By Ruth Conniff
By Ana Perez
The Meg Whitman saga reveals not only her hypocrisy but also our nation’s hypocrisy on the issue of immigration.
Meg Whitman counted on her investment of millions of dollars in the Spanish-language media to yield high returns in California’s highly contested gubernatorial race. Yet she did not count on Nicandra Diaz Santillan, an undocumented Latina immigrant and a former Whitman housekeeper, to come out of the closet and expose Whitman’s hypocrisy.
Whitman had employed Diaz Santillan as a domestic worker for nine years and then fired her shortly after deciding to run for governor.
“I knew the risk of speaking out and I was afraid for my family,” Diaz Santillan said. “Despite my fear, I decided to come out from the shadows, the shadows in which millions of people live every day.”
This may prove disastrous for Whitman.
“For months, Whitman has portrayed herself ‘tough as nails’ on illegal immigration,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported, “and has said she wanted to ‘prosecute illegal aliens and criminal aliens around the state,’ along with the people who hire them.”
As a Latina, I was disgusted to see Whitman’s ad after ad on Spanish TV and radio claiming she was a friend to the Latino population. One commercial featured a Latino man explaining that Whitman had provided opportunity for him; therefore, she was a good candidate for Latinos. Yet when I turned to English channels, anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment spooled from the same campaign.
Immigration is by far the most divisive, most volatile and most intentionally misrepresented issue in politics today.
There are 12 million undocumented immigrants in our country. Like Diaz Santillan, most have been here for many years, working hard for low wages and paying taxes. All the while, they are at the mercy of their employers, who can threaten them with deportation at any moment.
These immigrants are vital to our economy, which would sputter without their contributions. Like Whitman, many industries have depended on their labor. To turn around then and scapegoat immigrants is the height of hypocrisy.
Yes, our immigration system is broken. But scapegoating is no solution. We need leaders to fix the system and move us forward so no one has to live in the shadows anymore.
Ana Perez is the executive director of the Central American Resources Center (CARECEN) in San Francisco and the president of the Salvadoran American National Network (SANN). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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