Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, the Republican candidate for the office he occupies, said he thinks "Nicky is being utilized" but said the Whitman housekeeper incident shows that the country needs a new immigration system.
"Here we have a woman who came here looking for a better life. She was willing to not be consistent with her facts to get a job," Maldonado told the Bee in an interview Wednesday.
"I think this demonstrates that we do need immigration reform," he said.
Maldonado said he didn't think Whitman had any reason to doubt that her housekeeper Nicky Diaz Santillan wasn't documented because the Mexican immigrant had shown Whitman a Social Security card and a driver's license.
Maldonado's Mexican immigrant father runs a strawberry farm on the Central Coast, and his mother is the receptionist who asks to see workers' documents when they apply for a job, Maldonado said.
"She has to respectfully tell them if it doesn't look right," he said, "but she has to be careful" because "you can't turn people away" without a good reason.
Maldonado's father came from Mexico as a bracero, a legal farm guest worker, years ago at a time when he was able to take advantage of an avenue to permanent residency under the sponsorship of an employer.
Whitman said she supports having guest workers, but not a path to legal residency for illegal immigrant workers here now.
Maldonado differs with Whitman on this. He said, like Whitman, that he doesn't support "amnesty" but that he believes some undocumented workers should be able to stay if they pay a fine or perform community service and pass background checks.
"I'm not in the business of dividing families," he said.
Earlier in her campaign, Whitman said she would institute workplace inspections of California businesses to hold employers accountable for hiring illegal immigrants. She later said she would start these state inspections once the federal government institutes an electronic system to verify workers' identification documents.
Maldonado doesn't support the idea. "I think it should be the federal government," he said. "We don't have money to operate parks."
Maldonado also differs with Whitman on allowing undocumented students raised here to attend college and pay in-state tuition. She supports barring illegal immigrant students from public colleges; Maldonado co-authored legislation while he was in the state Legislature to allow them to pay in-state tuition rates.
PHOTO CREDIT: Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, is sworn in as lieutenant governor by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday, April 27, 2010. Hector Amezcua/ Sacramento Bee