Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The Sacramento Bee is reporting that "Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman employed an illegal immigrant for nine years, then fired her when the employee said in 2009 that she was in the country illegally, Whitman's campaign said this morning. The announcement was made in a media call ahead of a press conference at which the employee is expected to claim she was mistreated by Whitman. The Whitman campaign has characterized the claim as political."
The former employee has retained high profile attorney Gloria Allred. It is difficult to piece together the actual facts from the various press accounts. But, some of the basic facts as reported by NBC LA are as follows:
"Allred claims Whitman received a letter from the Social Security Administration on April 22, 2003, saying the Social Security number provided by the housekeeper did not match the name on file. According to Whitman's camp, [Nicky] Diaz [Santillan] was terminated in 2009 as soon as the maid's immigration status was revealed."
The key legal issue will probably be what Whitman knew and when. By the way, Meg Whitman is not the first political figure caught up in controversy over employing an undocumented immigrant.
Last night, in a debate with Democratic nominee Jerry Brown, Whitman stated her opposition to a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. She further stated that, to address the problem with immigration, "We . . . have to hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers, and we do have to enforce that law."
Diaz's teary-eyed video raises some non-legal issues about her treatment by Whitman that may affect some voters -- especially Latina/os -- even if she successfully convinces interested parties and the public that she did not violate the immigration laws. Diaz, for example, said that Whitman called her to fire her and said: " 'I don't know you, and you don't know me. Understand?'" Such harsh, seeming unfeeling treatment -- legal or not -- for a long-time employee in the home may not sit the right way with some people.
UPDATE (9/30): This issue appears as if it will have staying power. Meg Whitman held a press conference today in which she emphasized that she fired Diaz as soon as she found out that she was undocumented. See Gloria Allred's press conference at which she produces a copy of a letter, with a note on it allegedly from Meg's husband to Nicky Diaz, who gave the letter to Nicky.
See the SEIU's response (en español) to the Whitman matter here.