September Surprise: Meg Whitman's Illegal Alien Maid

Meg Whitman's campaign came under its first sustained media/political (but I repeat myself) attack yesterday, as Gloria Allred produced an illegal immigrant who said she had worked for Whitman for years before being abruptly fired. A wealthy Californian hiring undocumented household help?? Say it ain't so!

The latest chapter in California's gubernatorial race unfolded live on, just hours after Whitman finished her first televised debate with her November opponent, Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown, a debate in which she argued that California employers must be held accountable for hiring undocumented workers.

It starred Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, a Democratic donor who is a controversial veteran of many highly publicized cases, surrounded by a battery of cameras in her office.

Seated beside her was Mexican-born Nicandra Diaz Santillan - Whitman's nanny and housekeeper from 2000 to 2009 - who charged that Whitman had mistreated her and failed to pay her for all the hours she worked.

Allred alleged that Whitman "never asked if Nicky were here legally" when she hired her to work 15 hours a week as a $23-an-hour housekeeper in Whitman's 15,000-square-foot home, then upped her workload and responsibilities. The attorney said she would file a lawsuit demanding back wages for hours she said Diaz worked and for which she was never paid, and for years of unspecified "abuse" she took at her employer's hands.

But Whitman said she had no way of knowing Diaz was in the country illegally because the housekeeper had provided her with a phony Social Security number and signed a required statement stating that she was a legal resident of the country.

Allred charged that Whitman ignored a 2003 letter the Social Security Administration sent to her home, informing her that Diaz's Social Security number did not match her name - a red flag for an undocumented worker. She said the agency asked Whitman to provide proper documentation, and Whitman never responded. But Allred did not show such a document Wednesday to back up that claim.

The Whitman campaign's story is that the maid provided fake documentation and a false social security number at the time she applied for work. As soon as Whitman found out about Diaz's true status, she fired the lady. Sounds good, but I'm still willing to bet that Whitman learned the truth about Diaz only after someone took a second look at Diaz's papers while Whitman was preparing to run for governor. Still, Whitman was in a damned if you do, damned if you don't position here. If she fires the maid, she could end up with a Gloria Allred-fueled media frenzy. Retain the maid, and God knows when the bubble might burst.

As for Allred, she took time out to go on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday, where legal eagle Allred failed to cite the law - immigration or employment - that Whitman had broken. In fact, Allred admitted to not knowing the relevant immigration law (!), but also claimed that Whitman's real scandal lay in her acts as Diaz's employer. Wake me up when this starts to make sense:

GA: This is not about whether she should have terminated the housekeeper or not terminated the housekeeper.

HH: Well, what should she have done?

GA: This is about her treatment of the housekeeper.

HH: I know that, but I’m asking what you would do if you had a housekeeper who had defrauded you and then came forward and said I’m not in the country legally, Gloria. Would you keep them? Would you keep employing them?

GA: This isn’t about what I would do. It’s about what Meg Whitman would, and did do.

HH: But I know, but my audience…

GA: …and what those facts are. And apparently, you want to talk about everything except the facts of what Meg Whitman did.

HH: No, I think this is what everyone would like to know, is what to do in that situation.

GA: Okay, well I’m not here to give you legal advice.

HH: What would you advise your clients?

GA: Okay, Hugh, I’m not, nor do I pretend to be, although maybe you feel that you are, an expert on immigration law. That’s not my area. I am, what we do, our main focus, is employment, plaintiffs employment cases. And you know, the Daily Journal, which is a legal newspaper, had selected us a few years ago as the number one plaintiffs employment law firm in Southern California. So I need to talk about the employment issues…

HH: Gloria, I gave you your plug. I just let you get the publicity that you crave, and that you die for, and for which reason you bring stunts like this every time a campaign comes up. But just for the benefit of the audience, is it wrong to fire someone who has defrauded you under the law? Do you have a choice? Because I don’t think you have a choice. I think you have to fire them.

GA: Okay, Hugh, you, just like Meg Whitman, you, just like the rich and the powerful person that you are defending, can only engage in personal attacks. And the reason is you cannot defend against the facts which we set forth in six pages at our statement at the news conference today. You cannot defend her conduct…

HH: Actually, I’m not trying to defend anything.

GA: …that we laid out. Instead…

HH: …I’m asking you as a lawyer who brought these allegations to just state the law.

GA: …I’m telling, no, I’m telling you…

HH: Can you state the law, Gloria?

GA: Now for example, let me just tell you this.

HH: I mean, just state the law, then I’ll give you the rest of the time.

GA: No, I’m not. I’m not. No, if you want to go state the law, you can feel free to contact an immigration lawyer to do that.

At this point, we can only hope that Whitman didn't hire Simon LeGree to supervise the cleaning staff, and that everything Whitman has said is the truth.

But, the bigger problem is this: we all know of some (admittedly minor) political careers that were derailed by these sorts of "nanny problems" as the elites like to delicately put it. But, that was back in the days when there was still a recognizable federal enforcement of the immigration laws. Now? Give me a break. There are millions of illegal immigrants, hundreds of thousands of whom live in California alone. They are all working for somebody, but it only becomes a problem when a Republican runs a competitive race for governor. This makes a mockery of the law that Gloria Allred is pompously "enforcing."

Whitman is caught in the crosshairs of two mutually exclusive legal regimes. On the one hand, it is theoretically illegal to hire undocumented employees, yet these laws are selectively enforced, mostly to satisfy election year whims. On the other hand, there is a very real sense out there that - if someone of Mexican descent presents you with seemingly proper documents - that your verification work is done, and to question that person's legality further is to invite a civil rights claim from the Gloria Allred's of the world.

I know that the Left thinks a billionaire Republican like Whitman is inherently dumb and evil; but, still, if you have situation where a person like her cannot comply with the law, then the law is no longer working.

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