In an explosive press conference this afternoon, a woman who worked in California Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman’s house for nine years claimed that Whitman knew she was an undocumented immigrant, but that she turned a blind eye.
According to Nicky Diaz Santillan’s attorney, Gloria Allred, Whitman never inquired about Santillan’s immigration status when she hired her through a service, and during her employment, Whitman discovered numerous clues that Santillan was in the country illegally. According to Allred, Whitman discovered that Santillan’s Social Security number didn’t match her name, and Santillan told Whitman she could not travel to Mexico. “She knew that I did not have papers to work here,” Santillan said.
In addition, Allred said Santillan was “exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally and financially abused” by Whitman. She also alleged that Whitman did not fully compensate Santillan for wages and transportation. Watch it:
In response, Whitman did not deny that she had employed Santillan illegally, saying, “Once we learned she was an illegal worker, I immediately terminated Nicky’s employment. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I considered Nicky a friend and a part of our extended family.”
While it would be embarrassing for any politician to be discovered employing an undocumented worker, the news is especially at odds with Whitman’s public posturing on immigration. As the Wonk Room’s Andrea Nill wrote, she “built much of her tough primary campaign around an image that portrayed her as a tough immigration hawk.” In fact, just yesterday in a debate with Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, Whitman vowed to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers:
Whitman said she opposes a path to legalization. She outlined a several-step approach that began with: “We have to secure the border of the United States of America.”
She pledged more resources for border patrol agents, more enforcement of businesses hiring illegal immigrants, a guest worker program for agriculture and cracking down on sanctuary cities.
Indeed, as Nill has noted, Whitman continually sends “two conflicting messages” on immigration. While she has made reaching out to the large Latino population of California a major emphasis of her campaign, she has taken a much harsher tone when speaking with the English press. For example, she put up over 30 Spanish billboards in Latino-heavy areas of the state professing her opposition to Arizona’s harsh immigration law, but recently told a local radio station that the law “should stand for Arizona,” and that “the federal government [should not] be telling Arizona what to do.” She also wrote a Spanish-language editorial suggesting that she and Brown “share an almost identical immigration platform.” But at last night’s debate, Brown said he supports a path to citizenship while Whitman said she opposes the concept.
The housekeeper issue serves to further expose Whitman’s double talk on immigration.
Whitman immediately took to Fox News to respond to the allegations, calling them “simply a lie.” Whitman said she never suspected that Santillan was undocumented until she admitted it in June of 2009, noting that Santillan went through an employment agency, filled out a 1099 form, and had to show a California drivers license. “This is a political gimmick, led by Gloria Allred, who is famous for this kind of stuff, you know it’s just politics as usual,” Whitman told host Neil Cavuto, adding, “it’s all not true.” Watch it: