How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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.


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.


Latest drama in the governor's race: The undocumented ex-housekeeper

It's not a great day for the Meg Whitman campaign. The GOP gubernatorial candidate's former housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz, alleged late this morning in a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred that she spent nine years working for Whitman's family illegally and that she was fired in June 2009 after she approached the family to ask for help gaining legal status.

The Whitman campaign, meanwhile, says that Whitman was unaware that Diaz was undocumented, and has released related documents. According to the Whitman campaign, Diaz, who is alleging mistreatment, was fired after she admitted to being in the country illegally.

Immigration has been a sore spot for Whitman, who faced Democratic candidate and state attorney general Jerry Brown in a debate at UC Davis last night. Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, has faced criticism from Latino and union groups for courting Latino voters while simultaneously campaigning on an immigration platform that includes tighter border security, a ban on admissions of undocumented students to state colleges and universities, and a stated opposition to bilingual education.