Saturday, February 28, 2015

Simple Solution to an Old Problem

Since Irish Central first published a story about Kevin Westley’s mission to buy up stereotyping Irish t-shirts from Walmart in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day and return them March 18, the Long Island, NY Irish dance instructor and radio host has been overwhelmed by the response.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would get this big of a reaction,” he said during a catch up phone call.
The initial interview with Kevin, published on Thursday, has received almost 8,000 shares and over 200 comments. His story was picked up by ABC and FOX news, and a camera crew from CBS paid a visit to his home. He also has a series of interviews lined up with radio programs in Ireland for Monday morning.
This marks the second year that Westley has taken a stand against the sea of green t-shirts that appear in stores before St. Patrick’s Day, stereotyping the Irish as drunks and linking Irishness to alcoholism.
Fed up with a lack of response from the Walmart stores and the corporate channels he complained to, Westley decided to take matters into his own hands – buying as many of the t-shirts as he could carry, keeping them in boxes and the trunk of his car and, per Walmart’s exchange policy, returning them all on March 18.
He had two aims in sharing his story. “My first goal was to get the t-shirts off the shelves, the second was to get people talking about this.
“At least people can now read the story and make their own decision – is this guy just a retired nut who has too much time on his hands or is he concerned about stereotypes?”
Westley takes the issue very seriously, recalling an uncle who died of cirrhosis and the stories his grandfather told about the “No Irish Need Apply” signs he saw growing up in Boston. “It’s nothing to make fun of,” he said.
Unlike last year, Westley said, he has received a lot of positive feedback, with people from New York on down to Florida saying they're going to do the same thing.
But there have been naysayers and detractors, people saying things like “I hope they charge you for re-shelving” or “I hope they don’ t take [the t-shirts] back.”
“Why act like that about it?” Kevin asked. “Why can’t we just have an intelligent, polite conversation?."
He has also heard from the manager of a local Walmart in connection with one of the complaints he had lodged, though the phone call wasn’t entirely productive.
 “When I stated to explain everything to his fellow he didn’t seem to have a clue what I was walking about. ‘What shirts do you mean?’ he asked, etc. I said ‘you may not see them there because I have them all in the trunk of my car but you'll see them on March 18 when I return them!’”
Westley said that he is unconcerned about Walmart changing its return policy in light of the publicity his campaign has received.
“They can't do it retroactively, they have the 90-day return policy printed on their receipts and on signs above the customer service desk,” he said. “The shorts have not been worn and the tags will be on them when I bring them back.”
Still, he added, “my wife keeps looking at me saying you're on the hook for $400 dollars if they don’t.”
My hat is off to this Brother Hibernian who has come up with this simple solution to a problem that has been a concern to us for years. There have been many brothers who have made attempts to solve this problem by writing threatening letters to business people who manufacture and sell these offensive items. This approach has met with limited success at best. Suggestions to boycott businesses that sell these items have also met with limited success. The reason is simple, as long as there is money to be made these methods simply don’t work. Congratulations to this Brother who has come up with this very simple, no cost, and very effective solution to a long standing problem.
Jack Meehan, National President Emeritus
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Obama has no backup plan on immigratio

Brian Hughes | February 21, 2015

Critics say Obama lacks both the legislative and political means to deal with challenges to his executive order.

President Obama, who has hammered Republicans repeatedly for lacking an alternative to his most controversial policies, now finds himself in a similar predicament: He has no plan B if the courts invalidate his executive action on immigration.

The White House is now putting all its efforts into getting an emergency stay on a Texas federal judge’s order temporarily blocking Obama’s unilateral push to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Obama wants his immigration plan to proceed while judges weigh a broader appeal by his administration to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, which upended a centerpiece of his second-term agenda.

Beyond those legal maneuverings, however, the White House has no fallback plan for how to move past a possible legal defeat that may be coming, according to court observers.

Multiple White House officials were unable to provide the Washington Examiner with a contingency strategy for how they would grant the type of deportation relief long demanded by immigration activists if the courts block Obama's current blueprint.

And one element of the president's proposed reforms was to ensure that our enforcement activities were focused on felons and not on families. We believe that these efforts should be focused on rounding up and deporting individuals that have a criminal history.”

But as long as Obama’s executive action remains stuck in legal limbo, the administration cannot issue work permits to undocumented immigrants banking on new protections from the federal government. Even more problematic, an unsuccessful appeal could kill those efforts altogether.

Obama would then undoubtedly struggle to answer a simple question: What’s next?

It’s an unwelcome twist of fate for a White House that has mocked Republicans for supposedly lacking ideas beyond repealing Obamacare and rolling back the president’s immigration power play.
To date, the White House narrative has been that Republicans have nothing to offer other than obstructionism and red meat for the conservative base. The natural counter now from GOPers is that Obama is only offering a legally-suspect executive action.

Obama faces a similar liability as the Supreme Court prepares to examine the constitutionality of Obamacare subsidies for individuals purchasing health plans through federal marketplaces.
On both immigration and healthcare, the White House insists that the onus is on Republicans to provide an alternative because so-called benefits would be taken away from Americans.

But critics say that Obama is now paying the price for lacking either a legislative strategy or the political capital to move an immigration bill through both chambers of Congress.

“This is what happens when you basically ignore the legislative branch,” a House GOP leadership aide told the Examiner. “He has nothing to fall back on. It’s not like he can make a new legislative push on immigration. The way this is playing out right now is the White House’s worst nightmare.”
Such complaints extended beyond conservative circles.
This is why the president should have done more on immigration in his first term,” said a veteran immigrant-rights advocate who has met numerous times with White House officials. “This could be a really lengthy legal battle. If we lose, we’re toast — he doesn’t have enough time left to do something major.”

Some progressives argue that Obama should have acted on immigration when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress during his first two years in office. However, the president expended all of his political capital on the passage of Obamacare, leaving immigration on the back burner for years.

To be clear, Obama’s supporters insist they’ll prevail in a judicial challenge to the Hanen injunction. The Justice Department is expected to file its requested stay by Monday.
Still, those sympathetic to Obama acknowledge very real legal hurdles, particularly on the broader appeal to the ruling from the South Texas court. Most troublingly for Obama’s cause, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, which will hear the challenge, is made up primarily of conservative judges.

In addition to his legal troubles, Obama has a new messaging problem that could undermine his attempts to paint Republicans as the do-nothing party.

“Until they start wanting to walk and not just talk, we’re going to keep offering the American people something better,” Obama said of Republicans at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting on Friday.

Republicans were quick to issue a retort, thanks in large part to Obama’s judicial setback.
“Pretty soon, all he could have left on immigration and Obamacare is talk,” said the House GOP leadership aide. “And does anyone really believe he’s tried to ‘walk the walk’ on getting anything done with us?”


Obama’s challenge to stay the Texas federal judge’s ruling must be appealed to the 5th District Appellate Court in New Orleans. This court has a reputation for being one of the most conservative in the United States. The overwhelming opinion is that the court could very well uphold the ruling by the Texas judge. If so, any action on the President’s Executive Order could be held up for several months.

Jack Meehan, National President Emeritus
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America
Boston Irish Group

Friday, February 20, 2015

Obama to hold immigration town hall meeting in Miami

Jesse Byrnes -  February 20, 2015
President Obama will hold a town-hall meeting next week in Miami to push back on a Texas judge's injunction that temporarily blocked his executive action on immigration.

Obama's Feb. 25 town hall, hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC host José Diaz-Balart, will give the president a chance to show that immigration reform remains a priority, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday on Diaz-Balart's show.
The president maintains that the law is on his side in the court fight over immigration. Administration officials say his November action to defer deportations and offer work visas was well within his prosecutorial discretion.

Republicans have seized on the Texas ruling as evidence that the president overstepped his powers.

It's unclear how the judge's move will impact the fight in the Senate over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the primary agency charged with carrying out Obama's actions. DHS funding is set to run out on Feb. 28, and Democrats have blocked Republican legislation that would provide funding while rolling back Obama's executive actions.

The White House said Tuesday that it was weighing its response to the Texas injunction, including potentially asking another court to nullify the decision.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen filed a temporary injunction against Obama's executive actions Monday, after Texas and 25 other states sued the administration. In response, the DHS suspended plans to accept new applications for the expanded deferral and visa programs.

Earnest reiterated Friday that the White House was "not surprised" by the court's decision, noting that Hanen has previously been critical of Obama's actions.

The televised event will give the president a platform to reach those in the Hispanic community across the country, Earnest said, as well as those in Miami.
Is there anybody on this planet who seriously believes that Obama’s executive order was meant to benefit immigrants of all ethnicities? If so, this article should put that belief to rest. His interest in this issue is clearly “ethnically specific” and is meant to primarily benefit undocumented Hispanic immigrants.
Jack Meehan, National President Emeritus
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America
Boston Irish Group

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

White House puts immigration plans on hold after ruling

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Juan Lozano in Houston

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration put its new deportation-relief program on hold Tuesday on the eve of its launch, complying reluctantly with a federal judge's order that roiled immigrant communities nationwide and seemed to harden an already-tense stalemate on Capitol Hill.
President Barack Obama promised an appeal and predicted he'd prevail. But for tens of thousands of immigrants in line to begin applying Wednesday for work permits and deportation stays under his directives, their plans were canceled, at least temporarily.
Talking to reporters in the Oval Office, Obama said he disagreed with the ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas that the administration had exceeded its authority. But he said that, for now, he must abide by it.
"We're not going to disregard this federal court ruling," Obama said, but he added that administration officials would continue to prepare to roll out the program. "I think the law is on our side and history is on our side," he said.
On Capitol Hill, the Homeland Security Department stood 10 days away from losing funding, but Hanen's ruling made a compromise on that dispute look more distant than ever. Republicans are blocking funding for the agency unless Democrats agree to cancel Obama's immigration orders, and they seized on the ruling as validation for their position.
"Congress must reassert its waning power. We must re-establish the constitutional principle that the people's representatives control the purse," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a leading immigration hardliner.
Yet Senate Democrats, who have been blocking a House-passed bill that would fund the department but also undo Obama's actions, said the ruling from Hanen did nothing to budge them.
"Democrats remain united in our belief that funding for the Department of Homeland Security should not be used as a ransom by Republicans, period," said Chuck Schumer of New York.
The agency's $40 billion budget runs out Feb. 27, and with Congress now on recess lawmakers will have only a few days to reach an agreement once they return to Washington next week. One possibility is a short-term extension of current funding levels, but House Speaker John Boehner said over the weekend that the House had done its job and he would "certainly" let a shutdown occur if the Senate didn't act.
If the political impasse seemed severe, so were the implications for millions of immigrants in the country illegally who have cheered Obama's executive directives in the face of congressional inaction.
"We feel powerless but not defeated, sure that it will all work out," 46-year-old Claudia Ramon, a native of Colombia, said at a rally in Houston, one of dozens nationwide where immigrants and their advocates vowed to continue with preparations under Obama's programs.
Obama's directives would make more than 4 million immigrants in the United States illegally eligible for three-year deportation stays and work permits. Mostly those are people who have been in the country for more than five years and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Applications for the first phase were to begin Wednesday, when as many as 300,000 immigrants brought illegally to the country as children could begin applying for an expansion of Obama's 2012 program aimed at the younger immigrants known as Dreamers.
Yet there was also palpable anxiety, with their apparent White House gains under attack on Capitol Hill and in the courts. Advocates pledged to redouble their efforts to sign up as many people as possible.
"It's extremely important for the community to understand from a legal perspective it is on solid legal footing and actually the larger numbers of people who come forward to apply, the more likely we can protect the expansion," said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
Hanen's ruling late Monday night, in a case brought by 26 states led by Texas, said that Obama and his Homeland Security Department lacked the authority to take the actions they did.
"No statute gives the DHS the discretion it is trying to exercise here," wrote Hanen, and he issued a stay blocking the actions from taking effect. His order was not a big surprise from a Republican-appointed judge who has showed a hard line on border issues.
The Obama administration could seek a stay of his order in addition to appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the Justice Department was deciding its next move.
He said, "I've always expected that this is a matter that will ultimately be decided by a higher court - if not the Supreme Court then a federal court of appeals."
The drama played out with the 2016 presidential contest getting underway and candidates of both parties eager to win over Latino voters. One potential Republican candidate, Jeb Bush, weighed in with a post to his Facebook page declaring that Obama had overstepped his authority and "hurt the effort toward a common-sense immigration solution."
"Now, more than ever, we need President Obama to work with Congress to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system," Bush wrote.
The beat goes on. Where do we go from here? It seems that all parties agree that immigration reform is a necessary move that must be made sooner rather than later. Would it not be to the advantage of all of them to knock off the partisan nonsense and sit down and resolve the problem? That is what they were all elected to do and it is high time that they did it instead of shooting arrows across the aisle at each other.
Jack Meehan, National President Emeritus
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America