Before the end of the year, presidents often consider grants of pardon and amnesty. This year, Pres. Obama should grant amnesty to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, excluding those guilty of heinous crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery and child abuse.

Undocumented immigrants work hard, make great sacrifices, save their earnings and rely primarily on themselves and their personal networks to survive in this country.

They take jobs commonly discarded by average Americans due to low pay and low social status.

From washing dishes to parking cars, from cleaning toilets to changing diapers (both for children and some elderly), from picking tomatoes to mowing lawns, immigrants toil daily in these so-called dirty jobs.

Yet, Republican leaders, conservative activists and right-wing talk-show hosts assail immigrants for allegedly taking American jobs and burdening our social welfare programs.

But undocumented immigrants don't qualify for many state and federally funded safety-net programs, thanks to former President Bill Clinton's welfare reform act of 1996 and other measures.

Also, while many undocumented immigrants incur payroll deductions and pay into the Social Security system, they aren't able to receive economic or medical benefits once they reach retirement age, such as Social Security or Medicare.

Essentially, these hard-working individuals put more into the system than they receive or consume -- the exact opposite of their "free rider" depiction that conservatives so often use.

Moreover, by working for low wages (and, often times, receiving below the federal minimum wage), immigrants generate labor cost savings for employers, who then sell their goods and services at lower prices to American consumers.

For instance, how much would a house salad cost at a local restaurant if employers hired non-immigrant laborers to pick, package, deliver, prepare and serve the lettuce and everything else that goes with it?

While it's easy for Republicans and their supporters to blame Latino immigrants for America's economic crises, it's hard for them to live without this important workforce and the services that immigrants provide on a daily basis to American consumers. It's almost impossible for the average American to go a day without experiencing the benefit of immigrant labor at the local dry cleaner, grocery market, restaurant, car wash, office building or hotel.

Instead of recognizing immigrants for their hard work by passing legislation that allows for these immigrants and their families to fix their legal status via amnesty, Republican leaders continue to balk at any just and humane reform that would offer a pathway to citizenship.

Given the obstinacy of the Republicans, Pres. Obama should take matters into his own hands and solve this problem once and for all.

He should issue a blanket amnesty to all undocumented immigrants who have not committed violent crimes.

It would be in keeping with this season of charity, and it would let 11 million hardworking people come out of the shadows.

Antonia Montes is an educator and advocate for immigrant rights. She can be reached at

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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