California Candidate Admits She Employed Undocumented Worker

Hope springs eternal, it would seem. People still run for governor of California, even as the state continues to reel from massive economic woes compounded by – and compounding – an ongoing budget crisis; and candidates for public office continue to come forward, sheepishly admitting that their children’s nanny – or their live-in housekeeper or gardener or pool guy – was an undocumented immigrant. The admission is usually accompanied by public hand-wringing about how hard it is to comply with the immigration law, and assurances that, had they only known their employee was undocumented, they never would have hired her or him. One can’t help wondering whether, beneath all of this public display, there lay the misplaced hope that nobody would ever find out.

The latest revelations are that California gubernatorial nominee, Meg Whitman, employed an undocumented immigrant for nine years as her housekeeper and nanny. (See Meg Whitman Employed Undocumented Worker for 9 Years,” by David Siders, The Miami Herald, 29.Sep.2010). The Miami Herald points out the irony of the situation, noting that, “Fresh from the first debate of the fall campaign, where Whitman said employers who hire undocumented workers should be held responsible, the candidate said she was unaware of the legal status of [her employee] Nicky Diaz Santillian until the woman confessed last year.” At that time, Whitman fired her.

Like many politicians who came before her, Whitman could have avoided a lot of headaches had she consulted with an attorney before hiring a household employee. At a minimum, she could have made some attempt to ensure that her prospective employee had legal authorization to work in the United States. A routine employment eligibility verification – an I-9 check – would have revealed her nanny’s lack of proper working papers. It does take some extra steps to comply with these requirements, but this is no reason not to comply; ignoring the I-9 process and hoping not to get caught is not a good plan for anyone – politicians or private citizens. Timely and competent legal advice could have saved Ms. Whitman a lot of trouble. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.