Friday, October 1, 2010

Nicky? Nicky who?...

Hmmm.  I guess Meg Whitman is having a rough patch in her gallop to the Governor’s mansion in Sacramento.   As she spends her personal fortune on ads as freely as a hungry kid with a pocket full of quarters would spend in a candy store, she has hit one of those nasty patches where no ad or the slickest explanations that money can buy will make the latest media frenzy disappear. [Here]
It seems that a young Mexican woman who was the Whitman family’s housekeeper for years has claimed that Meg Whitman knew that she was an illegal immigrant, but employed her anyway.  When a government agency asked some awkward questions and she asked help from Whitman herself, she was summarily fired.
Whitman at first denied she knew anything about a communication from the government concerning Nicky’s possible illegal status, but when a letter showed up in the hands of the housekeeper’s attorney, Meg changed her tune and admitted that her husband had seen it briefly and might have written a note on the letter.  Whitman has since admitted that the handwriting was probably her husband’s.
What has heated up the storyline is that the housekeeper has found an attorney, but just not any attorney.  She engaged Gloria Allred, a high-profile, experienced, feminist attorney who is very media-savvy.  How the housekeeper, Diaz Santillan, found Ms. Allred we do not know, but it has certainly impacted the already close gubernatorial race in California with its large and attentive Hispanic population.
Nicky Diaz Santillan, called Nicky by the family, worked in the Whitman household for nine years and came to them from an employment agency.  Diaz had arrived in this country without papers and used her sister’s social security card and driver’s license to authenticate her application with the agency. 
Diaz has claimed that both Whitman and her husband knew that she was an illegal for years.  In 2003 Meg Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh, received a letter from the Social Security Administration, telling them that there was a discrepancy in Santillan’s Social Security numbers.  At first both Whitman and Harsh denied in a press conference ever receiving such a letter, but hours later, Dr. Harsh admitted that he may have seen it.  (A copy of the letter was produced by Allerd and waved in the air at a presser.)  The letter seems to have a note attached that says, “Nicky Please check this Thanks”  [Here
In 2009 Nicky went to Whitman to ask for help to gain proper papers.  Four days later Whitman told the housekeeper that she could not help her and fired her on the spot.  The following is the statement by Nicky of that last interview with Whitman:  [Here]
She said, “I cannot help you and do not say anything to my children.  I will tell them you already have a new job and that you want to go to school and from now on, you don't know me and I do not know you.  You have never seen me and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?"
And there it stands.  The impact on Whitman’s campaign is yet to be seen.  Already the gap between Democrat Jerry Brown and Whitman had significantly narrowed before this incident broke open.  Whitman has spent time and energy and lots of money for ads appealing to California’s very sizable Latino community.  Her position on public policy towards illegals is somewhere between Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant policy and outright amnesty.  Before this mess she was in favor of heavy fines for employers who knowingly hired paperless immigrants.  (Of course, a heavy fine would be chump change for this billionaire.)
What will happen to poor Nicky we do not know.  Her plight is the plight of thousands and thousands of hardworking new residents in this country.  They pick our crops, clean our homes, mow our lawns, mind our children and do countless other essential jobs from home maintenance to other service jobs that are often grueling, dirty, low-paying and difficult.  My limited experience with these newest of immigrants is that they are family-oriented, hard-working and smilingly polite.  In short, they should be welcomed additions to our melting pot.  
With the current high unemployment levels across the country, a liberal, sane and welcoming immigrant policy is unlikely, but a compassionate policy for those already here is a requisite if we call ourselves a moral people.
We wish Nicky well and trust that Gloria Allred will be able to help her...   

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