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Friday, February 19, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Immigrant Job-Seekers Feel `Nannygate' Backlash, Advocates Complain

Washington Post

The Clinton administration's poor handling of "nannygate" has created a backlash against immigrants and worsened already high levels of job discrimination against them, several Latino and Asian groups said yesterday.

When attorney general-nominee Zoe Baird was forced to withdraw because she had illegally hired two undocumented workers from Peru, Clinton officials should have used the setback as an opportunity to clarify labor and immigration laws on the hiring of workers who are not citizens, the activists said.

Instead, "hysteria" set in, the activists said, and the issue became clouded with anti-immigrant sentiment and misinformation about immigrant labor.

When federal Judge Kimba Wood, Clinton's top choice after Baird, was forced to withdraw even though her hiring of an undocumented worker from Trinidad was not illegal, "It was almost like the White House was following this attitude of `immigrants need not apply' or `those who've hired immigrants need not apply,' " said Cesar Collantes of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Claire Gonzalez, a civil-rights analyst with the National Council of La Raza, said her office learned of a Central American woman with about 10 clients whose homes she cleaned. One by one, they let her go after the Baird controversy despite the fact that the woman is a documented worker, Gonzalez said.

The groups also faulted the media for perpetuating falsehoods about immigrant labor, such as articles that advised employers to ask prospective employees for a green card as proof of work eligibility. Under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, it is illegal for an employer to specifically ask prospective employees if they have green cards since other forms of work authorization are available to immigrants. It also is illegal for employers to specify what form of identification or work authorization they will accept.

"Unfortunately, the White House has remained silent on the issue," said Karen Narasaki of the Japanese American Citizens League. "At a minimum, the White House should have tried to mitigate the backlash against immigrants created by this controversy."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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