Stuart Smalley.jpgEver since the people of Minnesota elected Al Franken their U.S. senator, there’s been a hole in my comedic heart.  The good Senator doesn’t keep counsel with me, but I’ve discerned that he’s made a personal vow to never again offer a hint of his former incarnation as one of the nation’s most hilarious comedians and sketch comedy artists.  

In other words, he has adopted a serious mien, a gravitas befitting his membership in that elite conclave of the 100.  So far as I can tell, he hasn’t said anything really funny since before July 7, 2009 (when he took his senatorial oath before Vice President Joe Biden), and has rarely even mentioned the word “comedy” (except when offering a eulogy to his former writing partner, Tom Davis).

But since last Thursday, I have been consoled, although not comedically.  That’s when I was reminded of his famous role on Saturday Night Live as the “caring nurturer” and “member of several 12-step programs,” Stuart Smalley.



I thought then of Stuart’s famous tag line, and tweaked it because of what Sen. Franklin did. He clearly showed that he’s still more than “good enough . . .  [and] smart enough,”  and that “doggone it [immigration reform advocates really] like [him].”  

While nonetheless sticking to his vow of steadfast unfunniness, he persuaded his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee to adopt by voice vote an amendment (Franken 4) to the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill, S. 744.  If CIR is enacted with Franken 4 included, it would establish within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) an “Office of the Small Business and Employee Advocate” (the SBE Advocate), whose purpose would be to “assist small businesses [firms with 49 or fewer employees] and individuals in complying with the [Form I-9 (employment-eligibility-verification) requirements” of the immigration laws, “including the resolution of conflicts arising in the course of attempted compliance with such requirements.”

The new role for the SBE Advocate complements the expanded authority of the USCIS Ombudsman under another amendment engrafted onto S. 744.  Like the Ombudsman, the SBE Advocate is empowered to provide assistance to the public, resolve I-9 compliance problems and make recommendations for changes to immigration laws and regulations.  

Unlike the bully-pulpit authority of the Ombudsman, however, the SBE Advocate would be authorized to issue an “Assistance Order” if any employer (not just a small business) or an individual has suffered or will likely suffer a “significant hardship” relating to I-9 compliance.  The SBE Advocate can also consider “significant hardship” more favorably to the small business or individual if USCIS does not follow its own “applicable published administrative guidance” and require the Secretary of Homeland Security under the terms of an Assistance Order:

  • to cease any action, take any action, or refrain from taking any action, with respect to the small business or individual under the I-9 provisions of the immigration laws; 
  • to determine whether any employee is or is not authorized to work in the United States; or 
  • to abate any penalty under such laws that the SBE Advocate determines is inappropriate or excessive.

The anticipated creation of the Office of SBE Advocate follows on the longstanding difficulties encountered by small businesses in trying to comply with immigration law requirements and the more recent laudable attempts by USCIS to espouse (and, alas, inconsistently demonstrate) support for small-business entrepreneurship under that agency’s Entrepreneurs in Residence program, which has provided useful training to its adjudicators and continues to grow.

So, all in all, I’m pleased with Sen. Franken and his Minnesota niceness; but I still miss Stuart Smalley.  Although mollified by Franken 4, but still unable to fill that comedic hole in my heart, I searched the web to find out what morphed Stuart into Senator Franken. Lo and behold I think I’ve found it.  It was obviously his encounter with erstwhile presidential candidate and inventor of the internet, Al Gore, that turned Stuart into a politico:

Doggone you, Al Gore!