10/7/10

Same Old Story of Double Morals: Whitman, Wilson, Dobbs all Hired Undocumented Immigrants, yet, All of them Oppose Immigration Reform

By Antonieta Mercado©

Meg Whitman

Last week we learned that Meg Whitman the GOP candidate to governor of California, and a fervent public opponent of immigration reform, hired an undocumented immigrant for house labor. The immigrant Nicandra Diaz Santillan worked with her since the year 2000 until 2009, when Whitman decided to run for office. In that year, "Nicky" said that Whitman fired her, and told her "I don't know you, and you don't know me" when terminating the working relationship unilaterally.


Whitman said in a debate with Democrat Jerry Brown that employers should be accountable for hiring workers without documents. Brown responded to her that she should be the first to be accountable for mistreating her fellow human beings.


Pete Wilson, Whitman's campaign manager and former California Republican Governor who arrived to office in the nineties on an anti-immigrant campaign, championing proposition 187 which intended to deny basic services to undocumented immigrants in the state, said that this accusation against Whitman is "suspiciously timely for the election."


Wilson himself had to face similar accusations of hiring undocumented immigrants for domestic labor, while running a political campaign bashing them, and accusing them of the ills of California.


Pete Wilson

This pattern has been shamefully consistent among politicians and public figures, many of whom have blatantly opposed any talks of legalization for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. In fact, many of those politicians, such as Wilson, have run campaigns that foster nativist and xenophobic sentiments in their states and the country. During the nineties, Operation Gatekeeper which started the closing of the border, was one of the Federal government responses to Wilson's cry for help to combat "those illegal criminals" and "border chaos."

Arizona Governor Jen Brewer now is running on a similar issue-centered campaign as Wilson did in the nineties, has demanded President Obama to protect the border from "illegal criminals" and to send the National Guard to Arizona. This demand was also made by some anti-immigrant and neo-nazi groups in that state as well.

Obama has done precisely that and soldiers from the National Guard now "protect" the border from alleged immigrant and drug crime, just at the time of the political race in the state. Brewer as well as Wilson, also advanced a draconian proposition, the SB 1070 which criminalizes anybody who seems "illegal." This law is of course directed at Mexican and overall Latino immigrants in the state, and is supported by racial profiling because it is based on police forcers looking for people who "seem to be illegally in the country" by the way the walk, talk or behave.

But that is not the end of the story.



Lou Dobbs


Today, we got news from former CNN news anchor, Lou Dobbs, who for several years has built his public career on an anti-immigrant theme. Dobbs has argued that the American poor are suffering because "illegal immigrants come and take their jobs." Dobbs anti-immigrant agenda was, moderate, so to speak, since he did not support Jen Brewer SB1070, but continued his opposition to an immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.


Well, today has transpired that Dobbs himself has hired undocumented immigrants over the years, paying them very little, and making them work overtime without compensation. In an article by Isabel Mcdonald in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/article/155209/lou-dobbs-american-hypocrite?page=full) named "Lou Dobbs: American Hypocrite" and based on an investigation of more than a year that includes interviews with five former and current workers of Dobbs --all of them undocumented immigrants. Some of the workers had to tend to his daughter's horses, five European Warmbloods, which the Dobbs family takes care of by hiring workers through a contractor.


Landscaping workers have also been hired by Dobbs to tend to his multiple properties in several states, including one in Florida. Even one of the workers said that once when he talked to Dobbs, he introduced himself to him as "Luis" and ordered to do some more landscaping work.


All of this happening while Dobbs made inflammatory comments against "illegal aliens" and even more bitter comments against the people who hire them illegally in his CNN program. Dobbs cultivated his public image as an anti-immigrant populist, who cared for the poor and the middle class Americans, while warning that illegals were damaging the U.S. economy. Not his economy, by the way.


The common denominator of these figures, is that they are all white, very rich public figures, and they are involved one way or the other in the political process, affecting public opinion and decision making. In the case of Pete Wilson and Lou Dobbs, they had made either economic or political gain by bashing immigrants and stirring nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment among the population. Dobbs built his whole anchor career on anti-immigration bashing until he was let go from CNN, and Wilson got reelected on the same ticket in California.


Whitman, although not running on an anti-immigrant ticket, has opposed talks of an immigration reform, even after the housekeeper allegations. Brewer to this moment, runs her candidacy more on a national level than at the state level, on "illegal immigration" as the only issue affecting Arizona. To the moment she has not had a scandal of hiring herself an undocumented worker, but it would not be a surprise if that happens or is happening right now.

It is well known that the landscape industry depends in a great proportion of unskilled labor, and as the young population in the United States gets more education, tends to shun those jobs and seek for white collar occupations. This is one of the reasons, industries such as agriculture, landscaping, cleaning and other services, depend in a great proportion on undocumented cheap labor. Even the California Landscaping Contractors Association has made pronunciations for a legal way of bringing immigrant workers because many industries depend on their work. Most American citizens benefit of such labor, even the ones who make a career bashing those workers, such as Dobbs or Wilson.

Let's see how this saga unfolds. If the anti-immigration crusaders cannot help but hire undocumented labor, at least they should acknowledge it. I do not think Lou Dobbs or Meg Withman, even Pete Wilson can easily excuse themselves and say that they were victims of those horrible immigrants who lied to them since they were taking advantage of their cheap labor. If not then why not to check their legal status.

This is an election year, and usually, once the demon of xenophobia and immigrant bashing is out (and it certainly is out now corresponding to the political times and the recession), it is very hard to put it back in the Pandora box. The problem is that those who opened the box, sport a shameful double standard and morals: pointing the finger on everybody, but themselves.

In the meantime, immigrant workers will continue to make the life of Americans more comfortable, and cheap. Putting produce on the tables, cleaning American's houses, tending to their children, making the landscapes of their properties look beautiful, and cooking food in their restaurants. After all, this is America, the land of the free supported by semi-slave labor and run by many hypocritical and short sighted politicians and public figures.



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