Immigration and the Governor's Race. Again.

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Pool Photo: Sacramento Bee

Be it a bombshell or blather, serious or silly, today's news that Meg Whitman once employed -- apparently unknowingly -- an undocumented immigrant is sure to reopen a battle which never seems to end here in California.

The Whitman campaign's reaction was to try to discredit both the ex-employee and her attention-loving attorney, Gloria Allred. But perhaps a better place for attention is the complexity that this, once again, seems to raise when it comes to how to reform the country's broken immigration system.

The typical frenzy of Los Angeles gossip news descended this morning on Allred's offices, who's representing the former Whitman housekeeper, Nicky Diaz. How much frenzy? The event was streamed live online by celebrity gossip site TMZ. Not sure most TMZ users are interested, but what the heck.

Whitman senior adviser Rob Stutzman put it this way: "Hey, what's a California governor's race without Gloria Allred inserting herself into it?"

(Stutzman may be having a slight case of Allred heartburn today; he was a top adviser to Arnold Schwarzenegger when the blockbuster candidate found himself on the opposite side of Allred and a woman scorned in 2003.)

Diaz told reporters (and TMZ's online audience) that Whitman treated her badly, both before and at the time of her firing three months before the former CEO announced her candidacy for governor. And she called into question Whitman's version of the events -- namely, whether the candidate was informed of questions about Diaz before that fateful discussion.

The Whitman campaign sprang into action this morning, convening a conference call with reporters before Diaz and Allred even sat down in front of the microphones. And they provided reporters with a set of documents that appear to show a Social Security card, a California drivers license, and a signature on a federal immigration form (PDFs here).

A few minutes before the event, Whitman's top campaign advisers dismissed any notion that the GOP candidate knew she was hiring someone in the country illegally. And here's what Whitman herself said about it when asked by reporters at a pre-planned campaign stop in San Jose: "As soon as we found that she was an illegal immigrant, then we actually did what we had to do as an employer, was to let her go."

(At bottom of this posting, a web bonus: the entire unedited Q&A Whitman did with reporters today.)

Whitman made two comments, in particular, that seem on point with the larger issue -- she suggested this may be a good example of the need to have a better federal E-Verify system that would reassure would-be employers.

She also punted when asked why she didn't reveal this information... herself... much earlier. "I don't know," said Whitman. "It never came up."

That may be, but now Whitman will be spending an awful lot of time talking about it for a few days (especially Saturday's Fresno debate sponsored, in part, by Univision) that are pretty close to election day. In fact, mail ballots go out in many counties on Monday.

But the premise of that question is interesting. Immigration has been one of Whitman's toughest issues all year long -- from the primary scorched earth fight she had to wage with Steve Poizner to her subsequent comments, and the reaction some of those comments produced just last month.

And last night she said this:

We do have to hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers, and we do have to enforce that law.

If Whitman had fully disclosed this issue on which she says she's innocent before the primary immigration fight and used it as some kind of teachable moment (Even I found myself stuck in a system that has failed us)... would she be where she is today? Might it also have given her a way to be up close and personal in a campaign that's largely been marked by carefully crafted events?

That's a lot of armchair quarterbacking, no doubt. But as the bickering over Allred and allegations of being mean and more keep playing out elsewhere... it's interesting to step back and wonder if this doesn't prove the point -- assuming Whitman's version is correct -- that illegal immigration reform is much tougher than the rhetoric lets on?

Here are Meg Whitman's comments to reporters today, starting with an allegation by attorney Allred that the feds had sent some sort of letter expressing concern about Diaz's status before she was fired.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • Francis

    LET THE GAMES BEGIN

    The parade in to the political gladiatorial arena has began, as Sen. Harry Reid attacks Sharron Angle, Senator Boxer stands against Carly Fiorina, and in the most dramatic race for the governor of California Brown battles Meg Whitman. The battle is not between swords and Retiarius Trident, but between issues and ideologies?In one month the citizen-crowds will descend on the voting booths, but the big difference is that a third party has emerged called the Tea Party. Under the banner of the Republican, this is a clash of the elites and the moderate conservatives. Although jobs is the main event in this Coliseum, second to this must be the economy that is still writhing from the downturn. Main street banks are reticent on loaning money for mortgages, even the Democrats bailed out these institutions with billions,

    Questions have not been asked by Andrew Coumo in New York, who had some nefarious dealing with Freddie Mac/Mea over pushing hard to give mortgages to unqualified low income home buyers. Third in line of issues is illegal immigration that Democrats are the major contenders in forcing through a path to citizenship or Amnesty. Sen. Harry Reid has been consistent in trying to enact laws on allowing illegal aliens a right to stay here, after breaking the law. Each time the Reid has authored a bill for any immigration reform, his bills in the Senate has been shot down in flames. Yet when it comes to enforcement of the “rule of Law” he has interceded with law enforcement laws such as E-Verify and 287 (G). Both federal laws for local police to question suspicious persons, same as the Arizona law SB 1170.

    Almost all Liberal-Democrats Senators like Reid, Boxer as incumbents must not remain in Washington, as they have completely ignored the 15 millions of Citizens-Residents out of work, and have not stop soliciting for more cheap labor from the other side of the border fence, or one way flight tickets from foreign lands. The Democratic Party and even many of the staunch Republicans have allowed the illegal invasion, get out of hand as thousand s are still slipping past the border fence and there is no real way to know who is a true tourist or student at the airport?

    After November in the likely lame duck sessions or perhaps before, the Democrats are searching for more votes. Liberal-Dem’s are hoping that the potential of passing some kind of immigration reform will bring more major minorities into the party’s power. so not–only–must we be very observant of any secret sessions behind closed doors executive law, but be very aware that illegal aliens can and have violated the law in voting in these coming federal elections. Many states still have no strong security measures to check who is voting? Utility bills and other easy fraudulent paperwork are easy to produce. A small group of other states are showing federal picture ID and extensive checks must be performed, specifically where absentee ballots are concerned. Combat between Brown and Whitman in California has illustrated the reality in this Sanctuary State as only Meg Whitman said she would enforce immigration laws and attest that she is against any Amnesty.

    Billions of dollars are being drained in California in illegal alien welfare, as in Reid’s Nevada. Instant baby citizenship is a major problem that must be solved, because pregnant Mothers are intentionally arriving here, as they can immediately get post natal care along with a wide range of freebies and cash payments. Once here the fertility of foreign mothers escalate bringing for each child born at least six hundred dollars,. Those with more than three or four children can move into low income housing, to which other family members–legal or illegal–move right in. Then Guess who is paying for this–California taxpayers and the federal government. Schools are another major problem–that is overwhelmed with illegal alien children–again the taxpayer pays for it all. Under the Democrats this give-away is only going to get worse. Nevada is not that better off, as now illegal aliens are collecting unemployment benefits from the slide of the building construction.

    Nevada with all its entertainment industry under Reid is falling into financial red ink. All states need to reconsider the massive costs of illegal immigration and take a minute to GOOGLE–Illegal alien–costs. You will be stunned at the expenditure by the US government, county and city welfare and public services and with not enough monetary returns. Business use cheap labor and the farming industry, but leave all the costs of health care and education to the unaware taxpayer. But this is not just a uncontrolled problem in border states, as in the last thirty years the invasion has spread across this soil. It is time for a reevaluation of our laws, which make it a felony to enter America without permission. Mandatory prison terms for business who hire illegal labor, with a uniform Guest Worker program that has not been fraudulently used as it is today.

    We should welcome the highest skilled professionals from other countries, but not mediocre job seekers from other countries, who become contingent on welfare and other social programs. Just Remember that reelecting Senator Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, or any Governor, Major and elected officers will relieve you of more taxes to pay for illegal immigrant households–will be a repeat performance. You can shadow your Senator or Congressman at the Washington switchboard at 202-224-3121 NumbersUSA can enlighten you about the reality and costs of illegal immigration.

  • Lisa

    Why should she have discussed it earlier? So that the press could spend time pressuring her to provide more information or even worse violate the person’s identity by publising her name in a blog. The maid had a right to privacy and I think it was right of Meg to respect that. She took the correct action once she found out she was illegal, she terminated her. No one is going to buy that Whitman abused her.
    Whitman is taking the high road here . This statement and documents are enough. She should not dignify these reckless charges or build a platform for Allred. Let Allred drag this ,poor woman around MSNBC cable shows e.g.,Oberman and Maddow …so who cares?

  • Real Americans

    Must be nice to be an illegal, break quite a few laws, get a slimy lawyer behind you as you tell the world you are a criminal. But she says we should feel sorry for her. Yeah right! She needs to be arrested and deported, as do all illegals.

    This illegal is disgusting and just solidifies Americans opinions of illegals and Mexicans – criminal, ungrateful scum. People should think twice before hiring or trusting a Mexican after this farce.