How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Q&A: An L.A. domestica on housekeeping work, papers, and Meg Whitman's maid

Photo by Bulent Yusef/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A detail from a mural in London, June 2006

The scandal that erupted earlier this week over Meg Whitman employing an undocumented immigrant as her housekeeper for nine years has turned the governor's race into a circus of press conferences in recent days. Republican candidate Whitman insists she did not know that ex-housekeeper Nicandra Diaz Santillan was working here illegally, in spite of a Social Security no-match letter that would have raised a red flag; Diaz, who at one time represented herself as having documents, insists otherwise.

Looking beyond the back-and-forth sound bites, however, beyond its high-profile context, the business relationship between Whitman and Diaz is not so noteworthy in itself. Each day, undocumented (and some documented) domesticas - as the legions of women who clean our homes call themselves - board buses headed for the Westside or the Valley or Los Feliz or the Palisades, you name it, to clean the homes of clients who, by and large, are less concerned with their immigration status than how they make their floors shine and their mirrors sparkle.

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In the news: New Senate immigration bill, questions over Whitman's undocumented housekeeper, Latinos in the GOP, more

Comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate - 89.3 KPCC Before Congress adjourned, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey introduced a bill that would beef up border security, expand family reunification to same-sex couples and provide a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.

Steve Lopez: Meg Whitman has some explaining to do on illegal immigrant housekeeper - Los Angeles Times Lopez: "Do the Whitmans have any other domestics whose papers should be checked? Does Jerry Brown? Help me out, readers."

Whitman faces uproar over illegal immigrant maid in bid for California governor - Los Angeles Times The flap over Meg Whitman's undocumented maid threatens to further cut into the GOP gubernatorial candidate's support among Latinos just weeks before election day.

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Q&A: UCLA's Kent Wong on Meg Whitman and the unavoidable underground economy

The scandal that has erupted around Meg Whitman’s ex-housekeeper Nicandra Diaz Santillan, who yesterday announced in a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred that she had worked illegally for Whitman for nine years, threatens to derail the GOP gubernatorial candidate’s campaign.

In a press conference this morning, Whitman referred to yesterday's allegations as a political smear, insisting that she did not know about Diaz’s undocumented status, that Diaz had “lied to us for nine years” about her status, and that she was fired upon admitting that she was in the country illegally. At issue now is an allegation that Whitman received a letter from the U.S. Social Security Administration in 2003 questioning the legitimacy of her housekeeper's status, which Whitman says she never saw.

The relationship between Whitman and Diaz is noteworthy, of course, in light of Whitman’s bid for public office, and especially in light of Whitman’s tough-on-illegal-immigration campaign stance. But outside that context, with more than 11 million undocumented immigrants believed to be living in the United States, the vast majority in the labor market, Whitman and Diaz’s business relationship was quite commonplace.

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A search for "The Corrido of L.A."

Art by Gajin Fujita, courtesy of LACMA

Move over, Randy Newman. Los Angeles may soon have an additional theme song, and it's a corrido.

Plans are afoot to create the "The Corrido of L.A.," a song written in the traditional Mexican narrative ballad style that best captures the essence of the city, as part of a student contest. The contest, announced today, is a joint project between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the University of Southern California and is being held to commemorate the centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

Contest judges will include the band Ozomatli, which will set the top ten entries to music and perform them Dec. 18 at Hancock Park, adjacent to LACMA.

The contest is open to students in grades 7-12 from both public and private schools throughout the city, said Ilona Katzew, curator and co-head of the museum's Latin American art department. While the song is to be written in corrido style, it may be written in any language and its subject matter is flexible, Katzew said, so long as the song invokes the city.

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