June 22, 1972: In the Shadow of Watergate, Nixon Speaks of Immigration and Jobs

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on June 22, 2011

The scandal that would drive him from office was building slowly when President Richard Nixon had a press conference 39 years ago today. Speaking of the previous month's fateful break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building, the president declared that "the White House has had no involvement whatever in this particular incident."

Most of the press conference was about other domestic issues. One question pointed to State Department statistic that 4.8 million foreigners were working in the U.S. on temporary visas. It also noted "the large number who come in illegally."

The reporter, unidentified in the transcript, wanted to know "if you don't think these two groups together have a great impact on our high rate of unemployment."

Here is Nixon's response, which acknowledges the problem but indicates little presidential engagement. Given the scandal looming before him, which would force him out of office 26 months later, his vagueness is not surprising. However, it is interesting for the obvious parallels to today's situation:

NIXON: The President of Mexico spoke to me about the problem of illegal aliens. And as you know, it is a problem in which many of our labor organizations are vitally interested. It does certainly contribute to the unemployment problem. It is one which administration after administration has wrestled with without too much success. It is one, however, after my consultation with the president of Mexico that I have asked the Department of Labor to examine to see what steps could be taken to see that illegal aliens and particularly those – the Mexican problem is the biggest one, as you know – those from our friends and neighbors to the south, if that could be brought into greater control."