Acting Labor Secretary Has a Terrible Immigration Policy Background

By David North on August 12, 2019

Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella, a former associate of the notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has a terrible immigration policy background.

Pizzella, the deputy secretary, moved up to the acting head of the department when the Trump administration dumped Secretary Alex Acosta, the only Latino in the cabinet, on the grounds that years earlier, as a U.S. attorney, Acosta had been too lenient in sentencing financier Jeffrey Epstein for sex crimes; Epstein recently died in a federal prison.

The president has nominated Eugene Scalia, the former leading lawyer for the department and son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to be the new secretary; he has not yet been confirmed by the Senate, though he probably will be.

Pizzella, as we reported at the time of his confirmation to the deputy's position, has the distinction of being one of the rare Abramoff associates not to be indicted.

According to a recent New York Times article, Pizzella, while working with Abramoff, organized congressional junkets to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and its sweatshops some 20 years ago. The CNMI's garment factories — now long closed — were staffed with nonimmigrant workers who were treated badly under what were then local migration and labor laws, under which, the Times stated, "some workers earned less than $1 an hour."

Abramoff and Pizzella were hired by the CNMI to preserve those conditions.

The CNMI was subsequently brought under the federal immigration laws, but still retains a proportionately huge foreign labor force.

Washington Lore. When I joined the Department of Labor more than 50  years ago, only two departments had a Deputy Secretary, Defense and Justice. All the other departments had a single undersecretary, and some assistant secretaries; the deputy secretaries have arrived since that time.

There was once no need to create categories of deputy secretaries, though that (particularly with Trump's fondness for putting people in acting positions) is possible now. Here's the unofficial hierarchy:

  • Deputy secretaries who become secretary, such as Obama's last Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter;
  • Deputy secretaries who are also acting secretaries and who might become secretary, such as David Bernhardt, who was in this situation in January of this year and was subsequently appointed secretary of Interior;
  • Deputy secretaries who are acting secretaries, but will not, or at least not soon, become secretary, such as Pizzella, as someone else has been nominated for the position;
  • Deputy secretaries (or AGs) who have been confirmed by the Senate and serve under a secretary or AG, once the norm, such as former Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein; and
  • Senior officials performing the duties of the deputy secretary, such as David Pekoske, now at the Department of Homeland Security.

Pekoske is a retired vice admiral of the Coast Guard, a DHS agency, and was administrator of the Transportation Security Administration before taking on the duties of the deputy secretary.

Of the six top officials at DHS (the secretary, the deputy, and the four under secretaries), only one of the under secretaries, David J. Glawe, who heads the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, has a permanent appointment.

Topics: Politics