the undocumented and particularly the undocumented elderly is rooted in a 1996 law signed by Bill Clinton and known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act.
While Clinton is responsible, his administration’s tactic of targeting immigrants came from the mind of his advisor, Obama Chief of Staff, Chicago’s former Mayor and now U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel.
In 2014 I blogged about Rahm’s role in advising Clinton to borrow from the Richard Nixon playbook to win white voters by targeting immigrants.
It can be found in a November 20, 1996 memo from Emanuel to Clinton after Clinton won his second term.
“This is great,” Clinton wrote on the memo.
Emanuel called for the President to expand immigration hearings in Illinois and six other states “to claim and achieve record deportations of criminal aliens.”
“The GOP Congress wants to fight the immigration issue out on government benefits. You want to take it to them on the workplace.
“Since Nixon’s Law and Order campaign, crime has been a staple in the GOP platform,” he said. “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?”
Here is the Rahm memo: