The stepson of Pete Wilson — the ex-California governor and one-time San Diego mayor who championed 1994's Proposition 187 to cut off state services including health care and public education to undocumented immigrants — is running for state Assembly on an anti-sanctuary platform.
Prop 187 TV ad
Pete Wilson campaign against taxpayer funding immigrant services
"They keep coming, two million illegal immigrants in California," said Wilson's most famous 1994 campaign television spot, featuring grainy black and white security video of border runners storming the gates at San Ysidro.
"The federal government won't stop them at the border yet requires us to pay billions to take care of them. Governor Pete Wilson sent the National Guard to help the Border Patrol, but that's not all."
Wilson then appeared on screen, saying, "For Californians who work hard, pay taxes, and obey the laws, I'm suing to force the federal government to control the border and I'm working to deny state services to illegal immigrants. Enough is enough."
Then, as Wilson attempted to ramp up his ultimately failed 1996 bid for the presidency, it came to light that he and first wife Betty had long employed Josefina Klag, an undocumented worker from Tijuana, as their maid. "Wilson's former wife has acknowledged hiring Klag--or Josefa Delgado, as she identifies herself in legal documents--in late 1978 or early 1979," the New York Times reported in May 1995.
"As she left the court, Klag told reporters that the Wilsons knew she was in this country illegally when she was hired to clean their apartment," reported the Los Angeles Times following a 1997 immigration ruling that allowed her to avoid deportation.
Wilson's Sean Walsh denied Klag's version of events. "The governor did not know if she was legal or illegal, he had every reason to believe that she was legal. We don't know why she would say that." The then-U.S. Senator was required to pay $15,000 in back Social Security payments and penalties for three housekeepers from 1971 until 1990, the Times reported.
In an interview in March of last year, Wilson told the Times that he didn't regret backing Prop 187, adding that the border wall proposed by president Donald Trump had merit. "People say, … 'God, it would cost a fortune,'" Wilson told the paper. "Not nearly as much as failing to build the wall."
Now Phil Graham, Wilson's stepson by his second wife, one-time San Diego socialite Gayle Graham, has taken up the cause, running in the 76th Assembly district for what is viewed as a safe GOP seat, currently occupied by termed-out Republican Rocky Chávez.
"I'm opposed to the dangerous sanctuary state policies," Graham says on his campaign website. "The safety of our country should not be held hostage to politics. I support the rule of law and our constitution. Federal immigration law has to be enforced because without laws that govern the system, there is no system."
Among a host of prominent co-chairs of an April 19 fundraiser for Graham, headlined by Wilson and his wife Gayle at the Rancho Santa Fe estate of Poway-based contractor Doug Barnhart, is Kim Fletcher.
The former chief of HomeFed Bank, seized by federal regulators in 1992, has been a board member of Californians for Population Stabilization, which in 2014 ran television spots blaming the state's environmental woes on what the organization characterized as over-population caused by"mass immigration."
"Part of the solution to reversing California’s environmental decline, while not politically correct or convenient, is certainly simple,” said a statement attributed to Jo Wideman, the group's executive director. “If we slow mass immigration, we can slow population growth and save some California for tomorrow.”