Whitman denies claim; husband's handwriting on letter revealed today bolsters maid's case. Allegation may be tip of a larger iceberg, Social Security spokesman suggests.
By Miriam Raftery
September 30, 2010 (Sacramento) –Meg Whitman, Republican candidate for Governor, is under increasing fire as evident mounts that she knowingly employed an illegal immigrant and that and her husband ignored a 2003 warning from the Social Security administration that a maid working in their home did not have legal documentation.
The maid, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, held a press conference yesterday with attorney Gloria Allred and claimed that Whitman knew for years that Santillian was an illegal immigrant. Yesterday, Whitman admitted employing the woman for nine years, but denied knowing her status initially. She hired Santillan through an employment agency and said she fired her in 2009 when the maid asked help to obtain legal documentation.
Today, however, Allred produced a 2003 letter sent by the U.S. Social Security administration to Whitman’s husband warning that the maid’s Social Security number did not match her name. Now Social Security spokesman Mark Lassiter reveals that in 2003 such letters were only sent to employers with 10 or more employees whose names and Social Security numbers did not match, the Union Tribune reports.
Lassiter’s statement raises the question of whether additional illegal immigrants were working for Whitman and her husband.
“An employee with one or two employees in 2003 or 2006 would not have gotten an employer…letter,” Lassiter said.
Whitman repeated today that she and her husband never saw the letter and suggested that the maid may have intercepted it in the mail. Allred has said that additional warning letters were sent to Whitman's husband, who said he didn't recall seeing the letter in question.
Late today, Allred accused Whitman of lying and displayed a copy of the letter with Whitman's husband's handwriting on it asking the maid to check it out.
Whitman’s campaign released documents indicating the maid used false identification to obtain employment, a charge the maid has not refuted. However Santillan says Whitman knew of her illegal status for many years. Whitman says the maid confided her illegal status in 2009 and asked for help to obtain legal status, whereupon Whitman fired her.
I told her I don’t have papers to work here and need her help,” the worker said at a press conference at Allred’s office. She said Whitman’s husband “yelled” at her. “I was crying for fear and intimidation. With a face full of tears, I told them, ‘I believe in people. And I believe people deserve a chance. I also told them I don’t wish them any harm. I just wanted their help…
She said Whitman later left her a voicemail telling her she talked to her lawyer. “She said, ‘I cannot help you. And don’t say anything to my children. I will tell them you already have a new job … and from now on you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You have never seen me, and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?’”
The worker also claimed that she was not paid for the number of hours that she worked, and alleged other abuse include threats of firing when she became pregnant.
Whitman started today that she is willing to take a lie detector test to prove that she is telling the truth. Noting that Allred donated $150 to Jerry Brown’s campaign, Whitman’s campaign has questioned Allred’s motives and the timing---coming shortly before this weekend’s scheduled Spanish-language debate highlighting issues of importance to the Hispanic community.
The issue has raised questions of hypocrisy by Whitman, who has repeatedly called for sanctions against those who employ illegal immigrants. “We do have to hold employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers,” Whitman said in a debate Monday night against her Democratic opponent, Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown.
Whitman had been courting Latino voters with bilingual campaign materials and advertising. Political analysts predict the issue is likely to hurt Whitman among Latinos, a major segment of California’s population. She has also drawn criticism from some Republicans for having at least one illegal immigrant on her personal payroll for nine years.
If proven that she knew the maid was illegal, her actions would put her at odds with the Republican party line and calls by prominent Republicans seeking a crackdown on those who employ undocumented workers.
Asked by the San Francisco Chronicle what should happen to people who hire illegal immigrants for their businesses or their own homes, California’s Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina said recently, “Well that’s wrong, obviously. People who knowingly hire illegal immigrants are breaking the law, and they should be punished.”