Rick Lazio: Memo Shows Intent to Demonize Immigrants For Votes
By Scott Greenberg and Alana Horowitz
Hillary Clinton ran an ad in 2000 that accused Rick Lazio as being the "wolf that passes for Little Red Riding Hood" in a wrangle over Latino votes.
Turns out she was right.
The Voice uncovered an internal memo from gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio's first House re-election campaign, in 1994, that says "The welfare issue should be tied to illegal immigrants. Once again, the middle class, looking for a scapegoat, will latch onto this issue."
"Republicans should highlight welfare reform and, particularly fingerprinting of welfare recipients. Historically, in tough economic times, the middle class tends to blame government social programs for the difficulty," continues the memo, entitled "Political Environment: Fall 94."
The former congressman still thinks illegal immigrants make for good whipping boys.
"Did your parents or grandparents come over here for entitlement programs?" Lazio screamed at a tea party last month.
He was answered with a chorus of "No!", reported Newsday.
"They came here for the American dream. They came here because they wanted to work their tail off," Lazio said.
In past elections, the Long Island congressman has also catered to nativist sentiment by supporting English-only initiatives (at the same time he went for bilingual campaign material, like his 2000 Spanish online greeting cards).
The English language issue evokes "a strong visceral response from voters," touts his campaign manager, Peter D'Alessandro in a 1996 memo.
But as Lazio milks nativism before the 2010 Republican primary, he has been careful not to anger Latino voters (galvanized by the Arizona immigration bill) who have a heavy hand in the general election. Lazio has not brought up illegal immigration or the English-only issue in his year on the trail.
Lazio knows a history of demagoguery can backfire. Hispanics favored opponent Hillary Clinton 3 to 1 in the 2000 Senate race.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.