How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

On brown restrictionism and the midterm

Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images

Governor-elect Brian Sandoval of Nevada shakes hands with a supporter on election night. November 2, 2010

This week's midterm election gave us much food for thought regarding the role of minorities in the outcome, and among the more interesting items on the menu has been victories of several minority Republican candidates in state and national elections.

While Latino voters helped net key victories for Democrats in the West, namely for Jerry Brown in the California governor's race and for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, the GOP pitched a slew of ethnic candidates who won, in some cases without much Latino support. Among them are New Mexico governor-elect Susana Martinez, Nevada governor-elect Brian Sandoval and Florida U.S. Senate winner Marco Rubio, as well as South Carolina governor-elect Nikki Haley, who is Indian-American.

What do these winners have in common? In a post on, Shikha Dalmia wrote about a common thread that binds them: a restrictionist stance on immigration. From the piece:


Quote of the moment: NCLR's Martinez De Castro on what motivates Latino voters

Photo by Joe Hall/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A multilingual sign points the way to a polling place, November 2006

"Much has been made about Latino enthusiasm around voting on Tuesday, suggesting that low enthusiasm means 'not voting.' Well, here's the thing: I am voting on Tuesday, but I would hardly describe my mood as 'enthusiastic.'

"All to say that there are different factors vying for Latino attention--some could dampen participation, some could energize it--and the way that candidates define themselves on the issues makes a difference to those energy levels."

- Clarissa Martinez De Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, in the Huffington Post

Martinez's opinion piece made the Twitter rounds this weekend. In it she wrote about about the varied perceptions of Latino voters as either a) a solid voting block, aligned on issues and focused chiefly on immigration (which they are not); b) no different than the rest of the electorate, without common interests (which they are also not).


Quote of the moment: Meg Whitman on why ex-housekeeper should be deported

"Well, the answer is: It breaks my heart, but she should be deported, because she forged documents and she lied about her immigration status."

- Meg Whitman, Republican candidate for governor, regarding her former maid Nicandra Diaz Santillan in an interview last night with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren

Whitman's remark was in response to a direct question from Van Susteren while discussing her former housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz Santillan. "Should she be deported?" Van Susteren asked.

The scandal that erupted last month over Whitman's employing Diaz, an undocumented immigrant, for nine years then firing her last year after deciding to run for governor has threatened to derail her campaign against Democratic candidate and state Attorney General Jerry Brown, causing her to lose ground in particular among Latino voters.


Q&A: A former labor watchdog on contractors, clients, and illegal hiring

Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The tools of a trade in which subcontracted labor is common, November 2009

The illegal hiring scandals that have landed both Meg Whitman and Lou Dobbs in hot water in the course of just over a week have placed a spotlight on the role of employers in illegal immigration, bringing up questions about how involved employers need to be in verifying workers' legal status, and whether it's even possible to avoid unauthorized workers in an economy that depends on low-wage help.

Both cases also raise questions about the role of the middleman - the employment agency or contractor who provides the workers. In GOP gubernatorial candidate Whitman's case, her ex-housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, was hired through an agency. In the case of Dobbs, the ex-CNN anchor known for his stringent views on illegal immigration - and employers who contribute to it - the workers interviewed by The Nation, which broke the story yesterday, worked for contractors who provided services to Dobbs, on his properties and for his daughter's horses.


Ouch: "Perhaps Lou & Mage (sic) Whitman use the same staffing firm?"

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.