Meg Whitman's maid granted immunity
by Constance Whett
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 6, 2010 — The Obama administration announced today that Nikki Diaz Santillan, the former housekeeper of California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, will not be prosecuted for entering the country illegally.
"Ms. Santillan is providing an invaluable service to the citizens of this country by helping to keep a hateful candidate out of office," White House spokesman Lou Pohl said. "She has helped to focus attention on Ms. Whitman, who hired an undocumented worker at the same time she has unreasonably and hypocritically opposed illegal immigration. With the election almost upon us, Ms. Santillan has sacrificed herself to ensure that Democrat Jerry Brown wins the governor's seat, and she should be rewarded for that service and sacrifice."
Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents Diaz, has filed a suit against Whitman, claiming among other things that the Republican businesswoman underpaid her client.
"Ms. Whitman gave only $23 an hour to Nikki," Allred said. "I make more money than that per minute, so Nikki's pay was nothing but a pittance. Meg made at least $1.3 billion when she was the CEO of Ebay. She should have shared more of her wealth with her housekeeper. We are going to ask for $13 million, which is only 1 percent of her net worth. Even after I take out my 70 percent, that will leave enough for Nikki to live a life of luxury."
Some political observers, particularly lawyers who work as commentators on the Fox Network, had expected Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to prosecute Santillan for entering the United States illegally. They also predicted that she would be prosecuted and deported for falsifying documents, including a paper that listed an incorrect Social Security number.
In a move reminiscent of the leniency proferred to Black Panthers who intimidated voters at polling places in Pennsylvania during the 2008 presidential election, however, Attorney General Eric Holder elected to grant immunity from prosecution to Whitman's former housekeeper.
"I cannot in good conscience prosecute a minority worker for trying to earn money for her family," he said. "We must have Mexican workers to keep our economy moving, and these workers take jobs that no Americans will take. Who in their right mind would do house work for only $23 an hour? Including overtime, Ms. Santillan earned an average of only $59,000 a year working as a slave for the Whitman family, which is unconscionable."
Holder said he is considering prosecuting Whitman for hiring an illegal alien and then firing her after she learned that her maid had misrepresented her legal status.
ICE Assistant Director Letta M. Ollin said her agency is solving the immigration problem by selectively enforcing the law on high profile cases that force the public to reconsider unenforceable immigration laws.
"We will go after any wealthy person or corporation that hires an illegal alien," she said, "and that includes Walmart. We also will prosecute undocumented workers who have been here for many years after having been brought to the United States as children, particularly if they have since married Americans and must leave their children behind when deported.
"Such cases serve to make President Obama's point that we must provide amnesty and a pathway to citizenship to anybody who enters this country solely to make a better living."
Ollin said Whitman either knew or should have known her housekeeper had entered the country illegally.
"Ms. Whitman violated the law when she hired Ms. Santillan," Ollin said, "and then she commited another crime when she fired her for making an error that had no bearing whatsoever on the quality of the work that Ms. Santillan performed."
Santillan said she was suing Whitman for two chief reasons: She was not treated as a member of her family, and she feared that if Whitman were to gain the governor's office she would support a state law that would target undocumented workers.
"Meg says she treated Nikki like a member of her family," Allred said. "But we have evidence that Ms. Whitman is lying. For example, when Meg bought BMWs for her children, she bought an inferior Chevrolet Impala for Nikki. She often would go on vacation with her family, and yet she would leave poor Nikki to work at home in solitary confinement. Whitman opened savings accounts for her children's college funds, and yet she expected Nikki to pay her and her children's own educational expenses."
Amparo Loro Raro, president of Mexican American Defenders, applauded Holder's decision.
"We were concerned that if an undocumented worker in the public eye were prosecuted," he said, "nobody would ever want to hire any Hispanic."
Whitman's campaign manager, Maude L.T. Ford, said her boss took steps to ensure that she was hiring a legal migrant, such as using an employment agency and insisting on hiring a worker with a Social Security number and a drivers license.
"Yet even after going to that extra effort," Ford said, "she ended up doing exactly what she hoped not to do, which was hire an illegal alien. Now she is paying the price.
"Any member of the public who hopes someday to run for public office would be wise never to hire any Hispanic. You cannot judge a person's legal status by the quality of his or her English. It's easy to see with 20:20 hindsight that Meg should have refused to hire any maid who had a strong Spanish accent."
Meanwhile, Whitman announced today that her Italian chef, Sammie E. Colai, also might be an illegal alien. She said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, has prohibited her from firing him. The point might be moot next month, however, as Colai and his wife are starting a restaurant, Sam 'N Ella's Mexican Pizzas, with funding from Whitman and the Ebay Entrepreneurial Foundation.
EEOC Chairman Jack Haas confirmed that Whitman has been warned against using racial profiling.
"It is illegal to profile any person in America," he said. "There are many legal Mexican workers who speak broken English and send money south of the border. We are taking the position that nobody can refuse to hire an undocumented worker based on national origin, race, language skills or the quality of their documents. Moreover, we will prosecute anybody who fires an undocumented worker unless ordered to do so by a federal court."
Quote of the Day
"All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian." — Pat Paulsen, former candidate for President of the United States.