Bernie Sanders' national campaign surrogate and former Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia blamed the Obama administration for the lack of immigration reform and the Clinton administration for "hardening" immigration enforcement in a phone call with reporters Tuesday.
With a week to go before the primary in Illinois, where 10.5 percent of the electorate is Latino, Garcia blamed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama and an adviser to former President Bill Clinton, for immigrants being without a legalization program today.
Emanuel is "a big supporter of Hillary Clinton," said Garcia, who challenged Emanuel for mayor in 2015 but failed to defeat him.
He criticized Emanuel for urging Democrats not to support immigration reform when Democrats held the House and Senate in Obama's first term.
"It is because of decisions like that and allies like that of Hillary Clinton's, who seeks the presidency, that we don't have comprehensive immigration reform," Garcia said.
Garcia also said Emanuel recommended to former President Bill Clinton to get tough on immigrants and harden immigration reform laws.
"It was some of the immigration reform laws that took place during that time that hardened immigration, made it more difficult to immigrate to this country," Garcia said, making reference to provisions of a 1996 immigration enforcement law Clinton signed.
Clinton has pounced on Sanders in the past for previous criticism of Obama, most notably in the South Carolina debate.
At the time, Sanders called her criticisms a "low blow," saying he's been "a strong ally on virtually every issue. He also had this retort that got heavy television play: "One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate."
Like Garcia, many immigration advocates have pointed to Emanuel as a foe in their efforts to move immigration reform early in Obama's first term.
The Clinton camp was quick to respond to the Sanders campaign's immigration telephone news conference.
In a news release, Clinton's campaign highlighted a 2007 interview Sanders did with CNN's Lou Dobbs, whose anti-immigrant sentiments at the time led to a campaign by Latino groups for removal of his show from the airwaves. In the interview, Sanders discussed his opposition and vote against the immigration reform legislation of that year because of the guest worker provisions it contained.
Clinton's campaign also issued a statement from HUD Secretary Julián Castro, a Clinton supporter, regarding Sanders' vote for a bill amendment that prohibited using of federal funds to inform the Mexican government of the whereabouts of the vigilante anti-illegal immigration Minutemen volunteers.
The picking apart of the mixed immigration records of the candidates is heating up again as the March 15 Florida and Illinois primaries near. Both are states with heavy activism on immigration reform.