The second California gubernatorial debate between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman, which took place on Saturday in Fresno, was ironically co-hosted by Spanish-language television network Univision, which lent a Hispanic focus to the event. The debate took place against revelations that Whitman had employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper for nine years, even though Whitman and her husband were sent a letter by the Social Security Administration after three years that there may have been irregularities with the housekeeper’s immigration status. Accordingly, Whitman’s housekeeper controversy became a central feature of the debate.
Whitman was asked why she did not show compassion for her long-term housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan, or try to legalize Santillan’s immigration status. Whitman said that Nicky had the appropriate documents when she was hired, and that Whitman and her husband hired Santillan through an employment agency. Whitman stated that, in 2009, Nicky informed Whitman that she, Nicky, was an illegal immigrant. Whitman said that, at they point, she had to let Santillan go.
Whitman then blamed Brown and his surrogates for putting Nicky “at risk” regarding her immigration status. Brown responded that he had nothing to do with the controversy over Nicky’s allegations. Brown hit Whitman for evading responsibility after taking a position during the campaign of being tough on all other employers who hire illegal immigrants. Brown accused Whitman of falsely defaming Nicky for saying that Nicky stole Whitman’s mail. Brown reminded the audience that Whitman doesn’t want a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants like Nicky. Brown said that candidates should not run for Governor of California “if you can’t stand up on your own two feet” and accept responsibility. Brown said that Whitman was blaming Santillan, Brown, “the left,” even “the unions” for her housekeeper controversy, but would not take accountability herself.
When asked whether they would agree to take a lie detector test regarding the housekeeper issue, Brown said that he was not accused of anything, and that the issue is Whitman’s credibility. Whitman would not say whether she would take a lie detector test, only that Santillan’s revelation was a political stunt by Brown.
The candidates were then asked whether California should crack down on people who hire undocumented workers in their homes. Whitman said that all employers should be held accountable. She said that businesses should have a “three strikes and you’re out” requirement, after which they should lose their business license. Brown said he opposes having California state officials going after illegal immigrants, because it is a federal responsibility. Brown also said that Whitman did not crack down on herself in this matter. Brown accused Whitman talking out of both sides of her mouth, and that Whitman’s “veracity is seriously in question.”
Questioners at the debate also asked Brown and Whitman whether they supported drivers’ licenses and sanctuary cities for undocumented workers: Brown said he does not support releasing people who commit crimes. He also said he does not favor driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants until they regularize their immigration status. Brown favors comprehensive federal immigration reform, including securing the U.S. border and a path to citizenship. Whitman said she opposed California’s Proposition 187 (which denied public education to illegal immigrants), and also opposes Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. Whitman also favors more high-tech tools to secure the border, such as night vision and motion detector equipment. Whitman said that, until the U.S. secures its border, it is not time to talk about immigration reform.
Brown and Whitman were also asked about the DREAM Act, which would combines a path to citizenship with college education or military service for illegal immigrants. Brown said he supported both the federal and state DREAM Act for California. Brown said that, if someone is an undocumented student, Whitman “wants to kick you out of school,” and that such a position was “morally wrong.” Whitman said that she does not favor either the federal or the California DREAM Act. Whitman contended that resources are scarce in California, and that it was not fair to bar California citizens from attending universities by taking up their places with “undocumented people.”
One questioner asked what could be done about the low high school graduation rate for Hispanic youths. Whitman said she wants to give schools letter grades, as is done in Florida. Whitman also favors increasing the number of charter schools, and the choice to attend different schools. She said she wants to pay teachers more and put more money into the classroom. Brown said he did not want to shift from the current numerical grade system for schools to letter grades. He said that would be like adding a second speedometer on a broken car. Brown also said he favors charter schools, and pointed out that he started two such schools in Oakland as Mayor. Brown stated that he does not want to take money from schools to give capital gains tax break to businesses, as he said Whitman proposes to do.
Brown and Whitman were also asked about budget cuts in California, jobs, California’s chronic water shortage, and health insurance, most of which are areas where Hispanics in California are hurting more than the population as a whole.
© 2010 Matthew Emmer — All Rights Reserved
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