Thoughts on Viernes…12192014

I hadn’t done one of these in ages. In fact, I haven’t done much blogging as I’ve sorta been out of sorts when it comes to local, state, and national politics. No, not because my side lost, but because if one loses his/her head in the aftermath of November, one will lose focus on more important things. Besides, there will be plenty of fighting against the GOP to do during the Texas Lege, considering the GOP is going so far to the right, they’ll end up falling off the edge of their idea of a flat Earth. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I need to end the year strong, so, here goes.

Valero’s Xmas Present

Houston City Council voted to give away some corporate welfare to Valero as they expand in the East End. This occurred despite opposition from East End Councilman Robert Gallegos. This also occurred despite East End concerns about air pollution caused by the refinery.  This also occurred despite East End folks not hearing anything from Valero about their plans.

Valero, their lawyer, and eleven members of Council didn’t seem to care about all that, either. The revenue cap allows it to happen, they say. De-annexation has nothing to do with emissions, they say. But rewarding a company despite this is quite concerning. The lack of transparency and community input, though, runs this whole deal off the charts. It would seem to me Valero was fine with this, and as well as those who voted for it.

Thanks to my own CM Mike Laster for voting against the welfare giveaway. Something besides the refineries and chemical companies really stinks.

IRS Refund Delays Are Coming; Thanks For Not Voting

Hidden in the online Chron was this story about the coming delays in IRS refunds in 2015 due to budget cuts from the Republican Congress. $350+ million less money means less staff and resources to answer phone calls and check on folks’ 1040s. Basically, Republicans are trying to hurt the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, but really, it will help tax cheats who will enjoy less enforcement. Anyway, when you don’t vote, Republicans in Congress will tell you that you really don’t matter.

Music Break:  Siggno ~ Y A El Si (from Zodiacal/Freddie Records)

 

 

 

 

 

 

About these ads

City of Houston: Is 2015 Going To Be Interesting?

Well, there’s no doubt that there are folks running for Mayor in 2015–good, OK, and awful–and there are those rumored-t0-be candidates–good, OK, and awful. The Chron’s Schleifer provided another report on where things seem to stand, especially regarding the possibility of a Latino candidacy.

Obviously, the biggest name is that of Sheriff Adrian Garcia. There are a lot of folks who would be excited for this kind of run, but there are also Democrats who are thinking about the ramifications of this for 2016, including my favorite Senator Sylvia Garcia.

“You’re going to be giving them an early 2016 gift,” said Democratic Sen. Sylvia Garcia, who had the sheriff at her home this month and expressed concern about a run. “Nobody wants a Latino mayor more than I do, but it’s got to be the right time.”

While there’s a lot of buzz about Garcia, folks should know that if he were to announce, he is done as Sheriff.  Those thinking about 2016 argue Garcia is needed on the ticket to help down-ballot Democrats. And then there’s even more to think about which I’m sure people are avoiding talking about. I do agree with Kuff that the 2016 Prez candidate will help down-ballot folks a lot more than someone like Garcia who has enjoyed support from the other side of the aisle that may not have really transferred to those down-ballot Democrats. If our incumbent Dems can’t win during a presidential election year, then our problems are much bigger than missing one of our anchors.

Anyway, the article mentions a host of others, including local State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who has been labeled the front-runner and top fundraiser. Still, I’m sure there will be plenty of cash available for the top tier candidates and their consultants and staffers.

Of course, At-Large 1 seems to have gotten interesting with a Chron article telling us that Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis has tossed his hat in the ring. I had also heard about Phillipe Nassif’s candidacy. I’ve heard other names, too, but I haven’t seen anything remotely official. Once all the candidates are announced, t’ll be a pretty diverse race, which will make it all the more interesting and a race to keep an eye on. Texpate has more.

Some fear some nastiness in this and other races, but as I’ve told folks recently, we need some contentious battles to get peoples attention. Let’s face it, elections generally have been boring affairs, other than for the volunteers and activists and the consultants. If candidates can commit to lively, productive discussion and debate, all the better. If the people aren’t caring enough until they get mad about bathrooms and charitable meals way after election season, then there’s a bigger problem in this game we call democracy.

More to come, I’m sure.

 

 

DC Reviews ~ Siggno: Zodiacal

The new and highly anticipated release of Siggno’s Zodiacal happened on Tuesday and already it is #1 on iTunes. Let me tell you, fans and listeners will enjoy this new production recorded at Freddie Records and in Mexico at Los Temerarios’ recording studio.

Known for their heavy rhythm section and hard-driving tunes, Siggno doesn’t disappoint on Zodiacal. Vocally, though, it would seem to be lead vocalist Jesse Turner’s best effort yet. In fact, in a pre-release interview produced by the band, Turner states that after the vocal tracks were laid, the record company chiefs decided that much more could be brought out of him at the Mexico studio and Turner went through the motions to re-record the vocals. Apparently, Turner struck gold as he seems to give it all he’s got vocally.

Siggno has assembled some great composers for this album, giving this new set of songs some lyrical maturity. One can notice this on rancheras Asi Sera, Inevitable and El Vaso Derrama, on the cumbia Sin Nada Que Perder, and the ballad Te Llevare.

Overall, Zodiacal is a powerful and diverse mix of tunes that keeps one toe-tapping and wanting for a dance floor. The waltzy Tus Labios could be a good live tune, while the uptempo cumbia Un Monton De Estrellas will keep folks dancing. My favorite tune, thus far, is the ranchera Y A El Si, with the excellent drumming of Joey Jimenez and the creative bajo playing of Richard Rosales, which actually, is evident in every tune on the album.

No doubt, this production has something for all ears and will be a fan favorite on both sides of the border. The good thing about Siggno is that they are more than able to reproduce the sound on stage, so, I’m looking forward to hearing the new music in a live setting.

Get your copy today!

The End of Secure Communities?

A few days ago, Kuff had a short post on the coming revamping of Secure Communities, called for in President Obama’s executive action on immigration. I agree with Kuff, such an action is long overdue as Secure Communities and 287(g) have done much to break-up families and negatively affect local economies across the nation. Of course, I do need to respond to this from Kuff:

I’d like to see what folks like Stace have to say about this before I commit to a position, but “cautiously optimistic” seems reasonable for now.

First of all, I will remind folks that I wasn’t too ecstatic about the executive action as it left people and families out, especially parents of DREAMers who have benefited from DACA, the 2012 Obama executive action. And the reason given by the administration (the lawyers told us to do it!) didn’t really satisfy me, either. Even after reading about DAPA and the deportation reform called for by the newest executive action, and to answer Kuff, I was cautiously optimistic about some of it, and fearful of other parts of the action.

So, as is customary for me, I look to others who have a pretty tight understanding of the issue, such as Prerna Lal, who had a list of the good, bad, and ugly of the executive action. The elimination of Secure Communities, as I suspected, came under the “bad” list:

Elimination of Secure Communities with a new program that targets immigrant communities: DHS is replacing the current “Secure Communities”  program with a new “Priority Enforcement Program” to remove individuals convicted of criminal offenses. While it could be a marked improvement that moves us from a pre-conviction to post-conviction model and uses notification instead of detainers, unfortunately, this continues the entanglement of local law enforcement with immigration enforcement.

The involvement of local law enforcement has always been a sticking point for me. I’ve never been a fan of the federalization of local cops for the purpose of rounding non-criminal working brown people; I don’t care if the cops are led by a Democratic mayor or sheriff. Prerna’s post has more on the deportation aspects of the executive action.

Ultimately, there has been little oversight of SCOMM and 287(g) to the point where there are some Sheriffs who have used it as a political tool, rather than for its actual purpose–to detain and deport major criminals. Furthermore, many local and state governments have refused or stopped cooperation with ICE because of the program’s flaws. And most of these flaws are because of local law enforcement involvement and lack of oversight.

It has been said that a “comprehensive” solution will not come until 2016. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything good, considering we are dealing with a Republican-led Congress. So, for now, we’ll just have to be vigilant of the effects of President Obama’s executive action and the new deportation programs and targets, as Kuff also suggested. As if keeping an eye on the Texas Lege’s quest to stop in-state tuition and proclaim the existence of “sanctuary cities” wasn’t enough.

Special to DC: Robert Rivas Interviews Johnny Hernandez

johnnytachI think it’s pretty obvious that I’m all about promoting Tejano, Chicano, Tex-Mex music, but it’s also important to preserve the history of this musical genre. Thanks to DJ Robert Rivas, a little piece of Chicano music history has been preserved with an interview of the legendary (and friend of DC) Johnny Hernandez.

From Johnny’s background as a farmworker kid to his musical beginnings with Little Joe and the Latinaires to his solo career–and all the turmoil and struggle in between, which included political involvement with Cesar Chavez–Rivas navigates through an interview that answers a lot of questions, and almost seems cathartic for Johnny.

I’ve been a fan of Johnny’s since his La Familia days, but I was truly excited about his solo career which began in the mid-80s and took off in the mid-90s with the release of his “No Me Hagan Menos” album. For about an hour, the interview touches on a lot, but it’s never enough. The good news is that Johnny is working on an autobiography which will answer even more questions, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to it.

Here’s the interview:

 

TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance is back from its tryptophan vacation as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is cheering for the Texas same-sex marriage plaintiffs as they move for the stay of the ruling that threw out the ban on same-sex nuptials to be lifted.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos is taking a few days off to spend quality time with family. I hope all of our readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Some helpful tips to avoid looking like a jackass with respect to the events in Ferguson, Missouri this past week were offered by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme disagrees with the GOP view that only rich, white, old men should vote.

Neil at All People Have Value attended the Michael Brown protest march in Houston this past week. The work of freedom is always up to each of us. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

The controversial decision in Ferguson, Missouri sent shockwaves across the country, with many communities immediately engaging in protests. But as Texas Leftist discovered, the Houston protests may yield some substantive progress in the quest to outfit officers with body cameras. Plus, a new video highlight’s HPD’s work to tackle homelessness.

===================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Rivard Report, with a clear view of what “bipartisanship” means these days, reminds us that it only takes a few generations to go from immigrant to hypocrite.

Lone Star Ma has had it with the textbook adoption process.

Grits for Breakfast questions Republican funny math on border security funding.

Texans Together discusses hardship exemptions for the Affordable Care Act.

LGBTQ Insider explains another acronym for the spectrum.

#UStired2: The Cost and Consequences of US Govts “Plan Mexico”

 

 

 

 

ustired2-infowww.ustired2.com

 

 

Video: #UStired2 is English for #YaMeCanse

Watch this!

Administrative Relief Information Sessions – Houston

And the work begins on making sure people are given the right information, as well as some great initial advice. Thanks to Neighborhood Centers and United We Dream for hosting these events.

ncentersea

Executive Action Fact Sheet

From the White House:

FACT SHEET: Immigration Accountability Executive Action

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will help secure the border, hold nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants accountable, and ensure that everyone plays by the same rules.  Acting within his legal authority, the President is taking an important step to fix our broken immigration system.

These executive actions crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

These are common sense steps, but only Congress can finish the job. As the President acts, he’ll continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill—like the one passed by the Senate more than a year ago—that can replace these actions and fix the whole system.

Three critical elements of the President’s executive actions are:

  •  Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration at the Border:  The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.  Continuing the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer, the President’s actions will also centralize border security command-and-control to continue to crack down on illegal immigration.
  • Deporting Felons, Not Families: The President’s actions focus on the deportation of people who threaten national security and public safety. He has directed immigration enforcement to place anyone suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers at the top of the deportation priority list.
  •  Accountability – Criminal Background Checks and Taxes:  The President is also acting to hold accountable those undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents.  By registering and passing criminal and national security background checks, millions of undocumented immigrants will start paying their fair share of taxes and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time.

The President’s actions will also streamline legal immigration to boost our economy and will promote naturalization for those who qualify.

For more than a half century, every president—Democratic or Republican—has used his legal authority to act on immigration.  President Obama is now taking another commonsense step.  As the Administration implements these executive actions, Congress should finish the job by passing a bill like the bipartisan Senate bill that: continues to strengthen border security by adding 20,000 more Border Patrol agents; cracks down on companies who hire undocumented workers; creates an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pay a fine and taxes, pass a background check, learn English and go to the back of the line; and boosts our economy and keeps families together by cutting red tape to simplify our legal immigration process.

Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration at the Border

Under the Obama Administration, the resources that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dedicates to security at the Southwest border are at an all-time high.  Today, there are 3,000 additional Border Patrol agents along the Southwest Border and our border fencing, unmanned aircraft surveillance systems, and ground surveillance systems have more than doubled since 2008. Taken as a whole, the additional boots on the ground, technology, and resources provided in the last six years represent the most serious and sustained effort to secure our border in our Nation’s history, cutting illegal border crossings by more than half.

And this effort is producing results. From 1990 to 2007, the population of undocumented individuals in the United States grew from 3.5 million to 11 million people.  Since then, the size of the undocumented population has stopped growing for the first time in decades. Border apprehensions—a key indicator of border security— are at their lowest level since the 1970s.  This past summer, the President and the entire Administration responded to the influx of unaccompanied children with an aggressive, coordinated Federal response focused on heightened deterrence, enhanced enforcement, stronger foreign cooperation, and greater capacity for Federal agencies to ensure that our border remains secure.  As a result, the number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the Southwest border has declined precipitously, and the Administration continues to focus its resources to prevent a similar situation from developing in the future.

To build on these efforts and to ensure that our limited enforcement resources are used effectively, the President has announced the following actions:

Shifting resources to the border and recent border crossers. Over the summer, DHS sent hundreds of Border Patrol agents and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to the Southwest border, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) reordered dockets in immigration courts to prioritize removal cases of recent border crossers.  This continued focus will help keep our borders safe and secure.  In addition, Secretary Johnson is announcing a new Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan which will strengthen the efforts of the agencies who work to keep our border secure.  And by establishing clearer priorities for interior enforcement, DHS is increasing the likelihood that people attempting to cross the border illegally will be apprehended and sent back.

Streamlining the immigration court process. DOJ is announcing a package of immigration court reforms that will address the backlog of pending cases by working with DHS to more quickly adjudicate cases of individuals who meet new DHS-wide enforcement priorities and close cases of individuals who are low priorities. DOJ will also pursue regulations that adopt best practices for court systems to use limited court hearing time as efficiently as possible.

Protecting victims of crime and human trafficking as well as workers.  The Department of Labor (DOL) is expanding and strengthening immigration options for victims of crimes (U visas) and trafficking (T visas) who cooperate in government investigations.  An interagency working group will also explore ways to ensure that workers can avail themselves of their labor and employment rights without fear of retaliation.

DEPORTING FELONS, NOT FAMILIES

By setting priorities and focusing its enforcement resources, the Obama Administration has already increased the removal of criminals by more than 80%.  These actions build on that strong record by:

Focusing on the removal of national security, border security, and public safety threats.  To better focus on the priorities that matter, Secretary Johnson is issuing a new DHS-wide memorandum that makes clear that the government’s enforcement activity should be focused on national security threats, serious criminals, and recent border crossers.  DHS will direct all of its enforcement resources at pursuing these highest priorities for removal.

Implementing a new Priority Enforcement Program. Effectively identifying and removing criminals in state and local jails is a critical goal but it must be done in a way that sustains the community’s trust.  To address concerns from Governors, Mayors, law enforcement and community leaders which have undermined cooperation with DHS, Secretary Johnson is replacing the existing Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) to remove those convicted of criminal offenses.  DHS will continue to rely on biometric data to verify individuals who are enforcement priorities, and they will also work with DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons to identify and remove federal criminals serving time as soon as possible.

Accountability – criminal background checks and taxes

Every Democratic and Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower has taken executive action on immigration.  Consistent with this long history, DHS will expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include more immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.  DHS will also create a new deferred action program for people who are parents of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and have lived in the United States for five years or longer if they register, pass a background check and pay taxes.

The President is taking the following actions to hold accountable certain undocumented immigrants:

Creating a mechanism that requires certain undocumented immigrants to pass a background check to make sure that they start paying their fair share in taxes. In order to promote public safety, DHS is establishing a new deferred action program for parents of U.S. Citizens or LPRs who are not enforcement priorities and have been in the country for more than 5 years.  Individuals will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time if they come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before the date of this announcement.  By providing individuals with an opportunity to come out of the shadows and work legally, we will also help crack down on companies who hired undocumented workers, which undermines the wages of all workers, and ensure that individuals are playing by the rules and paying their fair share of taxes.

Expanding DACA to cover additional DREAMers. Under the initial DACA program, young people who had been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children, and met specific education and public safety criteria were eligible for temporary relief from deportation so long as they were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007.  DHS is expanding DACA so that individuals who were brought to this country as children can apply if they entered before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today.  Going forward, DACA relief will also be granted for three years.

The President’s actions will also streamline legal immigration to boost our economy and promote naturalization by:

Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting LPR status and their spouses.  Under the current system, employees with approved LPR applications often wait many years for their visa to become available.  DHS will make regulatory changes to allow these workers to move or change jobs more easily.  DHS is finalizing new rules to give certain H-1B spouses employment authorization as long as the H-1B spouse has an approved LPR application.

Enhancing options for foreign entrepreneurs.  DHS will expand immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the U.S., to ensure that our system encourages them to grow our economy.  The criteria will include income thresholds so that these individuals are not eligible for certain public benefits like welfare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.

Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S universities. In order to strengthen educational experiences of foreign students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at U.S. universities, DHS will propose changes to expand and extend the use of the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and require stronger ties between OPT students and their colleges and universities following graduation.

Streamlining the process for foreign workers and their employers, while protecting American workers. DHS will clarify its guidance on temporary L-1 visas for foreign workers who transfer from a company’s foreign office to its U.S. office. DOL will take regulatory action to modernize the labor market test that is required of employers that sponsor foreign workers for immigrant visas while ensuring that American workers are protected.

Reducing family separation for those waiting to obtain LPR status. Due to barriers in our system, U.S. citizens and LPRs are often separated for years from their immediate relatives, while they wait to obtain their LPR status. To reduce the time these individuals are separated, DHS will expand an existing program that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional waiver for certain violations before departing the United States to attend visa interviews.

Ensuring that individuals with lawful status can travel to their countries of origin. DHS will clarify its guidance to provide greater assurance to individuals with a pending LPR application or certain temporary status permission to travel abroad with advance permission (“parole”).

Issuing a Presidential Memorandum on visa modernization. There are many ways in which our legal immigration system can be modernized to reduce government costs, eliminate redundant systems, reduce burdens on employers and families, and eliminate fraud. The President is issuing a Memorandum

Creating a White House Task Force on New Americans. The President is creating a White House Task Force on New Americans to create a federal strategy on immigrant integration.

Promoting Citizenship Public Awareness: DHS will launch a comprehensive citizenship awareness media campaign in the 10 states that are home to 75 percent of the overall LPR population. USCIS will also expand options for paying naturalization fees and explore additional measures to expand accessibility, including studying potential partial fee waiver for qualified individuals.

Ensuring U.S. Citizens Can Serve: To further our military’s needs and support recruitment efforts, DHS will expand an existing policy to provide relief to spouses and children of U.S. citizens seeking to enlist in the military, consistent with a request made by the Department of Defense.