Feinstein Strikes Again
By John D. Turner
17 December 2001

You have to admire those Democrats. Like the Energizer Bunny they just keep going and going and going. Trust Senator Feinstein to be at the forefront leading the charge to ensure that the downtrodden masses are protected from those in the federal government who would threaten their jobs. After all, someone has to look out for those who canít look after themselves.

And who are those poor benighted souls whose rights Senator Feinstein is rushing to champion? Well, itís those poor airline security checkpoint workers who happen to not be U.S. citizens that stand to be put out of work now that the legislation Federalizing their jobs has been rammed through Congress under the guise of greater protection for airline travelers.

But wait! Wasnít that part of the problem? Wasnít one of the reasons we Federalized those positions because those evil capitalist penny-pinching private companies were hiring all these foreign nationals in the first place? Wasnít part of the argument that something as important as airline security couldnít be left in the hands of foreign nationals who have no loyalty to the United States and who in many cases donít even speak English?

Well, yes. But you see thatís all water under the bridge now. After all, firing them simply because they are not U.S. citizens would be discriminatory. And the U.S. Government is an equal opportunity employer.

So on Thursday, December 13th, 2001, Senator Feinstein introduced legislation to amend the citizenship requirement enacted last month as part of the Air Security Act, and allow airport security checkpoint workers who are not U.S. citizens to remain employed if they can become citizens within one year. And fellow Democrats are falling all over themselves to express sympathy for the plight of the downtrodden by cosponsoring and supporting the bill. After all, we are talking money here, as well as potential votes.

It turns out that over 70 percent of the 1,200 screeners at San Francisco International Airport are Filipinos, who are legal U.S. residents. And of course, they (like everyone else) have a lobby in Congress. In their case, itís the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association, who are up in arms over the firings.

(One could ask how they can be "Filipino Americansí if they are non-citizens. Wouldnít that make them simply "Filipinos"? But, of course, that would be crass and not politically correct. Besides, it has already been established that in California, at least, all one has to do to become a de facto citizen is to somehow, by hook or by crook, cross the border into the United States. At that point you achieve imputed hyphenated-American status with all the perks and privileges such status conveys.)

The chairman of the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association, Rodel Rodis recently stated that, "thereís no evidence that immigrant screeners were the ones that let the hijackers on board", so firing screeners on the basis that they are foreign nationals is just plain wrong. As chairman Rodis puts it "thereís no rational basis for it; itís discriminatory". Estimates are that 25% of all airport screeners nationwide are non-citizens and stand to lose their jobs because of the Air Security Act. So of course, in ride those anti-discrimination champions, the Democrats, to save the day.

Well, it was inevitable, wasnít it? Now that they have passed the legislation, based to a large extent on the argument that we canít leave such as important a function as airport security in the hands on non-citizens, its OK to keep the non-citizens around just so they become citizens within a year. We wouldnít want to be discriminatory, after all.

One might ask, whatís so special about one year? The requirements to become a U.S. citizen include being a legal resident in the United States for five years, or being married to a U.S. citizen for three years. It turns out that only about 10% of the non-citizen screeners can meet this requirement within the one-year time frame. (Whether that is due to the time requirement or the "legal resident" requirement is unclear). This would seem to be "unfair" and "discriminatory" to the 90% who canít fulfill the requirements. This also assumes that anyone will seriously check back in a year to see whatís going on with the program. We donít seem to do so well keeping track of visas, why should this be any different. Besides, in a year someone can always attack a rider to some bill or other to extend the period. Who will notice?

Meanwhile, think of all that money flowing into campaign coffers from the interested lobby groups, such as the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association. Think of all those potential voters who, once they do become citizens, will certainly want to vote for the Democratic Party, who preserved their jobs. Of course, this is California we are talking about; they will probably be voting well before the ink is dry on their citizenship papers anyway. And best of all, they can blame the original legislation on the Republicans (who, for the most part, didnít want to Federalize airport security in the first place). See, you can have it both ways!

Several weeks back, a person was stopped at the loading dock with a slew of knives they had managed to get past the security checkpoint. Those individuals involved in the security breach were fired on the spot. Think that will happen to a Federal employee? Think again. And once these individuals are on the Federal payroll, even if they donít become citizens within a year, I would bet that they still canít be let go. They could file a grievance claiming discrimination, and there is a good chance they would be successful.

If Senator Feinsteinís bill passes, nothing will change. The same people will be checking your baggage that have always done so. Only now, they will be Federal Civil Service employees, making twice what they were making before (as much as $35,000 per year), with all the perks and federal benefits that implies. And they will never be off the payroll; when they retire we will still be paying them, as of course, they will qualify for a Federal pension as well. And hold onto your wallets; thereís talk on the Hill now of federalizing train and bus security as well.

Just one question: Once everyone in the country is a Federal employee, who will we tax to pay for it all?