The former housekeeper of California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman charged Wednesday that the former eBay CEO knew her maid was in the country illegally, but continued to employ her and treated her poorly.
Whitman’s campaign said that the maid, Nicky Diaz, was being “manipulated” by her high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred for “political and financial purposes,” and said the candidate did not know Diaz was in the country illegally.
But Allred said Thursday that she had a copy of a so-called “no-match” letter sent by the Social Security Administration to Whitman back in 2003. That letter, which indicated that Diaz’s name did not match with the housekeeper’s name, indicates that Whitman knew her housekeeper was not authorized to work, according to Allred.
She planned to release the letter at a press conference at noon Pacific time. The Whitman campaign announced it would preempt Allred with a press conference at 10:30 p.m. PT.
So what do we know so far?Documents supplied by the Whitman campaign to TPM and other media outlets last night seem to confirm that Diaz did indeed lie when she declared in paperwork in May 2000 that she was able to work in the U.S.
Allred alleged that Whitman knew the truth about her housekeeper’s status, not only because of the letter but because she said Diaz made references to not being able to leave the country during her employment. When asked whether her client falsely filled out paperwork, Allred wrote in an e-mail to TPMMuckraker: “No comment. News conference at noon.”
According to the campaign, Whitman and her husband Griff Harsh used an unnamed California-based placement agency to assist them in finding a housekeeper. Diaz, whose full name is Nicandra Diaz-Santillan, filled out a form in May 2000 and provided a driver’s license number and Social Security number. She was hired in November of that year, and filled out a standard IRS W-4 form, and provided a copy of her driver’s license and social security card. Diaz also signed an I-9 stating that she was a lawful Permanent Resident Alien, according to the Whitman camp.
Whitman said at a campaign event yesterday that she never received the no-match letter, which Allred said Diaz had found in the trash.
An immigration lawyer told TPMMuckraker that it could be the employment agency who is on the hook if they didn’t properly verify the applicant’s status.
“Ordinarily, if an agency is paid to recruit someone, the agency should do the employment eligibility verification and the employer might not be required to do anything,” Angelo Paparelli said.
It is unclear how long Diaz was employed by the agency and when she because directly employed by Whitman. But when Whitman allegedly received the no-match letter in 2003, there was no requirement that employers check on the employment status of their employees based on a “no-match” letter, said immigration lawyer Charles Kuck.
The SSA website says that when employers receive a so-called “no-match” letter, they should make sure there was not a typographical error and ask to see the employee’s Social Security card to ensure they have the right information. If the issue cannot be resolved, they are supposed to ask their employee to contact their local Social Security office.
It is unclear if Whitman informed Diaz about the letter and told her to get in touch with the SSA. Allred said Diaz found the letter in the trash.
The National Immigration Law Center says that no-match letters have been unfairly used as a reason to fire employees because employers have said that the letters give them reasonable suspicion that a worker is unauthorized to work. NILC said that there are other reasons for so-called “no-match” letters, including misspellings, clerical errors, or name changes due to marriage or divorce.
Witman’s campaign said that Diaz also filed out a I-9 form, even though the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that employers do not need to complete I-9 forms for employees who are “employed for casual domestic work in a private home on a sporadic, irregular, or intermittent basis” or are “providing labor to you who are employed by a contractor providing contract services.”
In a statement sent to TPMMuckraker, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said that the agency was focused on “effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes efforts to target dangerous criminal aliens and others who present the greatest risk to our communities.” She declined to comment directly on Diaz.
“As a matter of policy, ICE does not disclose whether it will conduct a specific law enforcement action in the future,” Kice said. “In the workplace, ICE’s enforcement strategy focuses on identifying employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and engage in related crimes such as worker exploitation, visa fraud and human smuggling and trafficking.”
Both Whitman and Diaz agree that on June 20, 2009, Diaz confessed that she was not a legal resident.
“We have no jobs, no food, no place to live, and for that reason we made a decision to come here,” the housekeeper said she told Whitman. “I told her that I don’t have papers to work here, and we need her help.”
Diaz said that she told Whitman she wanted her to help in getting an immigration attorney.
“Ms. Whitman just laughed and turn her face to one side. At that moment Dr. Harsh entered,” Diaz said. “Dr. Harsh was very angry and said, “I told you, I told you she was going to bring us problems!”
The Whitman camp said Diaz was suspended from employment that same day. Diaz said Whitman left a voicemail message on June 22 informing her that she had contacted her lawyer. Whitman’s camp said she informed Diaz that she had been terminated on or about June 29, 2009.
“She said ‘I cannot help you, and don’t say anything to my children. I will tell them you already have a new job’,” Whitman told Diaz, according to the former housekeeper’s account. “From now on you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You have never seen me and I have never seen you’,” Diaz said Whitman told her.
There has been no further contact between Ms. Diaz and Meg Whitman since her termination, according to the Whitman camp.
Video from Allred’s GMA interview, Diaz’s press conference and audio from Whitman’s call with campaign reporters below.
Late Update: Whitman’s husband Griff Harsh wrote a note on the so-called “no match” letter sent by the Social Security Administration back in 2003, according to documents displayed at at press conference by a lawyer for the former housekeeper.
“Nicky, please check this. Thanks,” he wrote, according to the document displayed by Allred.
That contradicts what Whitman told the Associated Press last night.
“We never received that letter or that notification,” Whitman had said after a campaign event in San Jose.
As we previously wrote, the SSA website says that when employers receive a so-called “no-match” letter, they should make sure there was not a typographical error and ask to see the employee’s Social Security card to ensure they have the right information. If the issue cannot be resolved, they are supposed to ask their employee to contact their local Social Security office. Allred said that the press conference that the law said it was up to the employer to make sure the employee had checked in with SSA.
Whitman said at a press conference earlier Wednesday that it was possible that her maid had intercepted the 2003 government letter since she was in charge of getting the mail.
“She might have been on the lookout for that letter,” Whitman said. “It would pain me to believe that that’s what she might have done but I have no other explanation.”
Allred laid on the rhetoric pretty thick at her second press conference in as many days, calling Whitman a liar and praising her client.
“I am so proud of Nicky. She is the hero in this story. She is the courageous Rosa Parks of the movement to win respect and dignity for Latinas and others in the workplace,” Allred said at the Thursday press conference.
Later Update: The Whitman campaign issued this response from Whitman’s husband, Dr. Griff Harsh:
“While I honestly do not recall receiving this letter, as it was sent to me seven years ago, I can say it is possible that I would’ve scratched a follow up note on a letter like this, which is a request for information to make certain Nicky received her Social Security benefits and W-2 tax refund for withheld wages. Since we believed her to be legal, I would have had no reason to suspect that she would not have filled it in and done what was needed to secure her benefits.
“It is important to note what this letter actually says: ‘this letter makes no statement about your employee’s immigration status.’
“The essential fact remains the same, neither Meg nor I believed there was a problem with Nicky’s legal status and I certainly don’t recall ever discussing it with my wife, nor did I ever show her any letter about it. The facts of this matter are very clear: Ms. Diaz broke the law and lied to us and to the employment agency. When she confessed her deception to us last year, we ended her employment immediately. Meg and I played by the rules and followed the law. Ms. Diaz did not. If, as she claims, she received this letter and note of inquiry from me, she never answered my request to look into this. Instead, she choose to continue her deception. This entire matter is a sad one and it’s timing is clearly the result of a calculated and cynical political smear by Meg’s opponents.”