A story that appeared today in The Nation, since reported elsewhere, alleges that undocumented immigrants worked for former CNN host Lou Dobbs, tending to his properties and to his daughter's prize horses. The story has since been picked up by several other news outlets. Dobbs is best known, of course, for his extremely strict position on illegal immigration, which has included advocating criminal penalties for those who hire unauthorized workers.
The former host of Lou Dobbs Tonight has since criticized the liberal magazine's investigation as a "hit piece" and denies having hired illegally, making the point that it is not his responsibility to check papers. According to The Nation, which interviewed five people who allegedly worked for Dobbs while undocumented, the workers were hired by contractors.
Still, given Dobbs' famously restrictionist position on the show, which he left last fall, the reader comments left on the CNN website and numerous other sites have been impassioned ones, whether blasting Dobbs or in his defense.
And snarky too, like this one by a commenter identified as "hkchas" on the CBS News website, referring to the similar scandal last week that involved an undocumented housekeeper employed by GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who has railed against illegal hiring:
"Perhaps Lou & Mage (sic) Whitman use the same staffing firm?"
Some sided with Dobbs, like "baronis," who posted a comment on the CBS site:
"The liberals are good at stretching the truth. The customer is not responsible for verifying identities of subcontractors or employees of an agency. So you liberals out there had better check the credentials of whoever wipes down you car at the local carwash or you may be held as responsible for hiring an illegal alien."
On the Politico website, which also picked up the story, "66gardeners" was less sympathetic:
"Oh, this is rich. I am a 53-year-old white woman who will do those jobs. I have clients with neighbors who have a republican campaign sign in their front yards and illegal immigrants working in their back yard. Just who do you think are hiring these people?"
Reaction aside, the Dobbs controversy again brings the illegal immigration debate back to the role of the employers, as did last week's revelation that Whitman had employed an undocumented immigrant for nine years. In a nation that thrives on unauthorized labor - in industry, in the home, in the farm fields - it is next to impossible to avoid the underground economy, and the laws on the books do little to prevent the hiring of unauthorized workers, whether employers do so knowingly or not.
A line from a comment on the Politico website posted by "reason 1," who advocated stricter border enforcement, put it this way:
Everyone has hired an illegal immigrant, knowingly or not. It's almost impossible not too, they are EVERYWHERE. You can't swing your arms around without hitting one.