1/9/2001 12:00:00 AM - Mona Charen
Linda Chavez, George W. Bush's nominee for secretary of labor, does not deny that she permitted an illegal alien to live in her house for two years. So what do we make of this information?
The Democrats know what to do with it. They are treating this as a disqualifying sin. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said this revelation raises "very serious problems" for Chavez. And Sen. Ted Kennedy weighed in with, "It's already an extremely troubling nomination because of her longstanding hostility to the basic rights of American workers."
Translation: Chavez has opposed the minimum wage (along with legions of economists) and that makes her "controversial." Anyone who holds conservative views is automatically controversial. Chavez is unpopular with unions and "civil rights" groups because she opposes quotas and believes immigrants need to learn English. They were gunning for her and have now found this tidbit. What does it amount to?
Apparently, Marta Mercado came to Chavez's attention in the early 1990s. She was a Guatemalan who was being very badly treated. Chavez offered her a place to stay and helped her get back on her feet. Though she was never an employee, Chavez drove Mercado to job interviews, taught her how to navigate the Metro subway system in the Washington area, got her enrolled in English classes and gave her spending money. Mercado did housekeeping work for neighbors of the Chavezes and also did odd jobs around the Chavez house to help out, like caring for the family dogs when the family was out of town.
Are you horrified yet? Isn't the rap against Republicans that they are supposed to be unsympathetic to people in trouble? Isn't it the Democrats who always insist that when someone enters a shelter for battered women, no one should demand to see a green card?
Mercado is not the only person who has benefited from Chavez's concern. Through Catholic Charities, she also took in two Vietnamese boat people, the Bui brothers, in 1979. They arrived in the United States with only the clothes on their backs and sandals on their feet in the dead of winter. Chavez provided shelter, warm clothes and food for a period of time until the brothers could make contact with relatives who had settled elsewhere in Maryland.
As with Mercado, Chavez drove the boys to English classes, helped to acculturate them to America and offered the friendship of her entire family. Benson Bui, now a successful businessman, told The New York Times: "I have everything now because of her. She is a wonderful lady and her whole family."
There is also the case of the Iturrino family. Through the Fresh Air Fund, a charity that provides summer vacations for inner city kids, Chavez took in a Puerto Rican boy when he was about 6. His mother was unmarried and had children by more than one father. Chavez helped Joshua by getting him enrolled in a Catholic school in New York and paying his tuition. When his younger sister Kristin reached school age, Chavez paid her tuition, as well.
Last summer, the children's mother went missing for a while. She had gone to Puerto Rico for a funeral and then delayed her return. Chavez took in the children and then tracked down the mom. The boy has since returned to public school for reasons that are best left private, but Chavez continues to pay parochial school tuition for the girl.
Chavez's situation is being compared to that of Zoe Baird, President Clinton's first nominee to head the Justice Department. But Baird was found to have been an abusive employer who was clearly taking advantage of an illegal alien couple. She was paying them a pittance and forcing them to work long hours. She paid no Social Security taxes for them. (Warren Christopher, who had also employed an illegal alien, though in non-abusive circumstances, was confirmed without difficulty.)
Chavez has also employed housekeepers and nannies -- and paid all applicable taxes. The only question for each senator who will consider her nomination is this: How many people in trouble has he or she helped?