Dear Democracy Now! Visitor: We are an independent, ad-free daily news program that serves millions of viewers and listeners each month. In this US election year, Democracy Now! is more important than ever. For 20 years, we’ve put a spotlight on corporate and government abuses of power. We lift up the stories of ordinary people working to make change in extraordinary times. We do all of this with just a fraction of the budget and staff of a commercial news show. We do it without ads, corporate sponsorship or government funding. How is this possible? Only with your support. A generous funder will match your donation dollar for dollar if you donate right now. That means when you give $10, your donation will be worth $20. Pretty exciting, right? So, if you've been waiting to make your contribution to Democracy Now!, today is your day. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you every day.

Your Donation: $

Chavez Criticized for Anti-Labor Stands and, Along with Christi Whitman, for Possibly Hiring An Undocumented Immigrant

January 09, 2001

Linda Chavez, Bush’s nominee for the Department of Labor and Christie Whitman, slated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, are implicated in using undocumented immigrants as domestic laborers. Whitman had acknowledged in 1993 that she hired a Portuguese couple who were in the country illegally and failed to pay the requisite Social Security taxes.

In Chavez’s case, the nominee is falling afoul of the very regulations she will be called on to enforce if she is confirmed for the top labor post. Chavez either harbored or hired an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant for two years.

According to Chavez, she housed Marta Mercado as an act of charity and the more than $1,000 a year she gave the immigrant was not compensation for household chores, but simply a handout. Nonetheless, the Department of Labor says that domestic workers— like housekeepers, cooks, and baby sitters— are covered by federal wage laws if they earn at least $1,000 a year or work more than eight hours a week.

Mercado was living with Chavez when President Clinton’s nominees for Attorney General were derailed for employing undocumented immigrants. At the time, Chavez criticized the nominations.

Issues of wages or taxes aside, it is illegal to "harbor" an undocumented immigrant. Although Chavez says she was unaware of Mercado’s legal status, Mercado says she told Chavez she was illegally in the US while living with the nominee.

Almost lost in the debate over Chavez’s relationship with Mercado are Chavez’s qualifications for Labor Secretary as well as the plight of the country’s undocumented workers, forced to work for substandard wages and denied fundamental rights. Today, we focus on those crucial issues.


  • Cathi Tactaquin, Director, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
  • Ai-Jen Poo, Organizer, Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV)
  • Jack Martin, Special Projects Coordinator, Federation for American Immigration Reform; Retired Foreign Service Officer, State Department.

Related Links:

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.