Whitman Woos Latinos in Spanish, Bashes Immigrants in English

A tale of two campaign ads reveals the real Meg Whitman.

By Julianne Hing Oct 27, 2010

Who’s the real Meg Whitman, and where does she stand on immigration? She’d rather you not find out the answer, especially if you’re Latino.

The California GOP gubernatorial nominee has two new ads out that aim to close the growing lead of Democrat Jerry Brown. Taken together, they give a much clearer picture of her plans for Latino Californians, who are considered crucial voters in determining the outcome of next week’s election. 

In one TV ad, now airing on Spanish-language stations, Whitman touts her commitment to the Latino community. "Don’t be fooled by Jerry Brown," a woman says in Spanish. "Meg Whitman stood up against the Arizona law," she says, referring to Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070. "She stood by us."

Except she didn’t. In front of white, or at least English-speaking audiences, Whitman has said she supports Arizona’s right to flout federal law and create its own immigration policy in SB 1070. Separately, Whitman’s said she would oppose an SB 1070-style law for Californians, but considers it the state’s right to choose. The distinctions amount to cheap hair-splitting: A central constitutional debate over SB-1070 is whether states can write their own immigration laws. In any case, she can hardly claim to have "stood up against the Arizona law."

"Meg Whitman is trying to have it both ways on Arizona’s ‘papers please’ immigration law," said Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration reform group America’s Voice (via Huffington Post). "But, no matter how many billboards she can afford, the truth is she can’t say one thing in English and turn around and say another in Spanish." 

Meanwhile, Whitman also released a new ad this week on California’s AM radio airwaves for talk radio’s reliably conservative audience. It’s here that we see Whitman in her element, firmly committed to anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The ad touts her hardline stance against immigrants in the state. She would "strengthen the border, end sanctuary cities, crack down on employers who hire illegal workers,"–how quickly Whitman forgets the folks on her own payroll–"and establish a temporary guest worker program."

Whitman then proceeds to attack California’s undocumented students who are trying to go to college.

"Jerry Brown supports giving financial aid to illegal immigrants at California state colleges, the colleges we taxpayers support," male and female voices take turns saying. "With our state in financial crisis, should we be giving college tuition aid to people who are in this country illegally?"

"Jerry Brown says yes, Meg Whitman says no," the ad continues. "She opposes financial aid for illegal immigrants. She says legal students should come first."

Here, Whitman’s claims are at least partially true: Brown supports the California version of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students to apply for state financial aid. Except that her political arguments rest on the false assumption that undocumented students are somehow stealing resources from other would-be undergrads. Undocumented immigrants pay state income and sales taxes just like green card holders and citizens do.

With just days to go and Whitman’s popularity quickly waning, she is likely trying to shore up her Republican vote with this radio ad. Whitman’s never been shy about her distaste for undocumented immigrant youth. Forget arguing over financial aid and in-state tuition, if Whitman had her way she’d bar all undocumented students from enrolling in any public institution of higher education. Whitman, naturally, opposes the DREAM Act as well.

Listen to the radio spot here.