Everybody in California knows the story by now, if not everybody in the nation. Ten years ago, Meg Whitman and her neurosurgeon husband hired a part-time maid from an agency that certified her as a legal resident or citizen. In 2003, the family got a “no match” letter from Social Security about the maid. The letter DOES NOT say she is illegal and has all sorts of disclaimers in it. The letter can be seen here and there is a note, probably written by the husband, asking the housekeeper to “look into this.” The housekeeper kept the letter all this time (It was sent in 2003) and one wonders why. Finally, this spring, Whitman became aware that the maid was not legally here and had been lying all this time. She contacted her attorneys to see if she could do anything to help the maid legalize her status and they told her they could not help. At that point she fired the maid as the only thing she could do, especially as she was running for governor. An otherwise inflammatory web site confirms that Whitman did get legal advice to see if she could help her.
In June 2009, Allred says, Nicky spoke to Ms. Whitman and her husband Dr. Harsh for help to get legalization.
At that point Nicky Diaz Santillan picks up the story:
“I explained that I was married and our economic situation in Mexico was very bad…no job, no food, no place to live and that is why we came here…and that is why I need help… Ms. Whitman just laughed (Nicki starts to cry)…
“Dr. Harsh came in and said ‘I told you she was going to bring us problems.’
“Ms Whitman said, ‘calm down, calm down’ (Nicky breaks down and cries).
“I told them I believe in people and I told them people deserve a chance. I told them I don’t wish them any harm.
“Ms.. Whitman said ‘I don’t know what I can do but let me see what my lawyer can do.’
“On Wednesday June 29 she called me, ‘I talked to my lawyer and he told me can not do anything for you she said, I cannot help and don’t say anything to my children, I will tell them you have a new job, and have gone to school….I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, I have never seen you, and you have never seen me, understand’ (continues to cry)”
She throws me away like a piece of garbage
Aside from the emotional stuff, it is clear that Whitman, by the maid’s own statement, tried to help her. The maid has committed several felonies by this time and Whitman had no choice but to do what she did or break the law. It’s also clear that Allred and the Brown campaign have now focused a spotlight on this particular illegal alien for deportation. Whitman did not call immigration.
Illegal immigration is a serious problem and one that threatens to overwhelm California. The 1986 amnesty promised border enforcement but that promise was never kept. It is also clear that the emotional atmosphere about this subject has changed in the past 30 years. My closest friend in medical school was one of 10 or 12 children of a couple who may have come illegally into the country. I think the issue was much less formally treated in the distant past. His father had a welding shop where he made wrought iron gates and the like. His mother, who did not speak English, made her own tortillas. All the the children but one had graduate degrees.
My wife taught school in east Los Angeles, near the medical school and County Hospital. Most of the children in her class were Hispanic and many of the parents did not speak English. She quickly learned that if a child was not doing homework or putting out maximum effort, she must be very careful about how she mentioned this to the parents. Sometimes the child would come to school the next day with bruises. The parents were adamant that their children learn English and grow up educated. Slowly, that ethic has diminished and we now see the sort of pathology seen in the inner city black communities. Boys are in gangs and girls have out-of-wedlock babies in increasing frequency.
I have spent many years caring for illegal aliens, many of them trauma cases. One that stands out in my mind was a young man who was walking with a friend on the railroad tracks listening to his SONY Walkman when the train came. They didn’t hear the train, of course, and the friend was killed. This young man came in with a massive liver fracture bleeding into his chest and abdomen. I managed to pull him through although it took 60 units of blood to do it. After he went home, he came to the office for his first post-op visit with his brother, who spoke English. In talking to them, I learned that they had a lawn care and gardening business in San Juan Capistrano. I had had many uninsured patients pay me back through some sort of barter. One woman who had a housecleaning business, cleaned my house for six months. I suggested to this young man that he could cut my grass for a year to pay me back for saving his life. No, he said, they were too busy.
A couple of months later, an attorney for the railroad contacted me and we had a discussion. The young man was now trying to sue the railroad. We had a good laugh about it as I told him I had a conflict of interest. If he should win such an unlikely lawsuit, I might get paid. Not only was there no gratitude, but they were now trying to play the system.
I retired with my own medical problems some years ago and I now review claims for workers compensation. The only claims I see are those with an unusual aspect to them; routine care is handled by nurses. About two-thirds are Hispanic names and, of those, about half do not speak English. In the histories where such information is collected, the claimants list education often. It is usually second grade education and almost all are illiterate in Spanish, let alone English.
I think there has been a change in the immigrants in the past 30 years. There is a lower level of skill and education, for one thing. For another, there is a sense of entitlement. Listen to the tone of the Whitman maid’s statements. There have been lots of activists, many of them Democratic Party activists, telling these people that they are not illegal. There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant. Our highly educated president even made a statement that there were Mexicans here even before the founding of the United States. In fact, Mexico broke from Spain in 1821 but we have learned not to follow the president too closely on his facts. We see groups like MECHa organizing on college campuses and demanding courses on Chicano Studies as one more useless degree program.
The problem is worse now than it was in 1986, partly because the tone has changed. There is also the question of the employability of the newer immigrants who lack any education even in Spanish. Another hazard lurking in the background is the potential collapse of Mexico as a functioning state.
UPDATE: Here is an interesting post at NRO on income inequality contrasting the usual left wing approach to some data driven observations. The author agrees with me on illegal immigration.
Globalization is accelerating the long-term trend, but other factors are at work, as well. For example, one that Pearlstein managed to ignore was that our nearly open borders have meant the United States has imported millions of low-skilled, low-education workers from South of the Border. As my colleague Robert Rector has observed, we are literally importing poverty. Often hard-working, illegal immigrants nonetheless anchor the income distribution while they compete away low-skilled jobs from American citizens. Income inequality must increase if we import millions of low-wage workers. That is not a political observation; it is not anti-immigrant; it is a mathematical fact.
And look at Rector’s point, one I have made based on observation. He has data.
Today’s immigrants differ greatly from historic immigrant populations. Prior to 1960, immigrants to the U.S. had education levels that were similar to those of the non-immigrant workforce and earned wages that were, on average, higher than those of non-immigrant workers. Since the mid-1960s, however, the education levels of new immigrants have plunged relative to non-immigrants; consequently, the average wages of immigrants are now well below those of the non-immigrant population. Recent immigrants increasingly occupy the low end of the U.S. socio-economic spectrum.
The current influx of poorly educated immigrants is the result of two factors: first, a legal immigration system that favors kinship ties over skills and education; and second, a permissive attitude toward illegal immigration that has led to lax border enforcement and non-enforcement of the laws that prohibit the employment of illegal immigrants. In recent years, these factors have produced an inflow of some ten and a half million immigrants who lack a high school education. In terms of increased poverty and expanded government expenditure, this importation of poorly educated immigrants has had roughly the same effect as the addition of ten and a half million native-born high school drop-outs.
Based on the data I have seen, just in workers comp cases, a large share of those immigrants are third grade dropouts.