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Fire Mary Peters

By Tom DeWeese
web posted May 12, 2008

Mary PetersThe Bush Administration has directly defied, not only the will and intent of Congress, but it is now openly ignoring legislation that the President himself signed into law. As a result a Constitutional crisis is rapidly developing over a project to let Mexican trucks on U.S. roads. As a result, many are now calling for the firing of U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

In September 2007, the Bush Administration began a pilot project to allow Mexican trucks to drive on U.S. highways. The project is, frankly, necessary if goals for the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) are to be achieved. The SPP openly calls for "harmonizing" the borders between the U.S. Mexico and Canada. In fact, the Bush Administration sites the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as its authority to push the project.

Congress was not happy with the program. Several members immediately sighted problems with safety of the Mexican trucks, including the inability of Mexican drivers to read English road signs in the US. Within weeks of the beginning of the project, both houses of congress began to draft legislation to put a stop to it.

Quickly, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced an amendment to the Department of Transportation (DOT) appropriations bill to remove funding for the project. The amendment was passed by a bi-partisan majority of 74-24 and subsequently became part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law by President Bush on December 26, 2007.

To make it perfectly clear that the legislation was a demand for the Administration to stop the Mexican truck project, Senator Dorgan received a letter from the Senate Legislative Council to confirm the law's intent. The letter said, "No funds made available under the Consolidation Appropriations Act, 2008, were to be used in fiscal year 2008 to establish or implement a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico."

Can it be more clear? Further, it is the Constitutional duty of the Congress to fund or not to fund programs. Yet, in defiance of this clear intention of Congress, Secretary Peters continues to move forward, spending funds for the truck project unabated and against federal law.

Melissa Delaney, spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), indicated the administration will simply ignore the congressional funding issue. In an all-too-familiar display of contempt for the concerns of the American people and in defiance of Congress, Delaney said, "We are committed to incremental steps in demonstrating the safety of the cross-border program, but there is no requirement to have a demonstration project."

Apparently hoping to convince Congress to back off its plan to kill the program, on October 17th Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters called a press conference. She then instructed a Maryland state trooper to inspect a Mexican truck in front of DOT headquarters, claiming this action would "prove" that Mexican trucks are as safe as U.S. trucks.

This childish charade prompted Teamster President James Hoffa to ask, "Does the Bush administration think we're stupid? It's insulting to the intelligence of the American people to suggest that a staged truck inspection before the news media proves anything."

In fact, actual inspections of the Mexican trucks prove that they are not safe to be on U.S. highways. A law firm (Cullen Law Firm of Washington, D.C.) has been compiling safety inspection reports on Mexican trucks in preparation for a lawsuit to stop the trucks from crossing the border. Their findings on Mexican truck safety are frightening and very telling about the agenda of the Bush Administration.

According to the Cullen documentation, in the span of one year, September 2006 to September 2007, four of the Mexican companies participating in the Bush administration's test trucking program collected more that 1,700 safety violations. One company was Trinity Industries de Mexico, which was cited more than 1,100 times, averaging 112 violations per truck.

Another major concern about the safety of the Mexican trucks crossing our border is the ability of the drivers to read and understand highway signs. The Bush Administration has falsely assured that the drivers are required to be proficient in English before crossing the border. A brochure aimed at Mexican drivers on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website says, "Did you know? You MUST be able to read and speak English to drive truck in the United States."

Yet, under heavy questioning during a Senate hearing in March, 2008, Transportation Secretary Peters and DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel reluctantly admitted that Mexican drivers were being approved at the border as "proficient in English" even though they could only explain U.S. traffic signs in Spanish.

Here is the verbatim exchange between Senator Dorgan, Peters and Scovel. Dorgan asked, "Does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration test for English proficiency at the border include questions about U.S. highway signs?"

"Do you show a driver an octagonal STOP sign at the border and qualify him if he explains the sign means 'ALTO," Dorgan asked with obvious agitation, "ALTO is the Spanish Word for STOP," he said.

"Yes," Scovel answered, hesitatingly. "If the stop sign is identified as 'alto' the driver is considered English proficient."

"In other words," said Dorgan, "the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is allowing Mexican drivers in the demonstration project to prove their proficiency in English by responding to the examiner's questions in Spanish?"

Mary Peters responded, "U.S. highway signs comply with international standards. I drive frequently in Mexico and I always recognize the octagonal 'ALTO' signs as 'STOP' signs."

"Excuse me, Madame Secretary," said Dorgan, "the question is not whether you understand Mexican highway signs when driving in Mexico but whether Mexican drivers entering the U.S. in your demonstration project can pass an English proficiency test by answering the questions totally in Spanish."

Answered Peters, "But answering in Spanish, the drivers explain they understand the English-language highway signs." Countered Dorgan, "If you answer in Spanish, you're not English proficient."

Continued Dorgan, "My main concern is safety. We've established (in the Senate hearing) that there are no equivalencies between Mexican trucks and U.S. trucks. There are no equivalent safety standards. Mexico has no reliable database for vehicle inspections, no accident reports or driver's records. Now you tell us Mexican drivers can pass their English proficiency tests in Spanish. The Department of Transportation is telling Congress - 'We're doing this and we don't care'--" Senator Dorgan concluded.

In a news release issued just prior to the March 10, 2008 Senate hearing, Peters tried to take the offensive against Senate efforts to stop the Mexican truck project. In the release she said, "Our drivers and our workers don't deserve a timeout for success and prosperity. So my message to Congress is clear. If you want to help American businesses thrive, support American agricultural success, and champion American highway safety, then keep on trucking with cross border shipping."

Obviously Secretary Peters is pandering to American workers. None of what she said is true. American workers are being destroyed by agreements like NAAFTA and the SPP. Wages are down. American jobs are disappearing and America's trade deficit is out of control because of these agreements.

Moreover, American trucking companies are not seeking "markets" in Mexico. They don't want to drive their trucks into that country. As James Hoffa said, "It's ridiculous when the State Department issues regular warnings to alert U.S. citizens to the dangers of kidnapping and murder if they travel Mexico's roads...No trucker wants to drive a load of automobiles into Mexico to park them somewhere."

Hoffa went on to say, "It's a disgrace that Mary Peters is still in office. She has broken the law and defied the will of the American people by exposing them to dangerous trucks from Mexico." The Teamsters Union has filed suit to stop the Mexican trucks from crossing the border and has called for Mary Peters to be fired.

The fact is, the Bush Administration, represented by Mary Peters, is determined to force the Mexican truck project on the American people because of agreements it has made with Mexico to open our borders. Further, it has made agreements with international corporations, through Public/Private Partnerships, to use the power of government to allow them to plunder the U.S. economy with little regard as to the impact on the American people.

As Senator Dorgan said, the Bush Administration doesn't care what Americans think about these policies. Mary Peters should be fired as a way to send a very strong message to the Bush Administration that the American people are fed up with its arrogance. Her firing would be a major blow to efforts to impose the North American Union, which of course President Bush denies exists. Fire Mary Peters first, and we'll get the rest of the gang later. ESR

Tom DeWeese is the President of the American Policy Center and the Editor of The DeWeese Report.

 

 

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