Last night, California gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman (R-CA) and Jerry Brown (D-CA) squared off in a debate hosted by Univision for Spanish-speaking audiences. During the debate, Whitman reiterated her commitment to cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. However, Brown noted Whitman has yet to even take any responsibility for her employment of Nicky Diaz Santillan — who came out this week saying Whitman employed her for nine years and knew she was an undocumented immigrant, but turned a blind eye:
WHITMAN: We have got to get our arms around illegal immigration and I’ve got a good plan. [...] We have to hold employers accountable, all employers accountable for hiring only documented workers. We need a better e-verify system. Three strikes and you’re out, pay a fine, and lose your business license. If we do not hold employers accountable we will never get our arms around this very challenging problem.
BROWN: Now talking about cracking down Ms. Whitman obviously didn’t crack down on herself. [...]
Meg, I didn’t want to hit you on this, but when you try to evade responsibility, you’re going around the state saying, employers must be accountable for hiring unlawful people. There ought to be raids on businesses. There’s no path to citizenship, no path. [...] Don’t run for governor if you can’t stand up on your own two feet and say, hey, I made a mistake, I’m sorry, let’s go on from here.
Whitman has flatly denied Diaz Santillan’s allegations this whole week, saying she stopped employing Nicky Diaz Santillan as soon as she learned of her immigration status. However, Diaz Santillan’s lawyer produced a handwritten note from Whitman’s husband from 2003 which suggests the family knew of Santillan’s status for years.
Irrespective of when Whitman discovered Diaz Santillan’s immigration status, Whitman has failed to reconcile her zero-tolerance immigration policies with her own, possibly honest, mistake. Brown noted that, instead, Whitman’s response to the controversy has focused on attacking him: “You have blamed her [Diaz Santillan], blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions, but you don’t take accountability and you can’t be a leader unless you’re willing to stand on your own two feet and say, yeah, I made a mistake and I’m going on from here.”
Besides cracking down on employers, Whitman indicated that she will not support comprehensive immigration reform or a path to legalization until “there are no more illegal immigrants coming across the border.” She additionally expressed her opposition to the DREAM Act, which would legalize young undocumented students, while also telling Univision’s audience that she’s the best person to fix the education system for Latinos.