The Nation: Lou Dobbs Hired Illegal Immigrants

Former CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs is back in the spotlight again after leaving his old job in network news almost a year ago; but we can be fairly sure it’s not the kind of attention he’s looking for. After a year-long investigation, The Nation magazine broke the story that Lou Dobbs – who became a leading anti-immigrant rabble rouser before parting ways with CNN – employed as many as five illegal immigrants to maintain his horse farm in New Jersey and his winter retreat in Florida. (See Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite, by Isabel Macdonald, The Nation, 07.Oct.2010.)

The Nation spoke with five undocumented Latino immigrants who worked as gardeners or horse grooms at Mr. Dobbs’s properties. They told of long, exhausting workdays tending to the plush landscape surrounding Mr. Dobbs’s houses, or taking care of the five high-end show horses that his daughter rides in national equestrian competitions. One horse groom, an undocumented Mexican from Oaxaca, told of being paid $500 a week – plus an occasional $100 tip – for a typical workweek of 65 hours. The undocumented workers in Mr. Dobbs’s garden made between $8 and $10 an hour, The Nation reported.

For his part, Mr. Dobbs denied vigorously having had any idea that anyone who worked for him was an undocumented immigrant. His denial sounded legalistic, however, and perhaps a bit too carefully shaded. Dobbs told Good Morning America, “I never, ever used a contractor as a way in which to indirectly hire an illegal immigrant purposefully. Never, never, never.” (See Lou Dobbs: I Was Told Workers ‘Were Absolutely Legal,’ USA Today, 08.Oct.2010.)

As The Nation reports, the evidence indicates otherwise, suggesting that, despite Dobbs’s public preoccupation with illegal immigration, he did not go out of his way to find out whether the people who worked for him – privately, and beneath the public radar – were able to do so legally. The Nation refers to Dobbs as an “American Hypocrite,” not because his transgressions are unique – they are not – but because he made a career, and a relative fortune, preaching against the evils of illegal immigrant labor.

The further irony – as The Nation points out – is that Dobbs “…became notorious for his angry rants against ‘illegal aliens,'” but “reserved a special venom for the employers who hire them, railing against ‘the employer who is so shamelessly exploiting the illegal alien and shamelessly flouting U.S. law,’ and even proposing, on one April 2006 show, that ‘illegal employers who hire illegal aliens’ should face felony charges.”

The Dobbs case bears a certain family resemblance to the recent revelations that California gubernatorial candidate, Meg Whitman, hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny and housekeeper, and eventually fired her when, she says, she learned of the nanny’s immigration status. An article in last week’s Los Angeles Times took Whitman to task for her hypocrisy – scoring political points for her take-no-prisoners approach to illegal immigration, and promising to crack down on illegal employers, while privately hiring an undocumented worker, either without checking or without caring to check the employee’s immigration status. (See Whitman: Illogical on Immigration, Los Angeles Times editorial, 05.Oct.2010.) One wonders whether Mr. Dobbs and Ms. Whitman will lose credibility among their anti-immigrant supporters, given these recent revelations. Will it change the debate at all, or merely serve as an object lesson to other anti-immigrant demagogues: hire anyone you please, just don’t get caught?

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