inda Chavezwould have made an excellent Labor Secretary, but she was forced to withdraw hernomination because of allegations that she may have broken a labor law.Apparently, this “compassionate conservative” ten years ago sheltered aGuatemalan woman who had fled a domestic violence situation and was hereillegally.
It might have been refreshing to have a Cabinet member genuinelyinterested in the concerns of the average worker instead of high-powered unionsand employers but, alas, this was not to be.
The controversy over the Chavez nomination and withdrawal highlighted once againa manic government policy regarding illegal immigrants. The Immigration andNaturalization Services (INS) is an agency plagued by a decades-old culture ofabuse and incompetence. It has also become a tool of Machiavellian politicalmaneuvering.
The Chavez affair pointed out the glaring hypocrisy of our immigration laws,which are enforced sporadically and with political bias.
The fact is that mostof us know that there are illegal immigrants working in our major cities. We seethem in ethnic restaurants and car washes. We see them standing on cornerswaiting for the daily truck rides to fields for day labor. We know they work inurban sweatshops in the garment industry and we also know many businesses wouldground to a halt if the immigration laws were thoroughly enforced.
It is facetious for many opponents of increased immigration quotas to assertthat these immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans when few Americanswant these jobs to begin with. But consider how easy it is to use the INS whenit suits certain purposes. Do you have a business rival? Report them to the INS.Does your neighbor annoy you? Maybe that Guatemalan gardener is suspect, so whynot call in Immigration to investigate?
Who reported Linda Chavez’s relationship with Marta Mercado, the Guatemalanillegal who resided with her for over two years? Why it probably was herneighbor, Margaret Zwisler, who actually hired Mercado and is herself aDemocrat. She is represented by an attorney with ties to the White House. Youwould think that the neighbor would be more culpable than Chavez but once again,will this labor law be enforced? Were Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood charged withviolations or did Nanny-gate quietly go away after they dropped out ofconsideration for Attorney General in 1993.
So what is the answer? Should the immigration laws in the workplace be enforcedor should they be rewritten? Consider also that there is a direct conflictbetween the INS and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Whilethe INS is trying to enforce laws by prosecuting employers who hire the illegal,the EEOC is busy securing their workplace rights. The EEOC wants to extendanti-discrimination rights to illegal aliens. This means that if an illegal werelet go by an employer, he would be free to file a complaint with the EEOC togain back pay and the right to sue. Does any of this make sense?
Linda Chavez and I have a lot in common. She and I are both U.S. born citizensof Hispanic backgrounds married to non-Hispanics. We’re both conservativecolumnists raised in Roman Catholic families. She and I share the sameviewpoints on many issues. Where we differ is that she is middle class and myfinancial status is more on the same level as Marta Mercado back in 1991 whenshe was given help by Chavez. Iwish I had someone as charitable as Linda in my life.
But I sympathize and understand what Ms. Chavez meant when she admitted that sheprobably knew that Mercado did not have the proper documentation. I never askmany of my acquaintances if they have green cards. They come from Columbia, ElSalvador and the Dominican Republic. I imagine that their work visas haveexpired, but am I obligated to turn them in? Is this what Chavez was supposed todo?
There is definitely a need for serious review of all labor laws covering theillegal alien issue and we should resolve to apply them equitably in all cases.I hope that any legislation revising the current statutes will contain in somemeasure a portion of the compassion displayed by a certain Labor Secretary whomight have been.
Copyright2001 Alicia Colon for Workforce