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Whitman, illogical on immigration

In dealing with her former maid, Whitman says one thing politically but did something else personally.

October 05, 2010

Barring new revelations, it's difficult to see how Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman can be faulted for unknowingly having hired an illegal immigrant to work in her home and then firing her when she learned about the woman's status. Nicandra Diaz Santillan apparently lied to the employment agency through which she was hired, and Whitman should not be blamed for doing what the law requires of employers — maintaining a legal workforce.

But the incident nevertheless serves as a glaring example of why Whitman's stance on immigration is so illogical. Whitman has promised that if elected, she will beef up border enforcement, crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and make "sanctuary" cities toe the line. She has said clearly that she is "100% against amnesty for illegal immigrants."

So why didn't she turn her housekeeper over to immigration authorities for deportation? Isn't that what she should have done if she believes so strongly that illegal immigrants don't belong in the country and that employers have an obligation to help enforce that law?

We understand that that would be a difficult thing to do to someone you consider a member of your "extended family." But at the same time, we can't help believing that Whitman's decision reflects her unwillingness, both personally and as a matter of public policy, to deal with the thorniest aspect of the immigration problem, which is what to do with the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here (including about 2.5 million in California). In reality, there are only two principled solutions: commit to deporting them all or integrate them into society. Whitman, it seems, can't bring herself to back either approach.

Admittedly, she is in a tough spot. She is fervently pro-business, and California's $36-billion agriculture industry is pushing for a pathway to legalization for its workers. She needs the votes of Latinos, who more than any group in the state favor immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship, and she needs her base, which is equally opposed to such a development.

That may be why Whitman's positions on illegal immigration lack coherence and internal logic. To court the Latino vote, she trumpets her opposition to Proposition 187, a 1994 law that would have prohibited illegal immigrants from accessing most public services, but when called on to take a moral stand on it 16 years ago, she didn't vote. She supports the now infamous SB 1070 in Arizona — but only for Arizona.

This is political expediency, not leadership. If Diaz Santillan deserves to stay in the country, does that mean other illegal immigrants do too? Should it depend on how well they know Whitman personally? That the one illegal immigrant Whitman cares about is worthy of exceptional treatment, but the millions of others who are beloved by their extended and actual families are not, not only illustrates her disturbing tendency to avoid tough policy stands, but makes her a bit of a hypocrite.

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