Friday, May 27, 2011


All the U.S. Supreme Court did on May 26 was to nibble around the edges of our completely out-dated system to balance the need for workers with the supply for those workers.

The decision places greater burdens upon employers to verify the legal status of employees and applicants for jobs. Employer groups across the country have complained about these burdens on two counts: first, the Congress refuses to recognize the inability of employers to find workers for industries such as agriculture, restaurants, hotel and tourism among legal residents; and second, how difficult it is to function in a status verification process which is cumbersome, slow, and often wrong.

In the past, many Supreme Court decisions have contained express language urging Congress to enact legislative remedies in areas where a legislative void or confusion is present. Such a recommendation to Congress would have been far more helpful than permitting States to pass their own unequal and confusing laws on how to deal with the federal issue of immigration.

I fear that this decision will prompt many States to pass a variety of laws which are dissimilar, unclear, and burdensome to implement. Has not the Court invited a whole new barrage of cases testing the limits of this piece-meal approach?

Worse of all, the Court failed to understand the very difficult plight of immigrant workers who came to this country to meet the demand for employees from a vast number of industries. Virtually all of these workers are members of blended families--some members are legal residents, some are not. This Court decision seems to suggest that such undocumented workers will simply pack up and return to their countries of origin. Family members will not do that. The result will be more people in our country living unprotected in the shadows of society, and more employers finding ways around the burdensome regulations. Neither outcome serves our country well.

It is mystifying why the Court makes no reference to the 4,500,000 undocumented people in our country who came here on valid visas [mostly on commercial planes], but just never left after those visas expired. Why does the federal government refuse to implement a post-visa tracking system?

Congress has a moral duty to recognize the current outdated immigration system and to lead the nation in a civil discussion to deal with our employment imbalance, and to enact comprehensive immigration reform now--not promise to do so after the next election cycle.

By simply nibbling around the edges of our immigration mess, the Court has given the country a confusing policy of frayed edges--but no clear mandate to deal once and for all with our antiquated and unworkable immigration laws.

This decision offers President Obama and Congressional leaders the impetus to move immigration reform legislation forward now, rather than more years of these piece-meal legislative and judicial remedies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I commend Navy Secretary Ray Maybus for deciding to name a Navy cargo ship after the California farmworker leader, Cesar Chavez.

No previous Navy cargo ship has ever been named to honor a Hispanic. This tribute is far overdue.

Cesar Chavez served in the Navy from 1946 to 1948. He had two cousins who were killed fighting in World War II. Chavez was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom in 1994.

It is ironic that Cesar would never have wanted any type of personal honor. His entire life was spent in that selfless service of others, especially poor farmworkers who had no voice, no power, nor ability to improve their lot.

Chavez made the plight of farmworkers, many undocumented men and women, a cause of national concern and embarrassment. His non-violent approach to organizing farmworkers in a real sense has never ceased. Because of the selfless work of farmworkers, we Americans pay only 6% of our annual incomes on food. That stands in stark contrast to almost every other country in the world where food takes a very large percentage of their incomes.

The USNS Cesar Chavez has a nice ring to it, and I look forward to its launching.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


On May 10 President Obama went to El Paso, Texas, to emphasize once again the need for Congress to enact meaningful immigration legislation to help fix our current, broken way of dealing with the country's increasing demand for workers. As we emerge from the economic downturn the demand for more workers will accelerate. But we have no system in place to meet this balance.

Congress has the opportunity to take action on two pieces of legislation which will greatly assist two large groups of people. The first is to consider and pass in the House and Senate the DREAM Act and AgJOBS. The first has already been introduced, and the second will be introduced shortly.

The DREAM Act provides a way for young people who were brought to this country without documents under the age of 16 years to move to legal residency status by graduating from college or serving in the military. It makes no sense to punish these young people who have never known any other country, and who have worked hard to get a sound education or to perform military service for the overall benefit of our country. The DREAM Act should be passed quickly and implemented so that we stop wasting the talents of these young people whose only interest is in bettering our country.

AgJOBS [Agriculture Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act] gives the opportunity for undocumented farmworkers who have worked at least 150 days in agriculture over the past two years to become legal residents. We need these workers to perform a myriad of tasks in all aspects of agriculture. Their efforts keep a steady food supply coming to our tables, and they are essential workers for our country. This is one area of employment where other Americans simply will not work.

I plead with President Obama to take a major leadership role in helping to pass both the DREAM Act and AgJOBS--both are essential to reignite our economy and to bring these two groups of people out from the shadows for the benefit of our nation.