Astronaut Causing Some Heartburn For NASA With His Immigration Stance

Astronaut Jose Hernandez, just back from two weeks in space, is gathering some attention for his statements on immigration policy.

The Los Angeles Times reports that "NASA went ballistic" over comments Hernandez made on Mexican TV, comments which were definitely not along the lines of "build a fence and shoot the climbers."

Hernandez -- who lives in the Houston area; his wife owns the Tierra Luna Grill near the Johnson Space Center -- is a huge media star in Mexico, the Times said. So he's been appearing on their talk shows.

Hernandez was back this week on Mexican network Televisa's popular morning chat show, where he has seemingly been a fixture, to update host Carlos Loret de Mola on how he was adapting to life back on Earth.

Loret de Mola asked Hernandez, 47, about the controversy, and the astronaut said he stood by what he had said earlier on the same program, advocating comprehensive immigration reform -- a keenly divisive issue in the United States.

"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."

NASA has made clear Hernandez speaks only for himself and not the agency, because...well, it's pretty obvious why.

As a child, Hernandez lived half the time in Mexico and half in the States, working in the fields. He didn't learn English until he was 12 years old, but went on to receive degrees from the University of the Pacific and UC-Santa Barbara.

So he deserves a voice in the debate as much as anyone. No matter how apoplectic it might make NASA.

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