What Should Meg Have Done?

So, Meg Whitman — the Republican nominee for governor of California — hired and then fired an illegal alien as a housekeeper. Bad Meg.

But as more and more details emerge, one question keeps nagging at me — precisely when did Whitman make an error?

About 10 years ago, she decided she needed a housekeeper. So she went looking for one. She wanted to avoid hiring an illegal alien, so she did her homework — she didn’t just hire someone, she contacted an agency that would take care of all the paperwork and whatnot to make certain the housekeeper was legally entitled to work in the US. They found a woman who presented the required paperwork, Whitman liked her, and hired her — paying her quite well.

Three years later, the Whitman family got a letter from the Social Security administration saying that the Social Security number her housekeeper had supplied was somehow defective. But, the letter said, under no circumstances should she take any other action than informing the housekeeper about the discrepancy and verify that it was accurate. The Whitmans, who had not received any such notice in the previous two years and had faith in the agency that had supplied them with their housekeeper, figured it was yet another government screw-up (gee, those NEVER happen) — the letter itself essentially threatened them with legal consequences if they took any kind of action — and gave the letter to the housekeeper, telling her to take care of it.

Several years later, the maid finally, tearfully confessed that she was an illegal alien, and the documents she’d supplied were forgeries. The Whitmans contacted an immigration lawyer on her behalf to see if they could help her legalize herself, but were told they couldn’t — and if they didn’t fire her immediately, they’d be legally liable too. So they regretfully let her go.

So, when did the Whitmans make the mistake?

When they fired her? Nope. At that point, they knew she was an illegal. If they continued to employ her, they’d be committing a crime.

When they got the no-match letter? Should they have fired her immediately, or demanded proof that she was here legally?

Nope. The letter spelled it out — they had no right to demand her Social Security Card:

“…ask the employee to give you the name and Social Security number exactly as it appears on the employee’s Social Security card. (While the employee must furnish the SSN to you, the employee is not required to show you the Social Security card. But, seeing the card will help ensure that all records are correct.)”

As far as firing goes, the letter said this:

“This letter does not imply that you or your employee intentionally provided incorrect information about the employee’s name or SSN. It is not a basis, in and of itself, for you to take any adverse action against the employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing, or discriminating against the individual. Any employer that uses the information in this letter to justify taking adverse action against an employee may violate state or federal law and be subject to legal consequences. Moreover, this letter makes no statement about your employee’s immigration status.”

Then, the mistake must have been in trusting the agency that supplied the Whitmans with the housekeeper.

But no, the agency is supposedly the “professionals” at verifying such details and complying with the law. The specific reason the Whitmans went to them was to use their expertise in complying with the law.

About the only thing the Whitmans could have done to avoid this whole situation was to simply not hire a Hispanic as a housekeeper. That seems to be the only solution — because the system as it stands is designed to minimize the chances of actually identifying and deporting illegal aliens. Rather, it seems its main concern is to give every single break it can to suspects, going to extreme lengths to avoid catching and punishing those who have broken our immigration laws.

But if the Whitmans had practiced that kind of discrimination, with the intention of avoiding the entanglements they now find themselves in, then they would have been violating anti-discrimination laws. But such cases are notoriously hard to prove — they were seeking a single employee, and didn’t have much of a “staff” to begin with. Discrimination cases require either egregious conduct or a pattern of behavior. A single data point — one hiring — does not make a pattern. All they had to do was find something else objectionable about any Hispanic applicants, and they likely would have gotten away with it.

That’s the ultimate message the left is pushing on the Whitman case. They are highlighting the fact that the system is set up to make it very hard for employers to guarantee they comply with the law.

And this is an entirely logical consequence of the Left’s constant push to conflate legal and illegal immigrants. To them, there is no difference between the two — which means that those of us who oppose illegal immigration are against legal immigration, too — hence “anti-immigrant.”

Here’s how it works: imagine a large group of people. Some of them will get you in trouble if you hire them, others will not. You can differentiate between the two subgroups, but the Left is pushing very hard to blur the differences and keep people from making those determinations. So the safest thing to do, purely in self-interest, is to simply not hire any of them.

Immoral? Perhaps. But self-defense trumps all.

We need to rework the system to make it easier to draw the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, not harder. That’s the real lesson out of the Meg Whitman case.

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