ICE Won’t Say If It Will Enforce Immigration Law Against Undocumented Alien Who Worked for California Gubernatorial Candidate

By Penny Starr | October 1, 2010 | 7:11 PM EDT

Nicky Diaz, left, former housekeeper for California GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, talks to reporters with attorney Gloria Allred in Los Angeles Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

( – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in a statement issued to reporters this week, declined to say whether it will take any action in the case of Nicky Diaz Santillan, the former maid of California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who admits she did not have the proper legal papers to work in the United States.

“As a matter of policy, ICE does not disclose whether it will conduct a specific law enforcement action in the future,” read the statement sent from ICE by e-mail to on Friday. “The agency is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes efforts to target dangerous criminal aliens and others who present the greatest risk to our communities.”

“In the workplace, ICE’s enforcement strategy focuses on identifying employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and engage in related crimes such as worker exploitation, visa fraud and human smuggling and trafficking,” reads the statement.

Diaz Santillan admitted she did not have the proper papers to work legally in the United States during a press conference with her attorney Gloria Allred on Wednesday. She also said she was fired by Whitman and her husband Griff Harsh in June, 2009, after she admitted to them that she "did not have papers to work here."

A statement on Meg Whitman’s Web site says, “Nicky Santillan deceived the family by lying about her status as a legal worker for 9 years. She produced a driver’s license, a Social Security card and signed an I-9 form stating that she was legally allowed to work in the United States. Nicky not only lied to Meg and Griff [Harsh] but she lied to the service that Meg and Griff hired to find an employee for the household work. In June 2009, once Meg was already running for governor, Nicky came forward and admitted that she had been lying for 9 years and that in fact she was not legally allowed to work in the United States. Meg and Griff immediately terminated Nicky’s employment.”

“When I met with Meg Whitman on June 20, 2009, I asked for her assistance,” Diaz Santillan said in remarks prepared for the press conference and posted on Allred’s Web site. “I explained to her why I came to the United States. I explained that I was married and our economic situation in Mexico was very bad.”

“We had no job, no food, no place to live and for that reason we made a decision to come here,” Diaz Santillan said. “I told here that she knew that I did not have papers to work here and I needed her help.”

“I wanted her to help me get an immigration attorney,” Diaz Santillan said.

At the press conference, Allred produced an April 22, 2003 letter from the Social Security Administration stating that the Social Security number provided by the Whitmans for tax purposes for one of their employees did not match with the name Nicky Diaz Santillan. A note was written on the letter, allegedly by Griffith Harsh, asking, “Nicky please check this. Thanks.” (Scroll down through document for letter, here.)

Concerning such letters, the Associated Press reported on Sept. 30 that “the [Social Security] agency stopped sending them to employers in 2007.” The actual April 2003 letter to Whitman and her husband says, “this letter makes no statement about your employee’s immigration status.” It further says, “This letter does not imply that you or your employee intentionally provided incorrect information about the employee’s name or SSN. It is not a basis, in and of itself, for you to take any adverse action against the employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing, or discriminating against the individual.” (Scroll down through document for letter, here.)

The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “Whether or not Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman received a letter from the Social Security Administration saying her former housekeeper's false documents did not match its records, Whitman did not act unlawfully by keeping the housekeeper employed, immigration lawyers said Thursday.

“In fact, had she gone ahead and fired Nicandra Diaz Santillan based on such a letter, she would have exposed herself to potential anti-discrimination violations, lawyers said.”

When Whitman was asked by a reporter why she did not turn Diaz Santillan over to authorities when she learned she was an illegal alien, the Associated Press reported Whitman as saying, “I was very fond of Nicky and I didn’t want to make an example of her.”