Amid Congressional demands that funding for the Border Patrol be tripled, a key presidential adviser urged the commander-in-chief in a confidential memo that if he didn't take bold action, "we will be attacked."
Although it could almost apply to the political situation regarding the Mexican border today, the memo was written nearly 21 years ago to then-President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Part of a release of a massive trove of old memos and documents released Friday afternoon by the National Archives, the note stands as a reminder that problems at the border are nothing new.
“The material makes clear that we have major differences with Congress on border patrols that are not yet resolved and that if we go with a smaller package, as suggested, we will be attacked as doing too little, if not too late," presidential adviser David Gergen wrote in the July 18, 1993 memo. "Our friends in the Senate want to double what is suggested here, and the House wants to triple it.
"We run a serious risk that the very good work that has been done on one issue will be swept aside in the controversy over border patrols," it states.
Gergen, now a CNN contributor, was an old Washington hand who had previously served Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. He wrote the memo less than three weeks after a national outcry over illegal immigration prompted the House to vote overwhelmingly to add 600 agents to the nation's Border Patrol and increase Border Patrol funds by $60 million annually.
With the Democrats still in control of the House of Representatives, one key Democrat Congressman proposed that non-citizens be deported immediately if they arrived without proper legal documents and could not make a credible initial case that they were fleeing political persecution. He was joined by two House colleagues, including future Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who said such controversial steps were necessary to avoid more drastic measures that would restrict legal immigration, according to a report at the time.
With even Democrats calling for tougher action on the border, Gergen had some political advice for Clinton.
“Suggestion: that this border patrol issue be more fully thrashed out with the President or that we go now with an anti-terrorism package only (that is the political flashpoint around the country) and give ourselves a little more time to resolve the border patrol issue,” Gergen wrote.
Clinton would eventually sign into law the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which, among other tough measures, made illegal immigrants who stayed in the U.S. for more than a year unable to re-enter the U.S. for 10 years once they were caught and deported.