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Illegal Immigrant Worked 5 Years at Huffington Home : Politics: Candidate says his wife hired the woman. He says proper taxes were paid and a green card applied for.

October 27, 1994|DAVE LESHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Republican candidate Mike Huffington, whose tough stand against illegal immigration is a cornerstone of his Senate campaign, employed a woman at his Santa Barbara home for about five years who was in the country illegally, his campaign acknowledged Wednesday.

The woman's job ended last year, shortly after Huffington was sworn into office as a freshman congressman and several months before he announced his bid to challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein, sources told The Times. The woman had cared for the Huffingtons' two daughters--now ages 3 and 5--since they were born.

Huffington declined to talk with The Times on Wednesday. But in a live television interview Wednesday night, the candidate said his wife was responsible for hiring the illegal worker, which is a violation of federal law. He then accused Feinstein of hiring illegal immigrants at her home, but offered no evidence of the allegation.

"My wife did hire someone, found out that she was illegal, applied for a green card and filled out all of the paperwork and paid the taxes," he said on KCAL-TV in response to a question about The Times' story. "But what is ironic is . . . we've been told by people who know a lot about (Feinstein's) staff, she too had hired two people who were illegal. The question I would ask Mrs. Feinstein is, did she pay the taxes as my wife did?"

Feinstein campaign manager Kam Kuwata hotly rejected the allegation. "That charge is an outright lie. It's just typical when he is caught breaking the law, his first response is to lie. Now his campaign is in great jeopardy."

Earlier in the day, after a campaign event in San Diego where Huffington spoke about his support for Proposition 187--the anti-illegal immigration measure on the November ballot--the candidate was asked if he had ever employed an illegal immigrant at his home. He told the San Diego newspaper reporter he did not know of any problem.

Huffington's campaign released five pages of federal documents Wednesday evening, after being questioned about the issue by The Times, to demonstrate that the candidate's wife had tried unsuccessfully to obtain papers that would allow the worker to be in the country legally.

According to the documents, the application was made to the U.S. Labor Department on Nov. 13, 1990. The process requires that the employer interview a number of U.S. citizens for the job to demonstrate that the foreign national is the only candidate qualified for the job.

One of the documents released by the campaign was a sworn affidavit from Arianna Huffington saying that she had advertised the position in the Santa Barbara News Press and interviewed at least four applicants.

Arianna Huffington said Wednesday evening that she conducted the interviews and the woman who had already been on their staff for more than a year was the most qualified.

"There was nobody like her," she said. "She is a wonderful human being. My children adore her."

She also said the couple paid all of the necessary taxes for the woman. She said the woman left the Huffingtons' employment shortly after Mike Huffington was sworn into office in January last year. Arianna Huffington said the woman did not want to make the move to Washington with the Huffingtons because she was married.

The document issued by the campaign indicates that the approval for a work certificate was given by the Labor Department on June 5, 1991.

The work certificate, which does not allow the immigrant to remain in the country legally, permits the employer to seek INS approval for immigration. The next step is a years-long process of waiting for a "green card" from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The employee is not allowed to work in the country legally until the green card is issued by the INS. The woman never obtained a green card while working for the Huffingtons.

Since 1986, federal law has made it a crime for employers to hire illegal immigrants. President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act on Nov. 6, 1986, requiring that employers verify workers' citizenship status when they are hired by requesting personal documents such as a U.S. passport, Social Security card or driver's license.

The act requires employers to prove the credentials were checked by filling out an immigration document--known as Form I9--that is to be completed by employers within three days of hiring a worker. The document is also to be maintained on file for inspection by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Failure to complete the forms or maintain the records is itself a violation of federal law.

The act provides civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each illegal immigrant hired. Repeat violators may also be prosecuted criminally and face jail terms.

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