- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has another committee chairmanship crisis on her hands, and this time it’s over who will head the House Committee on Homeland Security. It seems the leadership favorite is Rep. Bennie Thompson, a seven-term Mississippi Democrat who is currently the committee’s ranking member. Mr. Thompson, however, is gearing up for what will likely be a bruising election battle with himself.

That’s not a misprint. Last month, Mr. Thompson sent a threatening letter to Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp. after the uniform supply company announced that it had received about 400 “no-match” letters from the Social Security Agency. The SSA issues “no-match” letters when an employee’s name and Social Security number on payroll records do not match, suggesting the employee is an illegal alien. As Jerry Seper of The Washington Times reported, Cintas quite reasonably has given these employees two months to correct the problem, after which they would be put on administrative leave. This apparently was all too much for Mr. Thompson, who on Nov. 2 wrote to inform Cintas that it could be charged with “illegal activities in violation of state and federal law” if it terminated any of the employees in question. He further expressed his extreme concern “about any potentially discriminatory actions targeting this community.”

Flash forward to just last week, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took hundreds of suspected illegal aliens into custody after raiding Swift & Co.’s meat-processing plants in six states. In response, Mr. Thompson’s rival, Mr. Thompson, applauded the raids, saying that they sent “a clear message to businesses and employees across the nation that work-site enforcement and hiring only authorized workers is critical to our nation’s safety and security.” Furthermore, at what could be interpreted as a direct rebuke of his rival’s position, Mr. Thompson said, “It is the duty of employers to ensure they are following the letter of the law and only employing people who have a legal right to be here.” Although we rather prefer this Mr. Thompson to his opponent, what’s Mrs. Pelosi to do?

She might start by telling her incoming committee chairman to quit talking out of both sides of his mouth. Mr. Thompson’s two-faced approach to worksite enforcement signals that either he’s unwilling to take a stand out of political calculation (he threatened Cintas before the elections) or he just doesn’t care. Neither is an encouraging trait considering that he is in line to become chairman of the committee charged with drafting immigration legislation.

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