October 3, 2010
Clarice's Pieces: Chum for ChumpsBy Clarice Feldman
Earlier this week, Michael Barone reported that the battleground for 2010 indicated that the Democrats were being wiped off the election map everywhere except the coasts and that even there, Republican Meg Whitman was slightly ahead of Democrat Jerry Brown.
I'd barely read this when the odious Brown supporter and mistress of the legal female victim genre, Gloria Allred, leapt into action, hugging a sobbing illegal alien (Nicky Santillan) from Mexico who claimed that Meg Whitman, for whom she'd worked as a housemaid and nanny, had abused her for nine years.
What is hardly murky in this tear-stained account is that the "abuse" seems to be that Santillan was fired when she admitted that she was here illegally and had lied about her status. This is not a case of someone taking financial advantage of an illegal's underground status. Whitman had paid the woman $23/hour. And this is not cheating on taxes, as so often was the case in these "housekeeper" cases used to attack politically prominent women. Whitman and her husband had paid all of the FICA taxes involved in this employment.
What is not said in this ginned up political soap opera is this: American law makes it virtually impossible for employers of household workers to do much to confirm their employees' status, and consequently, they are prey for liars. That, of course, is of no concern to those members of what I call the clean toga club, those conservatives who are only too happy to nibble on such chum every time the rats throw it into the water. These people are moral preeners, so concerned about their own reputation for scrupulousness that they allow their allies to be attacked without even taking a moment's pause to reflect on the veracity of the charges. These are the very people who, when their political allies lose, can then bemoan the fact that we are a government of crooks and thieves.
Let me explain what I mean about the householders' dilemma.
Since 1986, every employer has been required to fill out an I-9 form for every employee. (In this case, this was part of the service performed by the reputable employment agency Meg Whitman and her husband hired with instructions that the employee had to be legally authorized to work.) This form is filed with no one. One must fill it out and maintain it if by chance (and it's a mighty slim one) any federal employee comes and asks for it.
The employee must show the prospective employer (or her authorized agent) two forms of the documentation specified on it. In this case, it was a driver's license with Santillan's photos, name, and date of birth on it and a social security card. The employee must also attest under penalty of perjury that the documentation is authentic. In this case, without contravention, the maid lied about the documentation, which was, in fact, her sister's.
Like all employers in this situation, Ms. Whitman must take at face value the representations and documents presented. It is forbidden to require more documentation than that specified on the form:
What Allred claims is that Whitman knew years before firing Santillan in 2009 that the maid was an illegal alien and yet did nothing about it until she was considering when to run for office, suggesting that she was a hypocrite. In fact, this charge is designed to appeal to Hispanic voters by creating sympathy for the maid, whom Allred laughably compares to Rosa Parks and to those who oppose the hiring of illegal aliens. Put another way, it was designed to appeal to minority and conservative voters at the same time.
Again, the evidence in support of the charge is nonexistent.
The maid says she received a notice in 2002 from the Social Security Administration altering her that the information on her W-2 form didn't match the social security records and asking for clarification. In case you are unaware of such forms, let me assure that you they do nothing to clarify the situation when the employee has presented false documentation and lied. First, the SS administration sends this no-match letter to the employee. Two weeks later, if the employee doesn't resolve the matter, the letter goes to the employer. These letters begin by detailing benign reasons why there might be a mismatch between the W-2 and the social security records.
They then state,
In any event, Ms Whitman says that the maid brought in and sorted the mail, that Whitma herself never saw it, and that she is willing to take a polygraph to establish that.
Ms. Allred says she has the original and that it contains a note from Ms Whitman's husband telling the maid to take care of "this." The document provided to TMZ does not contain any handwritten note that I can see, but even if it does, as I've shown, the government's own form contains a warning that the letter is not proof of illegal status and that acting upon it may itself constitute violation of state and federal law.
Did the Whitman household receive more than this letter in 2002? It's not clear that they did despite Allred's to-date-unsubstantiated claim to the contrary.
Ms. Whitman says that besides the maid, the only household work they had was performed by an outside landscaping service and pool service company, which means they had only one employee. Under Social Security rules, it would appear that from 2003 on, no such letters would have been sent to them:
The Social Security website confirms that unless an employer has at least ten no-match employees on his payroll, no such letter will be sent him:
In sum, what we have is a legal system that is designed to protect immigrants -- legal and illegal alike -- which forces employers to take at face value the documentation the workers provide and their representations but precludes the employer from acting even under circumstances which seem suspicious unless and until given proof of illegal status, as Whitman was by Nicky Santillan's belated 2009 admission.
If there is any justice, these apparently phony charges will end up hurting those who made them, as well as Jerry Brown, on whose behalf this mud was slung. One hopes that it may even persuade a new Republican-majority Congress to stop making law-abiding householders the patsies for a system designed to target the punctilious employer while making it easier for illegal aliens to obtain employment and avoid detection.