by Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta April 5, 2011
The House Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday to discuss possible reforms to the H-1B visa program. While businesses claim they use H-1B visas to sponsor “high-skilled” workers, H-1B visa recipients are typically only required to have either a Bachelor’s degree or specialized knowledge in a particular field. H-1B visas are also used to bring fashion models into the country
Dr. Ron Hira, who teaches public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, discussed the many flaws in the H-1B visa program during his testimony. According to Dr. Hira, H-1B visas displace and deny opportunities to U.S. workers: “loopholes in the program have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers, with ordinary skills, who directly substitute for, rather than complement, workers already in America.” He also discussed loopholes in the program that provide an unfair competitive advantage to businesses that outsource jobs overseas. Hira stated nearly all of the employers receiving the most H-1B visas in the last five years are using them to offshore tens of thousands of high-wage American jobs. “Off-shoring through the H-1B program is so common that it has been dubbed the ‘outsourcing visa’ by India’s former commerce minister,” Dr. Hira added.
While members of the Subcommittee agreed with one another that the H-1B visa program needs reforming, they disagreed on the direction such reform must take. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) called for either increasing the H-1B visa allotment or tightening the requirements for qualifying for the visa. “The 65,000 base annual quota of H-1B visas is going to come under more and more pressure as the economy improves. If Congress doesn’t act to increase the H-1B cap, then we may need to examine what sort of workers qualify for H-1B visas,” he said in his opening statement. Rep. Smith also questioned whether the safeguards built into the H-1B program are sufficient to protect American workers. Citing a recent GAO report, he asserted, “H-1B employers categorize over half of their H-1B workers as entry level—which is defined as ‘performing routine tasks that require limited, if any, exercise of judgment’—and only six percent as fully competent.” Rep. Smith described national security concerns about the H-1B program. According to recent GAO findings, he said, the U.S. government has awarded H-1B visas to over one million foreign nations from 13 “countries of concern.” Finally, Rep. Smith expressed concerns over the “legacy of fraud” taking place in the H-1B program. At hearing over a decade ago, he said, witnesses discussed fraud in the program such as petitioning companies being nothing more than an abandoned building or fake address, yet roughly 10 years later in 2008 USCIS’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security found outright fraud in over 13% of randomly selected cases, he asserted.
Several Subcommittee members argued that instead of expanding the H-1B program, the U.S. should increase the number of legal permanent residents (green card holders) the government admits each year. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, argued that admitting individuals as green card holders is preferable to H-1B guest workers because H-1B recipients are unable to stay in the country permanently or move from job to job. “What we need are more green cards,” said Rep. Conyers. “Staple a green card to a national graduating certificate when he graduates from an engineering school. You would then relieve the problem of most of them ending up going back home to become our competitors when most of them...really wanted to stay.” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Immigration Subcommittee, also advocated increasing the annual allotment of green cards. According to Rep. Lofgren, the primary problem with the H-1B program is that it only permits workers to stay in the U.S. temporarily: “[T]he real issue … is how can we capture with permanent visas the individuals who we want to keep to create companies, to do start-ups, to create jobs for American workers,” she stated. “Europe, Australia, Canada, and even China and India are changing their laws and rolling out the welcome mat providing permanent visas and citizenship to some advanced degree holders. We must do the same or risk being left behind.”
Other members of the Subcommittee argued that the H-1B program should be restricted or eliminated entirely. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee, argued for lowering the number of H-1B visas. “There is such a thing as too much legal immigration,” King said. “Too much legal immigration also drives down wages and oversupplies in the workforce. And we are in a precarious position here in this country,” he said.
*****My thanks to FAIR for the use of their legislative updates in preparation of this article
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta April 5, 2011.
President Obama is beginning to feel the pressure from immigration activists. He kicked off his re-election campaign just this week. But activist with an issue to push know that campaign season is prime time for political promises. The promises may not always be kept but, it does not require much savoir faire to extract a promise or nail a plank into a candidate’s political platform.
Politico reports that, Change Takes Time, an immigration activist group, pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, has plans to stage events across the country, including president Obama’s home state of Hawaii, to promote immigration reform. White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, has said that the president is committed to immigration reform and that the broader agenda includes amnesty. But some experts say that immigration reform is such a divisive issue that it is likely to languish for the rest of the year, while the president gets his re-election machinery up and running.
Despite campaigning on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform in 2008, Mr. Obama has not taken the lead in moving the issue forward. He has said that the “political and mathematical reality “requires that he get bipartisan support, if immigration reform is to make it out of the republican controlled congress. The new congress, with the Judiciary committee now in the hands of rep. Steve King, an avowed strict enforcement advocate, has thus far focused on border security and sanctions for employers who hire illegals.
But, it appears New York senator Schumer has gotten the memo. He has been quietly meeting with moderate republicans in an attempt to breathe new life into the now moribund immigration reform bill that he drafted last year. The senator from New York has made it clear that he supports comprehensive immigration reform with amnesty for illegal's who are law abiding , provided they register , pay taxes and satisfy other specified requirements. The fact that 2012 is an election year bodes well for immigration activists hoping to cash in on the promissory generosity of candidates running for political office. Immigration is a top issue among Hispanics, now the nation’s largest minority group according to the US census bureau. They will have something to say about the question. They make up significant voting blocks in places like California, Texas. Arizona and other border states. Candidates are not going to overlook that fact.
By Reynold N Mason JD
Atlanta, March 26, 2011 Just a few short months ago, the outlook for those hoping to become legal residents of these United States looked bleaker than a pre-blizzard sky. There were bad omens everywhere. States in the heat of anti-illegal immigrant paroxysm rushed headlong to the bandwagon of those headed to immigration limbo. Arizona held the helm, being the first to enact a tough anti-illegal immigrant bill that authorized police to stop people suspected of being illegal and demand their papers. There was no shortage of copycat laws, as legislations in pursuit of victory at the polls, pushed to out tough one another on the strict enforcement. What has occurred since the 112th Congress was gaveled into session by John Boehner, has observers happily befuddled. Not a single piece of the expected tough immigration legislation has made it out of the House. In fact, the situation looks positively sunny for those here illegally.
State after seemingly contrite state has pulled back from the brink. Several have done a one-eighty. Utah being Chief among them, passing an immigrant friendly law that allows for migrant workers to be here legally and providing for a supply of migrants by contracting with a Mexican State to provide migrant workers for Utah’s farmers. California, took the lead on the Dream Act bandwagon, enacting legislation granting in State tuition to illegal students. Emboldened, and perhaps encouraged by California’s initiative, other States are jumping on the bandwagon.
The good news is traveling fast. The American spirit of generosity appears to be making a comeback. And there is no place more fitting than the State of New York for the goodwill towards downtrodden immigrants to rear its once drowsy, sleepy head. There, at the mouth of New York harbor, stands the Statute of liberty, on which Emma Lazarus’ immortal words are indelibly inscribed: "((Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!))" Ellis Island in the New York area was once the gateway through untold millions on new immigrants came to set foot on U.S. soil for the first time. It is fitting that New York is on the cutting edge of the movement to provide at least a modicum of relief.
Last week Senator Bill Perkins introduced the New York Dream Act. The bill, modeled after the one that crashed and burned in a political firestorm on Capitol Hill last year, is a copy cat Dream Act. It would bring New York’s illegal youth more rights. The one thing missing from the New York Dream is a path to citizenship. Only the federal government can grant that. But New York’s Dream would give under 35 youth who came to the U.S. before age 16, the right to in state tuition, if they have resided in the Big Apple for at least two years.
The promised benefits include access to scholarships, grants and loans. The more intriguing thing about the NY Dream is this; it gives illegal youth the ability to get a driver’s license, State employment authorization, and health insurance. If the bill makes it through, it could, like Utah’s, be a model for sister states to emulate.
A number of other states legislations have taken up their own version of Dream. Maryland has passed its version of Dream, and now joins California in allowing illegal students in state tuition. Immigration activists are puzzled but jubilant, and lately, wisely silent. When the tides are going your way, go with the flow.
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta, March 21, 2011. Republicans and interest groups pushing a hard line on immigration gave every indication after their sweeping triumph at the polls last November, that it would be tough sledding for illegal immigrants. But action has, so far, fallen far short of the fiery pre-election rhetoric. There have been very positive developments on the immigration front since republicans wrested control of congress from the sympathetic democrats last November. And therein is the irony. A congress in the hands of democrats, a senate led by the same Harry Reid who promised to, and in fact introduced the DREAM Act in the lame duck session and, a president who was an avowed ally of the downtrodden in the white house, and for two full years with the power to push through comprehensive immigration that he made a plank in his campaign platform, Mr. Obama and congress fritted the opportunity to fundamentally transform immigration law.
The chairman of the Judiciary committee, Steve King is an avowed anti-illegal immigrant, strict enforcement advocate, who supports denying citizenship to children born in to U.S. to illegal immigrants. He has held hearings and officials of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been called to the mat. But the tough punitive measures most anticipated have not materialized. In fact, the outlook for illegal immigrants is at present, out of the red and in the black. The fiery rhetoric has been toned down, and behind the scenes., moves are afoot to restart the discussion on the comprehensive immigration reform bill put forth last year by Senator Schumer of New York. Last month, the senator from New York quietly met with senator Lindsay Graham and sent out feelers to Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and other moderate republicans in an effort to breathe new life into the now moribund comprehensive immigration reform bill, that everyone but the most optimistic believed to be dead in the water.
Perhaps republicans are not the “sore winners” we thought them to be after all. They appear positively magnanimous so far, in their treatment of illegal immigrants. Not a single piece of the anticipated flood of anti-immigrant legislation has passed the 112th congress so far this session. Whatever the reason, the heated anti-immigrant rhetoric, tough guy rhetoric has given way to reason. Last week during the senate Judiciary committee hearing, DHS secretary, Janet Napolitano, disclosed that DHS quietly granted deferred action status to over 900 illegals in 2010. And that number does not include those granted deferred action status for humanitarian reasons. Deferred action status is what DHS grants when it decides not to deport an illegal immigrant. Those who are granted deferred action status get work authorization. There is no statutory basis for granting deferred action status. The DHS secretary grants it in her own discretion where she feels it is humanitarian or in the interests of justice to do so. The best part is deferred action status is not reviewable by the courts. Once it is granted, the lucky recipient can breathe a sigh of relief, and go about the business of earning a living, free from the fear of deportation.
All this of this came out during the questioning of the DHS secretary by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. He has been hot on the trail trying to track down the source of a DHS memo, leaked last February, that suggested granting deferred action status to all 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. No one will own authorship of the memo, but Steve Wonder can see that it was an effort by the spineless Obama administration to grant amnesty, to all illegas by stealth.
Another hopeful development has just occurred in the conservative state of Utah, where an immigration bill has just been enacted, granting amnesty to guest workers. The bill puts in place an agreement between Utah and a neighboring Mexican state to provide businesses with migrant workers. Utah representative Bill Wright, the bill’s sponso,r told NPR “It is necessary to keep illegal aliens because they work harder than Utahans….” “We’re spoiled rotten” he told NPR.
In Washington, and New Mexico the shifting tides in immigration legislation swept away two proposed anti-immigrant bills. New Mexico voted to continue issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, in spite of opposition from newly elected Hispanic governor, Susanna Martinez, who campaigned on a promise to end the practice, and toughen licensing laws. Meanwhile, in Washington, a bill to deny driver’s licenses to illegal immigrant died in the senate. New Mexico, Utah and Washington are now the only states in the country where illegals can get a driver’s license.
Even more telling, is the rejection in Arizona of anti-immigrant legislation whose aim is to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. Russell Pierce, the force behind Arizona’s SB 1070, the notorious “Papers Please” law that sparked protests and boycotts against the state last year, has been on a crusade aimed at ridding his state of illegal immigrants. He is the prime ;mover behind Arizona’s tough stance on immigration. This is a rare defeat for Mr. Pierce.
The activity around the immigration problem has quietly taken a turn toward reason. The fire that fueled the harsh rhetoric and calls for strict enforcement, appear to have burned itself out. The threatened enactment of sweeping Arizona-style anti immigrant laws to which this author alerted readers in an article titled “Tough Times Ahead for Immigration” in this publication just two months ago, has not materialized. The new shifting tide has imbued those at risk of deportation with renewed hope of one day regularizing their status.
And the president the United States(POTUS) seems to have regained his footing. He fumbled badly when he failed to push immigration reform in the last congress despite holding all the levers of power. In his budget request for fiscal year 2011 POTUS asked for $18 million for the office of citizenship. Some of that money will be used in initiatives that help immigrants resettle in the U.S. The new congress, now preoccupied with government spending, appears to have found its humanity and thus far, has acquiesced in the advancement of sensible humanitarian immigration initiatives. Let’s hope it all ends well.
***** My thanks to the Federation for American Immigration Reform for allowing me access to their legislative updates in preparing this article
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta, Mar. 05, 2011. Last week the U.S Supreme Court ruled in the case of Snyder v Phelps, that Phelps and his legions of mindless disciples are free henceforth to go forth and wreak havoc at the funeral of fallen soldiers. What got the Westbrook Baptist Church in hot water was its outrageous, obnoxious picketing at the funeral of Matthew Snyder, in Maryland a while back. Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq and Phelps and his legions showed up at the funeral brandishing banners and placards bearing verbiage that ripped apart the heart of the fallen soldier’s father, his family and friends.
Some of the obnoxious signs and placards bore the hateful words that have brought Westbrook notoriety over the last few years. Church members have staged protests at 600 plus funerals with signs that read: “GOD HATS FAGS” “THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS.”
Westbrook Baptist Church owns domain names that will assault the sensibilities of the most wooden advocates of free speech among us; “GodHatesFags.com” “JewsKilledJesus.com”, “BeastObama.com” “GodHatesTheMedia.com” “PriestsRapeBoys.com”, “GodHatesAmerica.com” “GodHatesSweden.com”, “GodHatesIndia.com”, and of course, the one-shot, all purpose, all encompassing, “GodhatesTheWorld.com”.
The Church is a snake pit of venom. And Phelps and his followers hiss and spew their hateful, hurtful slogans, like vipers, at the heart of those in the throes of grief. Mr. Snyder simply wanted to bury his son in peace. Now his name will forever be linked with one of the most contentious free speech issues America has had to confront since Civil rights. Whatever else Phelps might hope to gain by his callous, backwards and obscene displays, he does succeed in gaining publicity. The media are drawn to Phelps’ freak shows, like moths to a candle. They must sell papers and they know that anyone who dares to compound the grief of family and friends at a final farewell with epithets as vile as Phelps’ are sure to incur the ire of decent people. The quest for notoriety drives Phelps and his motley band of followers.
When a crazed shooter shot up Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s meeting in Tucson, Phelps announced that he would picket the funeral of a 9 year old killed by the crazed shooter because she was “better off dead”. The story made national news. To spare the little girl’s family the slings and arrows from Phelps ample quiver, he was given free air time on a radio in exchange for calling off the protest.
Hate speech is protected speech. Why, one might ask, do we permit someone like Phelps and his followers to launch a verbal volley of hurtful, hateful, and obnoxious slogans at people in grief? In the United .States the regulation of free expression of ideas is different from the regulation of any other industry. What makes it different is the First Amendment to the Constitution; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” I once heard or read something the great Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in the media. It was in essence, that man is a rational being with the gift of speech. If he cannot say what he thinks then he is no different from a dumb animal. For me, that is where the rubber meets the road. To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, people could trade their false notions for true ones, but only if they could hear the true ones.
The optimum response to Phelps is not to shut him up but rather to shout truth into his wax-filled ears, loud enough to be heard over the noise inside his own head. Were we to suppress his thoughts, they might drive him mad and his wild antics might be viewed as grounded in delusions. Any first year law student could then plead him out on grounds of insanity. The idea of free speech that the First Amendment protects is designed to work as a safety value for the release of noxious ideas such as Phelps’. It lessens frustration and channels hate into means consistent with law. Phelps and his followers have not engaged in some of the illegal acts that marked some of the protests of the 1960’s.
But what about Mr. Snyder? The sort of conduct exhibited by Westboro would move some to a violent response. Having just this in mind, some states passed laws making it a crime to engage in behavior likely to arouse “anger and alarm” on the basis of race, color, gender, creed, or religion. The problem with such an enactment is it is not content neutral. It bans only certain kinds of speech, so that a youth prosecuted for burning a cross on the front lawn of a black family under the ban was acquitted. The content of the speech in what determines whether it is protected speech. In ruling in Phelps' favor, Justice Roberts said the distress occasioned by the protests here, turned on the content of Phelps’ message. Americans, grateful for the ultimate sacrifice of fallen soldiers are wrenched by the slogan “Thank God for dead soldiers.” But Phelps can say it because it is a political message; it conveys the idea that Westboro is opposed to war. That makes it protected political speech. Were the protesters instead waiving signs that read, “God Bless America” there would obviously be no issue, because that is free speech we like and admire at the requiem for a fallen soldier. That means we would be censoring speech on the basis of its content.
The court found no problem with the place or manner of Westboro’s protest because they were kept a little distance from the mourners and they had obtained all of the required permits prior to their protests. If the nasty words are dressed up in political clothing, there is no recourse from their stinging blows. In the end, the $11 million verdict won by Mr. Snyder on grounds of intentional inflection of emotional distress was thrown out. The ruling, for many, is a bitter pill to swallow. Much like a good analgesic, it may eventually make the body better; but it is bitter going down. The hope is that tolerance of vile protests and hate speech like Phelps’ will strengthen the body politic and America will be better off for it.
Justice Alito, the lone dissenter, gave voice to the frustrations of hosts of Americans. He said that the First Amendment assures that Westboro has limitless opportunity to express their views. But it does not give them license to launch a vicious attack that makes no contribution to the public debate, by methods that are callous, atrocious, outrageous in character and utterly intolerable in a civilized society. Whatever little benefit there is from the slight value of the Phelps’ protests, Justice Alito feels, is outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. Justice Alito echoed the feeling among a host of sympathetic citizens who feel that personal abuse at funerals is not the means to communicate one’s political opinion. A public park, the State capitol or a public street may be the proper place, but not the funeral of a fallen soldier.
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta, Mar. 01 2011. Last year Wisconsinites swept Governor Scott Walker into the governor’s mansion. They did so because he promised to bring the state budget into balance. Wisconsin is running a deficit of $130 million projected for this year alone.
As part of his fiscal discipline Wisconsin’s new governor is pushing a bill aimed at corralling the runaway public employee unions. The bill which last week, passed the Wisconsin house, would eliminate most collective bargaining rights, require workers to contribute to their pensions and health insurance more than they now pay under their collective bargaining agreement with the state; eliminate automatic deduction of union dues, and future collective bargaining agreements would be limited to one year. In addition, the law requires union members to vote each year to "recertify" bargaining units. Should the bill get Senate approved, $30 million in savings would be achieved by July 1st and $300 million over the next two years. Wisconsin is staring at a budget shortfall of $3.6 billion.
Democratic Senators lacked the numbers to block the bill, so they packed their bags and fled the state. They sought political asylum in the home state of President Obama, Illinois. Their absence from the floor of the Senate denies the republicans the quorum needed to move forward with the vote. Public Sentiment toward unions has undergone a transformation over the last decade. Unions have seen declining membership. It is becoming more and more evident that unions are at odds with the general taxpaying citizens of the State, who foot the bill for their pensions and other benefits. They are at war with the common good, not with some greedy, money grabbing, capitalist conglomerate.
When the going got tough the democrats got going. They are still gone. How long they intend to persist in this crass dereliction of the duty they were elected to carry out is anyone’s guess. Sad to say, the virus is spreading. Ohio and Indiana legislators hit the road as well, their object; hinder the passage of common sense fiscal measures. If they can’t have their way, they’ll take their bat and leave. They will not play ball unless they dictate the rules of the game. What these “flee baggers” fail to note, is that the people have spoken. “We the people” are their bosses, and they are our public servants, there to do our bidding until we say otherwise at the next election. These “flee baggers” need to get back to work and do the job we pay them to do. I don’t know of any employee who survived long enough to have any seniority by defying his boss. That is precisely what these democrats are doing.
When we put democrats in charge, they run the place into the ditch. Now, the State house is under new management, and they have only just begun to clean up the profligate spending mess bequeathed to them. Why would democrats go to such extreme on behalf of public employee unions? The facts are crystal clear. Wisconsin is bankrupt. It must cut costs just like any other growing concern. That means the over-compensated government employees must be brought to account. A course correction is long overdue. But the democrats lacked the political will to make the tough choices. Why put their $millions from the union lobby at risk?
Governor Walker is not alone. Tennessee, Ohio, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, and Iowa are considering like measures to reign in public employee unions. Every dime spent on a teacher’s union means ten cents less for students. To really understand the undercurrent driving these protests, keep in mind that many millions of dollars of union members’ dues have been spent to fuel the Democratic Party in past elections.
The AFL-CIO, whose president Richard Trumka is orchestrating much of the protests in Madison this week, donated $1.2 million to Democrats in 2008 and $900,000 in 2010.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees donated $2.6 million to the Democrats in 2008 and another $2.6 million in 2010.
The National Education Association donated $2.3 million to Democrats in 2008 and $2.2 million in 2010.
The Teamsters union donated $2.4 million to Democrats in 2008 and $2.3 million in 2010.
The SEIU donated $2.6 million to Democrats in 2008 and $1.7 million in 2010, and on and on the list goes. (See: http://dailycaller.com/2011/02/19/unions-fuel-democratic-party-financially/) Dues deducted from employees paychecks are essentially laundered through public employee unions and then channeled to democratic candidates. The taxpaying public has finally awakened to alarm bells sounding everywhere. The democrats have emptied the treasury vault and now they have fled to escape their reckoning.
The first face-to-face meeting between Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, one of the first governors to stand up to unions, and the president of the state’s powerful teachers’ union ended in acrimony. There was even a memo with a wish for the governor’s death. Iowa governor, Terry Barnstead, says a contract that grants government employees 15 percent raises and free health care is squeezing taxpayers. These contracts have limited states’ ability to respond to the fallout from the economic downturn. “The death grip that the public-employee unions have had on the process in many states and sometimes nationally is a very big part of the deficit and debt problem that we’re facing at both levels,” says Indiana governor, Mitch Daniels. Raises and free health care is squeezing taxpayers.
The concept of unions as a protector of abused employees is a thing of the past. They may have a place in some industries, but government work isn’t one of them. Paying campaign expenses and then sitting down at the negotiating table with your candidate to negotiate a union contract is a farce. The practice should be a crime. The bigger felony is that unions do not have the interest of taxpayers at heart. When Governor Christie met with the teachers’ union and suggested it waive dues for a year, the reply was a resounding “NO.” And in the next breath came the suggestion “raise taxes”. Tax and spend.
The demise of Michelle Rhee is a classic case of union vengeance. While praises were heaped upon this stellar administrator for making the failing D.C schools better, the unions were organizing to get her and the Mayor who appointed her, because she fired bad teachers. Unions defeated Mayor Fenny, and Michelle Rhee moved on. A giant step backwards for the D.C’s failing schools public schools.
This is D day for the unions. They have mobilized the troops in all 50 states to protest The audacity of taxpayers who want their fiscal house in order. Labor unions long ago lost sight of their mission. They have been rendered redundant. The proliferation of labor laws enacted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have had the effect of the polio vaccine. So effective have they been, and so solicitous of worker rights, that the plague of worker exploitation, low pay and poor working conditions have gone the way of polio. The vaccine developed to fight those conditions, unions, has now been rendered redundant by very the plethora of legislation to which it gave birth. There is bereavement leave, the Family Medical Leave (FMLA) which allows leave for an adoption, maternity, and paternity; there is a leave of absence, paid holidays, and vacation benefits. If a member is laid off there is unemployment insurance and, worker’s compensation if a worker is injured on the job. The rules are all encompassing; not a nook of the employer- employee relationship escapes the broad sweep of the union’s protective compass. Even breaks, paid overtime, rest time, smoke time, lunch breaks, bathroom breaks are regulated and circumscribed. And shop stewards are ever present to school the uninitiated in the proper application of the rules for maximum effect. The job of the public employee union is done. It is time they pack up their bullhorns and leave. The gravy train has come to the final stop; Bankruptcy Station. All unions off please.
By Reynold N Mason JD
Atlanta, Feb. 25th 2011. There was a time when public employees had poor pay, long hours, working conditions that were exploitive, and were generally paid less than their private sector workers. But that was a long time ago. Unions once served a useful purpose. They fought for and won a forty hour work week, overtime pay for work beyond forty hours, vacation time, sick time, and comp time. They had a hand in getting worker’s compensation law enacted, so that a worker injured on the job did not lose everything when he was hurt. Today there are federal laws that protect workers from discrimination based on sex, age, and religion. OSHA is an ever-present eye on the lookout for safety hazards in the workplace.
The Wisconsin law is a good start
In Wisconsin, Governor Walker has proposed a law, which passed the house of representatives passed on Friday, February 25th 2011, that would severely limit the power of public employee unions in Wisconsin. The law would require workers to contribute to their pensions and health insurance more than they now pay under their collective bargaining agreement with the state. Automatic deduction of union dues would end, and future collective bargaining agreements would be limited to one year. In addition, the law requires union members to vote each year to "recertify" bargaining units. The unions have pulled out all the stops. Teachers have stayed away from their classrooms and union activists have staged demonstrations aimed at turning back the legislation. It passed the house but democratic members of the state senate fled the state and are in hiding in the sister state of Illinois.
Today public employees have their bread buttered, thanks to union activism over the last half century. The plight of municipal employees fifty years ago, bears no resemblance to that of today’s. workers. Today a police officer in Nassau County, New York earns an annual compensation package of about $190,000. And they get days off with pay for rolling up their sleeves and donating a pint of blood to the American Red Cross. Over the years the public employee union has sucked the life out of the taxpaying citizens, almost to the brink of bankruptcy. New York and several sister states are deep in the red and unable to meet their employee benefit obligations. It might surprise readers to learn that public employee unions are a relatively recent phenomenon. Roger Lowenstein has written the best account of the phenomenon that I have been able to find. Public employees were not allowed unions because no one viewed their government as an abusive, thieving capitalist out for money. But a seismic shift occurred when, in 1958, New York mayor Robert Wagner, realized that city workers made up a large block of voters, large enough to get him re-elected. He signed an executive order that authorized city workers to unionize. Other politicians of his ilk followed suit. By now the number of people working for the government had grown quite large. Being good vote counters, these politicians saw union workers as a pool of votes. Cities around the country began allowing City workers to join unions, and the government-union complex was born.
Today’s unions have become so powerful that they can paralyze a business with a strike. The UAW could, and has shut down GM and Ford to extract booty for their dues paying hoards. JFK in the 60’s allowed Federal workers to unionize. By the time Reagan came into office The Professional Air traffic Controllers Association, (PATCO) was so powerful that it could shut down the entire air transportation system of the US with a strike. PATCO struck, but President Reagan brought the hammer down. All strikers were fired and the union decertified. Way to go Ronnie. The problem with public employee unions is that once they get large enough, there is no limit to the obligations with which they saddle the City and State. The money and benefit these unions bleed from the State is hidden in plain sight. It is long term health care and fat pensions, paid for with taxpayers’ money. It is harder for Joe Taxpayer to figure out that a bus driver making $70,000 a year is really earning $130,000 because he or she can retire at the age of 41, as in the case in Boston. The unions have developed the savvy of an experienced pickpocket. The tax- paying public never knows when it is being fleeced. The pensions and health benefits are pushed back far enough into the future to be completely out of today’s economic equation.
Public employee pension is a disaster not waiting to happen. The disaster has happened and, in its wake lays the corpses of bankrupt cities and states. All but a pathetic handful of states are now insolvent. They are forced to borrow to make up the large deficits caused, in large part, by unions and their ‘over the top’ demands. It is time for cities and states to examine the things that have gotten us in this mess, and that is just what governor Walker has done. But the unions view this as a threat to their well-feathered nest and, joined by like-minded fellow unionists from everywhere, are battling to keep the gravy train from coming to a stop. But stop it must or Wisconsin is doomed. The state faces a deficit this year in the $billions. Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, New York, New Jersey and California are in the same predicament. It is disingenuous of these unions, to pretend that they have been blindsided. Walker campaigned on this very issue and voting taxpayers elected him to bring fiscal sanity back to the process. He is doing just that. The election is over. He won.
Unions in their heyday in the 1950’s extracted so much from Chrysler Ford and GM that these giants, “The Big Three,” once on top of the Fortune 500, are now bankrupt. GM is now owned by the UAW and the government. Reasonably people need to look at public sector unions in the context of these economic problems. The absurdity of union demands was brought home to me some years ago, when I happened upon a young woman on the Brooklyn Bridge waving a flag to divert traffic around the construction. She was a flag woman and all she did was waive the caution flag to alert motorists. She was paid $28.00 per hour, union scale as compensation for her exertion, plus benefits of course.
It is time we stop these unions from pushing the rest of us around, while at the same time raiding our nearly empty treasuries. At every contract negotiation, unions push for more pay and more benefits, all the while holding essential public services hostage. Teachers in Wisconsin are staying away from classes, using phony sick notes from sympathetic doctors. It is next to impossible to fire a lousy teacher, because the union will throw tenure at you. They want job security regardless of effectiveness, competency or efficiency.
The public sector unions need to be stopped. They are antithetical to our democratic ideals. What we have in this country is representative government, a process of accommodating the interest of different groups, through institutional arrangements such as the legislature. In setting the public policy, Governor Walker must consider the numerous opinions and interests of all the people of Wisconsin. He must accommodate the wishes of the majority of the citizens of his state. The very fact of quadrennial elections, carry with it, acceptance of the idea of representation of the needs and interests of the people as expressed in the polls. Unions hamper this process by demanding more than their fair share and with their collective bargaining agreements, ties the hands of those elected to see to it that the interests of their constituents are protected. This arrangement does not respect the role of the collective preference of the taxpayers of Wisconsin. We should all wish Governor Walker the best of luck.
by Reynold N. Mason, JD
Atlanta Feb. 20, 2011- According to a report in Politico on February 7th long-time amnesty supporters, Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer are reuniting to push “comprehensive” immigration reform in the Senate. They have reached out to several organizations in the open-borders lobby including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and numerous evangelical groups. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was one of three Republicans voting in favor of the DREAM Act last session, also confirmed that aides in Sen. Schumer’s office contacted her staff to discuss the issue. Both Senators Graham and Schumer have indicated that the talks are merely in its opening round and that reigniting their coalition may take some effort in the new Congress. “It’s in the infant stage,” Sen. Graham told Politico “I don’t know what the political appetite is to do something.” Schumer shares Graham’s sentiment, “What we’re doing is beginning these preliminary talks, particularly with outside groups, to try and regain the consensus that was pretty nicely formed last year.” “And who knows, we might surprise everyone and get something done. We realize it is a tough thing to do, but it is very important, and it’s worth a shot.” he said.
Graham and Schumer may be hoping to capitalize on the fact that five Senators have already announced they will not seek re-election in 2012—the same number of votes by which the DREAM Act failed in December. For example, at a news conference announcing that he would not seek re-election next cycle, Sen. Jon Kyl told the Arizona Republic on February 11, that immigration reform is “one of the top items on the agenda” and said there may be an opportunity in the next two years “to tackle that in a productive way.” Yet, in a subsequent interview Sen. Kyl backtracked, saying that he was not referring to “comprehensive” immigration reform and that going down such a road again would be a “dead-end.” Other Senators not seeking re-election in 2012 include Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jim Webb of Virginia and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Senator Graham and Schumer’s efforts come on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Address where he urged members of Congress to “address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.” But, even with the support of the White House and the Senate, it is doubtful that an amnesty bill by Graham and Schumer would survive in the House this legislative session. Such a bill would likely have to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith an ardent supporter of immigration enforcement. At a House Immigration Subcommittee hearing last fall, Smith stated: “Some people say that we need to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S., but citizenship is the greatest honor our country can bestow. It shouldn’t be sold to lawbreakers for the price of a fine.” “Amnesty will enable illegal workers to depress wages and take jobs away from American citizens and legal immigrants,” he said. We could see an amnesty bill if democrats move on enforcement. Stay tuned.
By: Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta, Feb. 19, 2011 It has been nearly nine years since New York City placed a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. Just last week the New York City Council voted to ban smoking in parks and beaches. Many feel the government is beginning to control more and more of our daily lives. Smoking will be banned in 1,700 parks and on 14 miles of beaches. “I truly believe government is being too restrictive in his particular matter,” said Robert Jackson, Democrat of Harlem.
“It’s a totalitarian society that’s going to have this type of restrictions … As someone who wants to breathe clean air, I think we are going too far and being intrusive.” Said 25-year-old New Yorker, George, the city is taking it too far. I think it’s ridiculous”. No one doubts that indulging in the habit of smoking tobacco is bad for one’s health, and even the health of non-smokers in the smoker’s immediate environment. That fact has been established for years. Every pack of cigarettes sold in the U.S bears the ominous warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health. Only the blind would miss the reams of anti-smoking literature cluttering our printed media.
The Mayor has turned his anti-smoking zeal into a crusade
When it comes to smoking, some, like Mayor Bloomberg of New York, have turned their zeal into a take no prisoners crusade, designed to banish smoking from civil society, trampling peoples freedoms in the process. Mayor Bloomberg, a reformed smoker, having learned his lesson, aims to teach it to all New Yorkers, willing or not. In 2003, he implemented a ban on smoking indoors. Many people had serious concerns that the indoor smoking ban infringed the rights of property owners, to whom the law leaves decisions as to what use an owner makes their property, so long as that use does fly in the face of the law. But the indoor smoking ban has something going for it. It has some connection, tenuous though it is, with the health of the people who are employed in establishments that allow smoking. But now, the Mayor, is on a tear.
He, along with fellow billionaire, Bill Gates has tossed $500,000 of his own money into the burning issue of tobacco smoking. He has launched the Bloomberg Initiative which aims to banish the habit like the plague. As they say, charity begins at home. So where better to snuff out the cancer sticks than the Mayor’s own fiefdom, New York City. With utmost fervor, the Mayor has extended his smoking ban outdoors, to City parks and all 14 miles of New York City’s beaches, and other public spaces. He wants not a whiff of smoke in the open air. If you can smell it, it could be killing you.
Soot and smoke from exhaust pipes can kill you as well
I grant Mr. Mayor, that my decision to smoke should not put the health of my neighbor at risk. But the ban on smoking in parks at beaches and other outdoor areas goes too far. Let’s face it, were we that concerned about the risk of smoke as a carcinogen in the environment, Manhattan would be as deserted as the Sahara during rush hour. Soot and smoke coming from exhaust pipes are among the most deadly forms of airborne pollution. U.S. cars and light trucks alone account for more energy-related CO2 than the nationwide emissions of all but four other countries in the world (China, Russia, Japan, and India). It smacks of hypocrisy to single out trace amounts of cigarette smoke as the single pollutant in the air deserving of the full force of the Mayor’s bile. Even more quixotic, the crusader- in- chief is bleeding smokers while, at the same time banishing them from public view. The Mayor hates the player but loves the game.
But where there’s smoke, there’s taxes. New York has the highest cigarette taxes in the country. Starting July 1, every pack sold in the state will cost an extra $1.60, raising the total state tax to $4.35 and pushing the average cost of a pack up to $9.20. For New York City residents, the cost of a pack will now come out to close to $11.00. This sin tax is a bonanza for the city, which has now rendered smokers scofflaws. It is now easier to find a parking space than a smoking space in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-smoking fervor has earned him awards and, he is not alone in his antipathy toward smoking. Like-minded zealots in other localities have already managed to enact bans on smoking similar to New York City’s.
At last count, at least 13 states had gone smoke-free. These “Nanny State” zealots have even focused their angry gaze on the very food on our plates. When the mayor pushed through a ban on the use of Trans fat in restaurant food he said the ban is “not going to take away anybody’s ability to go out and have the kind of food they want. . . . We are just trying to make food safer.” It’s for our own good. But who appointed the Mayor director of menu development and dietitian-in-chief? This is utterly tyrannical. Trans fat, like cigarette smoke, is just one of the substances that can put our health at risk. According to the American Council on Science, it makes up about 2% of the calories we take in. It can raise the “bad cholesterol” but so can saturated fats which, according to the American Council on Science make up 10-15% of our caloric intake.
These crusaders take small bites, eating away, bit by little bit, our right to decide these questions for ourselves. If the Mayor can tell a restaurant not to put trans fat in the meal it serves, what is to prevent him from prescribing the size of the portions they serve? Rather than putting a label on food spelling out the calories, the dietitian-in-Chief can ram through a law setting a legal limit on the size of portion the restaurant is allowed to serve.
The Mayor should impose a fat tax on people who eat junk food
Just such proposals have been floated by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. These PhD’s have a list of foods they do not want us to consume. They, like the Mayor, are just trying to make our food safer. They aim to find their way into our kitchens, “because that’s where the food is.” And like Willie Sutton, they will dictate to us what we ought not to eat at the point of the legislative pen. The Center for Science in the Public interest has published what it labels “Proposed Food Policy options” that it touts as a model for lawmakers. These proposals call for a ban on the sale of “low nutrition food” on school grounds; (That means no soft drink
s, sports drinks, sweet tea, fruit punch or anything with caffeine ) a ban commercial of these foods and beverages as well as brands associated with unhealthy products; a limit on the number of fast food outlets near schools, and a ban the sale of these foods near schools during the school day. These policy changes, they say, can be accomplished through legislation, regulation zoning and litigation. Ban them and, if they put up a fight then litigate the money right out of their coffers. These proposals, farfetched and intrusive as they appear to be, eventually make their way into our public policy. The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s proposal nearly became law in New York just last year. Strapped for cash, governor Patterson tried but failed to implement one of the Centers proposals….“Levy taxes on sugar- sweetened beverages and use the money to pay for obesity prevention. . .” New Yorkers, with an outcry heard all the way to the State House in Albany, turned back governor’s Patterson’s soda tax.
And they did so despite being told that “sugar-sweetened beverages play a significant role in New York’s obesity epidemic” and that “by adding a small tax on soda we can reduce consumption of these empty calories and make real progress toward making New Yorkers healthier.” But why should one new Yorker pay more because his neighbor chooses to live a destructive lifestyle and live on junk food? Americans consume huge quantities of soft drinks, which promote obesity and other health problems. Obesity alone according to Center for Science in the Public Interest, costs $147 billion a year in medical expenditures, half of which are paid through Medicare and Medicaid. How about a FAT tax! Obesity costs the health care system far more than smokers do. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has model legislation that will “ban candy near check counters” and “limit portion sizes” of the food we purchase at restaurants. Hungry New Yorkers had better watch out. These hapless, self-centered bureaucrats don’t trust us to make decisions about what to eat. They mean well, but they are misguided. To propose a regulation that bans candy near the checkout counter is way out there in La La Land. Wherever that may be, it is a place where things float about untethered from common sense.
My diet is none of the Mayor’s business
Mayor Bloomberg has accolades heaped on him for “incentivizing healthy eating” because of his ban on trans fat in New York restaurants. But what New Yorkers chose to eat in none of the Mayor’s business. It is their health that is put at risk and no one else’s. They have the right to eat whatever they please. I suggest Mr. Mayor, that you and your food police focus on cleaning up the snow on City Street before it keeps an ambulance from reaching someone having a heart attack brought on by clogged arteries.
This is America Mr. Mayor. You have no business deciding for me what I should and cannot eat. My parents made me eat my spinach because they believed it to be good for me. But they were my parents. Were I to consume sodas, burger and fries and become a fat blob, then I am the one that's fat not anyone else. My decision to drink soda like a sponge hurts no one but me. We elected you Mr. Mayor to protect, life liberty and our pursuit of happiness. If our happiness means burgers and fries washed down with a 20 ounce soda then so be it. It is not your business as Mayor to dictate what I eat. Neither my parents nor my nanny, had I one, could fine me or have me locked up for eating candy.
But you Mr. Mayor, can deprive me of my liberty and, with the power of the police that my taxes pay for, you can coerce and compel me and keep me from taking a puff of my cigarette under the open skies, though I violate no one’s liberty. These bans, restrictions and regulations foisted on the citizenry for their own good, strip people of the autonomy that individuals, capable of making decisions for themselves, possess. We must oppose and defeat them.
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Anchor Babies Have No Constitutional Right to U.S Citizenship
Atlanta, Feb. 7, 2011. This case is before the court on the petition of Jane Doe a citizen of the country of Mexicali. When she was 8 months pregnant, Mrs. Doe, along with her husband, packed their bags and made their way to the border state of Arizia. The strain of the crossing, evidently caused Mrs. Doe to go into premature labor. The county of Maricupio, a locality in the state of Arizia dispatched its emergency services, which conveyed Mrs. to Maricupia Central, where she gave birth to a son. Arizia recently enacted a law, SB 1303, which states, in part, “A child born in the state of Arizia shall not be entitled to citizenship by virtue thereof, unless at least one of such child’s parents is a US citizen or legal resident thereof. Mrs. Doe now sues the state of Arizia and requests that the court direct its authorities to issue a birth certificate to her son, Innocentio Doe, with the appropriate indicia of US citizenship.
The Petitioner is joined in this request by Mrs. Delta Chin-Asiania, a Chinese national. Mrs. Chin-Asiania arrived in Califon as a visitor on a B-2 Visa. She, like her co-petitioner was also an expectant mother at the time. Her stated purpose in entering the US was to afford her child the benefits of United States citizenship. She, likeuncounted numbers of expectant mothers, have availed themselves of the services of a Mr. Robert Zhou, an entrepreneur, who has built a thriving business facilitating trips to the US on behalf of expectant Chinese mothers, traveling to Califia and other states on the West Coast to give birth to their children. For a fee of $15,000, Mr. Zhou’s company arranges with the hospital, the doctor, the house, the car rental and other extras. Beaming with pride, Mr. Zhou told NPR last month “What I’m trying to do is help Chinese mothers to realize their American dream, at a fair and reasonable price. We’re not encouraging pregnant women to go and get a U.S visa. We say that if you already have a U.S visa, and you’re pregnant, you can take the opportunity to give birth in the U.S. So yes, it is a gray area in U.S law” The petitioners are joined in this action by the Asiania Civil Liberties Union (The ACLU), who have filed a brief in support of their request.
The petitioners, assert that their children are American citizens by virtue of their birth on US soil without further qualifications. They cite the 14th Amendment to the constitution which states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” They allege the suggestion that the states revise the 14th Amendment is a ploy by conservatives to further anger the American public.
Whether the drafters of the 14th Amendment intended to include the children of illegal aliens has been a matter of dispute. Petitioners claim that repeal of birthright citizenship would mean that children born in the Unites States would be deported to a country to which they feel no allegiance. Petitions have branded the effort to repeal birthright citizenship ‘racist”. They assert that fears of chain immigration, as a consequence of birthright citizenship are unfounded. The only benefits of giving birth here, they assert, are that legal children can help parents avoid deportation, can enroll in Medicaid and, some programs aid pregnant and nursing mothers regardless of immigration status. Counsel for petitioner States in his brief that “The citizenship clause is a bedrock principle of civil rights and part of what makes us all Americans. Never in our nation’s history have we amended the Constitution to take away someone’s rights, and we should not do so now.”
The Court’s Decision:
The question this court is called upon to resolve has been debated for years in the public arena. Those who oppose birthright citizenship have, in the past, introduced bills in Congress to end the practice. Such bills have been introduced once again, this term, by Senators David Vitter and Rand Paul. The counterpart to this bill has been introduced in the house by representative Steven King. It has several Co-sponsors. The sponsors of the amendment to deny birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants claim such children are “anchor babies” used to provide their parents with a foothold in the country. They do not contend there is any immediate benefit to the parents but, they assert that these babies can provide a basis for parents to avoid deportation under Section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, (INA) by alleging that their deportation would bring hardship on their citizen children. They argue that the law, as it now stands, invites abuse by granting citizenship to children of persons with no nexus to the country, and no allegiance thereto. The respondents note that few countries in the west allow this anachronistic right of citizenship by birth, or Jus Soli, as this concept is referred to in Latin. England, Germany, Australia, South Africa, and scores of other developed countries have changed their laws to bring the practice in line with the realities of the global village. But this court is not constrained by the state of affairs in foreign jurisdictions. We must look to our Constitution for guidance in resolving the question now before the bench. The people of this country have expressed their sentiments on the question, and they did so resoundingly by removing from political power, their elected representatives opposed to their position. That, in fact, is the way our democracy works. The sentiments of the people, however, must be in accord with our constitution if they are to receive judicial recognition. Were it otherwise, the court would be powerless to strike down as unconstitutional enactments such as the Jim Crow laws enacted in the Southern States after the country’s bloody Civil War.
The 14th amendment to the constitution says this: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Reading, the 14th Amendment in historical context leaves little doubt concerning its true meaning. It must be borne in mind that the civil war was fought in large part, because of the institution of slavery. When the institution breathed its last breath at the end of the American Civil War, the first laws of the former Confederate States, imposed sundry disabilities on blacks. They were disqualified from jury service and in all the states former slaves were denied the right of suffrage. Countless burdens were heaped upon them so that their newly acquired freedom was rendered worthless. The Amendment in question was adopted with the purpose of lifting the burdens and disabilities imposed on freed slaves by pervasive and invidious legal restraints. In fact, the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court held that former slaves were not citizens of the United States. The 14th Amendment therefore, was not intended as a means of conferring citizenship upon the children of illegal immigrants. They are not of the same general category as former African slaves who were brought to these shores kicking and screaming in protest. These petitioners are here of their own accord. Having willfully evaded legal authority and broken the law of the land to get here, they are not with the class of persons the law was intended to protect. The question can be asked whether the 14th Amendment should be applied to the children of an occupying army? The drafters of the 14th Amendment could not have intended anything as self-defeating and irrational as that. To do otherwise would compel us to face the conundrum of making illegal entry in the country a crime and at the same time granting a desired benefit to the offender. While it is true Innocentio Doe is blameless, he is in his present predicament nonetheless, as a consequence of their parents’ choice. Were these parents to choose bank robbery to purchase necessaries, Innocentio would not be entitled to the fruits of their illegal endeavor. The Asian petitions owe no allegiance to this country and are not subject to its jurisdiction. Their U.S born children are therefore not entitled to birthright citizenship. Their case is no different from that of a member of the Diplomatic Corps. Their children, born in the U.S, do not acquire U.S citizenship, and that is because although present here, diplomats are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. It is the decision of this court that the children of illegal immigrants born in the any state or territory of the United States of America are not entitled to the benefit of birthright citizenship.
Note: The foregoing is a set of facts created for the purpose of raising the issue of birthright citizenship as a court is likely to hear it. Any similarities to real people are completely coincidental.