New administration, same old Zoe Baird problem.
January 7, 2001 4:17 PM   Subscribe

New administration, same old Zoe Baird problem. Labor Secretary-Designate Linda Chavez housed an illegal Guatamalan immigrant and gave her spending money in the early 1990s. Will it nuke Chavez's confirmation? Or will Senate Democrats not touch it out of fear of appearing anti-Hispanic?
posted by aaron (24 comments total)
I certainly hope the Dems protest the Chavez thing and not worry about being perceived as "anti-hispanic." Heck, an illegal immigrant is exactly the thing the conservatives bitch about. And breaking the law etc? Why not the assume the anti-Zoe thing to be an anti-Jewish vote?
If she breaks the law she is hardly the sort of person, we have been told over and over, to represent the people in our government.
Is there one rule for the GOP and a different one for the Democrats?
If the Dems roll over at each thing the GOP does, it is no wonder that they bullied their way and got their man in office.
posted by Postroad at 4:41 PM on January 7, 2001

Christine Todd Whitman also has a nannygate problem. In 1993, she admitted that she "hired a Portuguese couple as live-in help after she couldn't find anyone else to take care of her children" and then paid "a fine to immigration officials and $22,000 in Social Security taxes dating back to 1987," according to a 02-12-1993 NPR Morning Edition report.
posted by rcade at 4:41 PM on January 7, 2001

I think that there's one difference -- albeit a minor one -- between Chavez and Whitman: Chavez is being asked to be the head labor official of our country, yet seems to have broken the labor laws in her past. Doesn't get more germaine to the question of her suitability for the post than that.
posted by delfuego at 6:14 PM on January 7, 2001

Speaking of germane, today's NYTimes had a good story on Chavez and labor-related positions she's taken in the past.

"In her columns, Ms. Chavez has ridiculed sexual harassment lawsuits as being brought by 'crybabies,' has argued against the notion that women face a glass ceiling thwarting promotion into the senior ranks of business, and has likened supporters of an increased minimum wage to Marxists. She has condemned proposals to raise the federal minimum wage, saying such a step would reduce jobs and force many companies out of business."

In short, hiring the fox to protect the chickens' rights.

Popular wisdom seems to be that she has been put forth as a sacrificial lamb, to sap energy away from the fight against Ashcroft. Let's hope they both get borked.
posted by luke at 6:40 PM on January 7, 2001

Ranking Dems have already said that they will question her but most likely approve the appointment.

Same comment was made about Ashcroft (Saw on TeeVee and too lazy to look for a link).
posted by Mick at 7:11 PM on January 7, 2001

You'd think it'd be enough that the AFL-CIO was dead against the woman to tank her nomination.
posted by leo at 7:23 PM on January 7, 2001

The influence of the AFL-CIO politically has waned substantially. The proportion of the US workforce which are members of unions has been in decline for decades and they long since became a small minority of the whole.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:41 PM on January 7, 2001

Yeah, but it's pretty bad if the person they're nominating doesn't at least get the acquiescence -- if not the support -- of labor unions in this country. We're a long way from the days of Clear It With Sidney but even Republicans traditionally have shown themselves able to work with organized labor. This isn't a great sign.
posted by leo at 7:57 PM on January 7, 2001

I don't like Ms. Chavez's politics and would rather not see her confirmed. However, if it's true that the woman was not an employee I can't see this as anything to hold against her. Come on, opening your home to a (presumably poor) illeagal immigrant is an act of human decency.
posted by rdr at 9:08 PM on January 7, 2001

Hum, sounds like a trend with the Bush appointees, appoint someone who is hostile to the very groups that are they are appointed to protect. Let's see...

For example, John Ashcroft, who has connections to Religious Right, who favor violating the constitution and the law of the land by trying to break down the separation of church and state. His job is to enforce the very laws he hates. If Bush and Ashcroft had their way we would be living in a Christian Theocracy. Just remember folks, according to the Bush administration hate, intolerance for difference, and letting big corporations run the government are American "values."

Man, at least Bush is too dumb to mask his zealous right-wing views, and just how much of fool he is! And guess what? A majority of the voters in the general election saw it!
posted by Bag Man at 11:56 PM on January 7, 2001

If this turns out to be a simple act of kindness, and the Dems choose to crucify her for it (as they seem to be warming up to do) then I'm done with them. I'll burn my (democratic party) Voter Registration card, and e-mail Teddy Kennedy the .mpeg of the act.
posted by Optamystic at 1:36 AM on January 8, 2001

BTW, I don't like her politics either. But in this case, (from what I understand of it right now) I like her principles.
posted by Optamystic at 1:41 AM on January 8, 2001

"I think most of the American people were upset during the Zoe Baird nomination that she had hired an illegal alien. That was what upset them more than the fact that she did not pay Social Security taxes."

Linda Chavez said this on PBS in 1993, when Baird's nomination was under fire. At the same time, Chavez was housing a Guatemalan woman living here illegally, paying her hundreds of dollars in "spending money," letting her do chores from time to time, and helping her get jobs with a neighbor who paid her in cash (source: Washington Post).

Of all these charges, I think the most damning is that she knowingly helped an illegal alien find work in the U.S. That's not a very good example for a secretary of labor.
posted by rcade at 8:26 AM on January 8, 2001

today's NYTimes had a good story on Chavez and labor-related positions she's taken in the past.

Perhaps, if you define "good story" as one that distorts, misquotes, and mischaracterizes her actual opinions. NRO's Milller and Ponnuru have already done an excellent job of exposing the mainstream media bias against Chavez - this "good story" is nothing but more of the same.

posted by mikewas at 11:28 AM on January 8, 2001

Let guess mikewas, it's the old liberal bias in the media? Get a life, and go back to what ever fantasy would that you're from. The NY Times is the most creditable source I can think of. Since it's not a crazy Jesus newspaper, it must me sinful and just plain wrong
posted by Bag Man at 4:11 PM on January 8, 2001

Let's look at the facts, as reported by the NY Times, the Washington Post and other "reputable" mainsteam media sources: the woman, Marta Mercado, was from Guatemala, a nation in the midst of utter strife in 1991 when these events took place. She was living and working illegally in Washington when her live-in boyfriend began abusing her. Chavez allowed Mercado to come to stay with her to get away from said abusive partner. Chavez helped Mercado to improve her ability to speak and read English, and helped her learn how to navigate the DC transit system so that she commute to her job. When Mercado was short of cash between paychecks, Chavez loaned her money for food and other necessities. As most long-term houseguests do so as to not outstay their welcome, Mercado helped out with minor household chores.

Chavez is being villified for giving shelter to a battered woman who was a refugee of a war and violence ravaged country. This is nothing more than a return of the politics of personal destruction and an effort to find a neat and easy excuse for the left to write-off Chavez because they don't like her politics, regardless of her ability to perform the job that she has been designated to do.
posted by Dreama at 4:56 PM on January 8, 2001

Chavez breaks immigration law and helps someone find work illegally in this country, and we're supposed to pin a medal on her?
posted by rcade at 5:47 PM on January 8, 2001

Endorse her, and see if she demonstrates the same case-by-case benevolence in the execution of her office. If not, she's a hypocrite. Simple as that.
posted by holgate at 6:11 PM on January 8, 2001

She violated the very she is now expected to defend. That's all that matters, period. All other facts are irrelevant.
posted by Bag Man at 7:02 PM on January 8, 2001

So whose spin are we to believe?

That said, my better self says that even if Chavez had in effect hired the immigrant woman, common decency ought to override cold, unyielding law, and if her intent was to shelter this woman, then her act was righteous; not everything that is legal is moral, nor everything moral, legal. In any case her politics are irrelevant, Bush should be able to appoint whomever he pleases, so long as they are able to fulfill the duties of office.

The vindictive, petty side of me says, "Turnabout is fair play."
posted by Avogadro at 7:58 PM on January 8, 2001

The law that Chavez might have broken was a law against knowingly harbouring an illegal alien -- and that's only if you accept that Chavez knew Mercado's status at the time that she offered her refuge. This remains to be seen or proven.

She did not help Mercado to find a job; she helped her to be better able to get a job that she already had. She did not employ Mercado; she gave her money (not illegal by any stretch) and possibly asked and/or did not stop Mercado from doing chores around the house as any long-term houseguest might. Mercado herself says that she did not consider herself an employee, just someone helping out doing things that needed to be done around the household. (I just saw her say that herself on CNBC as I typed, nice happenstance.)
posted by Dreama at 9:13 PM on January 8, 2001

Ergh, better able to get TO a job. To being the operative, and missing word.
posted by Dreama at 9:14 PM on January 8, 2001

Chavez knew the woman was in the country illegally, according to interviews with the woman and one of Chavez's friends, Abigail Thernstrom. Chavez also helped her find work, according to the woman.

Here's the sources:
  • "Mercado, who now resides legally in the United States, said she told Chavez at the time that she did not have legal immigration papers." -- ABC News
  • "Thernstrom said it was her recollection that Ms. Chavez was aware that the woman was not in this country legally. 'I'm pretty confident that Linda did know,' Ms. Thernstrom said.'" -- New York Times
  • "Mercado said Chavez had arranged for her to work for a neighbor, who paid her in cash." -- Washingtin Post
posted by rcade at 7:04 AM on January 9, 2001

Another skeleton:

"... sometime in the 1970's [Chavez] defaulted on several thousand dollars in college loans, stopping repayments for 10 years. But Ms. Chavez said during her Senate campaign that she repaid the loans when she became a federal employee and her nonpayments were uncovered." -- New York Times

So Chavez is also testing the nation's tolerance for people who default on their student loans, not just opponents of illegal immigration.

With all of these faults coming to light, I am beginning to think I may qualify for a Cabinet post.
posted by rcade at 7:13 AM on January 9, 2001

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