Baird pays fine for hiring illegal aliens Justice nominee gives INS $2,900

January 17, 1993|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Attorney General-designate Zoe Bair and her husband, Paul Gerwitz, paid a civil penalty of $2,900 yesterday to the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- a department she will control if she is confirmed -- for employing two undocumented aliens as domestic helpers.

President-elect Bill Clinton said he was "pleased the matter is now resolved." He repeated his "complete confidence" in his nominee to be the first female attorney general in the nation's history and said he looked forward to her confirmation.

Ms. Baird ran afoul of the regulations by employing a Peruvian baby sitter and her husband who were illegally in the United States. The action put a cloud over Ms. Baird's prospects of confirmation, although key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they did not consider it serious enough to block her from joining the Clinton Cabinet.

Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas said yesterday, "She's going to have some explaining to do, but ultimately, I don't think she'll have any trouble."

The announcement of the civil penalty -- just short of the $3,000 maximum fine under the law for each count -- was clearly a major effort to clear the air.

The couple also failed to pay Social Security taxes for their domestic help, although they were legally obliged to do so. Since Ms. Baird's nomination, she and her husband have paid about $8,000 retroactively to cover the Social Security levy.

Ms. Baird told the Clinton transition team of her employment of the illegal aliens.

Clinton spokesman George Stephanopoulos said yesterday that Ms. Baird and Mr. Gerwitz, a constitutional law expert at Yale Law School, had been advised by an immigration lawyer when they hired the Peruvians that there was "a process of sponsorship."

This involved disclosing to both the INS and the Labor XTC Department the hiring of the illegal aliens along with an application for authorization. Action is rarely taken against sponsors who do this, even though the applications are for undocumented workers.

Ms. Baird and her husband were advised that the INS did not normally impose sanctions under these circumstances. Ms. Baird and her husband followed the application procedure, and their applications were approved.

"Ms. Baird has taken responsibility for this matter and acknowledges that to have hired any employee before receiving the necessary authorization was a mistake," said Mr. Stephanopoulos. "She deeply regrets the mistakes she has made in the matter."

Ms. Baird, 40, is chief council at Aetna Life and Casualty Co., and before that she was senior attorney at General Electric Co. The magazine BusinessWeek named her one of the top 50 businesswomen in the nation earlier this year.

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