Astronaut Hernandez Stands Up for Immigrant Rights

By Channing Kennedy Sep 17, 2009

We talked a couple of weeks ago about NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez’s historic shuttle voyage. Since he’s touched back down to Earth, the story has gotten more interesting, as Hernandez has refused to be repudiated by NASA for speaking his mind on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. From the LA Times:

After the shuttle returned Friday, Hernandez told Mexican television that he thought the United States should legalize the millions of undocumented immigrants living there so that they can work openly because they are important to the American economy. Officials at NASA flipped. They hastened to announce that Hernandez was speaking for himself and only for himself. "It all became a big scandal," Hernandez later told television viewers. "Even the lawyers were speaking to me." … "I work for the U.S. government, but as an individual I have a right to my personal opinions," he said in a video hookup from a Mexican restaurant owned by his wife, Adela, near NASA headquarters in Houston. "Having 12 million undocumented people here means there’s something wrong with the system, and the system needs to be fixed." He added that it seemed impractical to try to deport 12 million people. In the earlier conversation, he spoke of circling the globe in 90 minutes and marveling at a world without borders. Hernandez, whose first language was Spanish, grew up picking cucumbers and tomatoes in the fields of California’s San Joaquin Valley. His parents, Salvador and Julia, had migrated from Mexico to Northern California in the 1950s in search of work. They eventually became U.S. citizens and raised four children, including Jose, the youngest.

What do you think? Why don’t we hear more often about members of the Latino community openly advocating for immigration reform?