Saturday, October 2, 2010
Before California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's employment of an undocumented domestic service worker hit the news earlier this week, she no doubt was expecting a tough challenge in the debate with Jerry Brown today at Fresno State University. The debate, which will be televised on Spanish language television, is sponsored by the city of Fresno, the Fresno-Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fresno State, Univision and The Fresno Bee and will be moderated by Maria Elena Salinas, co-anchor of "Noticiero Univision," Univision's network evening news program.
Given the debate's sponsors, one could expect it to focus on issues of importance to Latinos. Latinos as a group are concerned with immigration and undoubtedly have a question or two for Meg Whitman. Whitman has supported increased immigration enforcement, holding employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers -- a point she emphasized without equivocation in Tuesday's night's debate just hours before the world learned of her undocumented household worker from Mexico, and a guest worker program, now apparently for domestic service workers as well as agricultural workers. Whitman had taken a rather curious position on Arizona's SB 1070, saying at different times that it was good for Arizona but was not for California.
Whitman will face questioning on her immigration positions tonight in the debate in Fresno, the heart of agriculture country where immigration is a big issue. But she also will have to face tough, tough questioning about her employment of an undocumented immigrant. Indeed, because of recent events, much of the debate may focus on immigration and Whitman's employment of an undocumented immigrant for nearly a decade. All in all, the Valley's Latino voters appear to be skeptical about Whitman, especially after the latest immigration blockbuster.
Besides the legal issues implicated by the employment of Nicky Diaz Santillan, Latinos will be interested in what Whitman has to say about her treatment of Diaz. Diaz's teary-eyed press conference is compelling. It is hard not to feel empathy for a poor undocumented Mexican household worker who worked for nine years in the home of a billionaire and then, according to Diaz, was summarily dismissed in a harsh, cold way with ruthless, business-like precision. According to Diaz, Whitman allegedly fired her, saying "from now on, you don't know me and I don't know you. You never have seen me, and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?" Diaz said that it was as if Whitman was "throwing me away like a piece of garbage."
But there is more. Whitman denies the Diaz account as "lies" and then the 2003 letter from the Social Security administration with her husband's note to Nicky on te letter, surfaces. How will Whitman respond to this?
Here is a guide to the debate, along with some positions of the candidates that are likely to be especially salient to Latinos