Category Archives: Sensible Immigration Reform

Houston Republican Offers Up Unconstitutional Bill

Local Republican state senator Joan Huffman filed SB 174 which would deny “community supervision” or probation to defendants in state criminal courts deemed “illegal aliens” by a state court. According to Gregory Hoffman who heads up the UH Law Immigration Clinic such a law would be unconstitutional, and he said so in an op-ed in the Chron.

Senate Bill 174 proposed by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, purports to deny “community supervision” to certain defendants who in state criminal courts are found to be “illegal aliens.” Such a proposed rule is plainly unconstitutional under both the federal and Texas state constitutions. More than that, it illustrates the danger of branding people without any understanding of the complex immigration laws governing noncitizens.

Long story short, the state (including judges) cannot create their own immigration laws, or laws that make it a crime to be an undocumented individual in this state. The recent Arizona case decided by the SCOTUS made that quite clear. That Huffman has decided to use a demeaning term like “illegal alien” to describe people says much about her and those who would support such a bill. That the Republican would want to waste scarce budgetary resources to further fight for such a bill in the courts (because it would end up there) shows that Republicans are more interested in wasting money, than creating practical solutions, or at the very least, supporting comprehensive federal immigration reform. Moreover, Huffman, as a former judge, should know better than to offer up something that is unconstitutional, unless her intent is to clog up the courts until she gets a decision she wants.

Obviously, we’ve been down this road before and Republicans remain adamant about attacking the defenseless, whether they have papers or not.

Even with all of the SCOTUS decisions that would back up Professor Hoffman’s assertion, even our own Texas Constitution seems to back him up.

The Texas Constitution has similar, even arguably more expansive equal protection provisions. In section 3a, it provides that “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed” or – importantly – because of “national origin.”

Furthermore, section 3 of the state’s constitution provides for equal treatment under the law, considering that “All free men, when they form a social compact, have equal rights, and no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive separate public emoluments. …”

The Texas Legislature should carefully consider what a misguided rule like the one proposed in SB 174 would mean. Texas judges are not immigration judges. But even if they were, the determination whether or not someone should be branded an “illegal alien” is determined after a lengthy process by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The decision is made considering the availability of relief, after a full review of a person’s personal and immigration history, among many other factors. A rule which brands people without due process, and in violation of equal protection, cannot stand.

All of this said, I wouldn’t expect overzealous right-wingers to follow the law when they have been on this anti-immigrant, anti-Latino trip since at least 2006 at all levels of government.

Let’s hope though that, as Grits for Breakfast tells us, Professor Hoffman’s op-ed has helped to effectively kill this bill before it even gets out of committee.

Or, Why Wendy, Leticia, and Dems Should Have Opposed the Surge

Lisa Falkenberg at the Chron tells us about the trouble the press is having at getting real figures from DPS and the Texas Government about the “success” of the Rick Perry’s (and now Greg Abbott’s) DPS/National Guard border surge. In my opinion, it’s always been a political sham with racist, anti-Latino undertones.

You will recall that it was a great photo op for Republicans, which left Democrats Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte with little (political) choice but to support the DPS part of the surge, while Davis also supported immediate deportation of children escaping violence and poverty. Obviously, this blog and many activists weren’t happy about it. And while the DNC goes over its autopsy of 2014, one would hope that political decisions such as Dems supporting Rick Perry’s idiotic ideas would be mentioned.

Republicans have decided to continue throwing money at their border sideshow, while negatively affecting National Guard troops who have real jobs and families to worry about, and DPS agents who have better things to do than to militarize the border.

Nothing is more embarrassing than backing a Rick Perry idea only to have it fall flat on its face, as expected by many Dems.

Put this in the Democratic Playbook chapter on What Not To Do.

 

 

UT Chancellor Supports Texas Dream Act

While Republicans in Texas have run and won on anti-immigrant attacks, in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who meet residency and graduation requirements has been the hot anti-immigrant issue in Republican primaries.

The original HB1403, signed by Rick Perry, caused Perry problems when he ran for President in 2012. University and college leaders have always supported the policy, which has helped thousands of Texas students who have established roots in Texas, whose parents paid local property Texas, and have earned a high school diploma. While immigration reform is still in limbo, President Obama’s executive action ensures that this first step for students who utilize this opportunity will be employable in the jobs for which they studied.

Now, UT’s new Chancellor has given his voice to the issue in support of in-state tuition calling it a “morally right thing to do.” As reported by the Trib,

“My job is to help educate the young men and women of Texas,” McRaven said in an interview with Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith. “If we have been doing that for these undocumented students for, at a minimum, the past three years as they’ve made it through high school, and in many cases since they were in elementary school, I think it’s appropriate to continue to educate them.”

“If not, where will those undocumented students end up?” he said.

He’s talking sense in a world where the Texas Lege has become a tool for destructive practices:  de-funding K-12 and higher education, unlawful and racially targeted voter ID laws, and the decimation of women’s access to health care. What’s next in 2015? Who knows, but Republicans have made it clear that they are not on the right side of history on in-state tuition. Perhaps respected leaders like McRaven will provide the guidance they need to make the right decision.

For more information on the defense of HB1403, visit the website here and enlist in spreading the word.

Update:  New Aggieland Leader Also Supports HB1403

As reported in the Chron, the sole finalist for the A&M presidency, Michael Young stated:

“When I think about the issue of tuition and financial aid and so forth, for me, undocumented is part of it. I realize it’s a politically charged issue to talk about and etcetera and etcetera, but I think we ought to step back and ask that broader question, which is what do we do to make sure that all kids who are prepared and qualified have this opportunity.”

 

 

Garcia, Others Chosen by Obama for Executive Action PR

adrianJulian Aguilar at the Trib reports that a group of Texans have been chosen by President Barack Obama to serve as the PR team to promote his executive action. Sheriff Adrian Garcia, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, construction guy Stan Marek, and Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez were on a call with Obama and his Hispanic appointee Cecilia Muñoz. Pretty soon, the next phase of DACA and the new program DAPA will have their roll-outs, as well as new deportation measures.

A bit of a reminder, Muñoz has done much of the defense of the President’s delays on immigration reform and the defense of his deportation policies. One time, she went so far as calling the 2 million, mostly non-criminal, deportees “collateral damage.”

Of course, the local Sheriff is best known for his defense of the Obama-managed deportation programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities. He had this to say:

Garcia, the Harris County sheriff, said the president’s change would actually promote law and order in his county because people would be more willing to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to fight crime.

“When there are questions and concerns that local law enforcement may become more concerned with a person’s immigration status rather than information that they have regarding cartels, human traffickers or other individuals that are interested in causing harm in our communities, like domestic or international terrorism, it impedes public safety,” he said.

Well, it sounds like the Sheriff has come around, right? Well, an article in Free Press Houston gives some analysis as to where Garcia has been and where he might be nowadays.

The President’s change includes a re-vamped deportation program which supposedly deports the worst of the worse; however, that was the intent as written of the original program. So, it is still a program that will be under the microscope, especially at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, whether Garcia is at the helm or not.

Given that there is still an imminent announcement of a Mayoral candidacy, Garcia resigning and leaving the post to a right-wing Republican who more than likely will not agree with the President’s executive action will surely put Garcia in a position to defend the President’s executive action during the Mayoral campaign. Certainly, it will also frame the position of a possible Republican appointed Sheriff for 2016.

 

2/7: Congressman Luis Gutierrez Speaking in Houston

Definitely save the date for this important event regarding the President’s Immigration Executive Action:

Immigration Rally on Executive Action

Saturday, February 7, 2015

2:00 p.m. (doors open at 1:15 p.m.)

Lindale Assembly of God

503 Reid

Houston, Texas 77022

What to expect: 

Information about Executive Action

Guests:  Bishop JR Rodriguez, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero

For more information:  www.nalec.org

In-State Tuition Opportunity Under Attack

Right-wing Republicans in the Texas Lege have already filed a couple of bills to virtually put an end to in-state tuition rates for 16,000 undocumented students (DREAMers) who meet certain residency requirements.

HB 360, by Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, would require individuals to show proof of citizenship or lawful residency to apply for in-state tuition, in addition to meeting requirements outlined in the DREAM Act.

[…]

HB 209, filed by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, eliminates certain provisions in the act under which individuals could qualify for in-state tuition, including the provision for people who graduated from high school in Texas.

Keough whines that in-state tuition is a “magnet” for immigrants.

I seriously doubt whole families are crossing treacherous territory for the express purpose of paying in-state tuition rather than international student rates. If anything, their first purpose is to establish themselves, get jobs, find housing, feed their families, etc. You know, what people do every day in Texas. Years later, after establishing residency, attending our public schools, and, yes, paying taxes, the least we can do is offer in-state tuition to these hard-working students. It’s a n0-brainer.

Obviously, there’s something else going on with these right-wingers than “saving tax dollars” and “protecting” the locals. The current rhetoric and the anti-immigrant amendment to the DHS budget passed on Wednesday to de-fund President Obama’s executive actions tell us a whole lot more.

They’re just bigots. Or else why would GOPers change their minds on a previously bipartisan measure signed by a GOPer governor?

Thankfully, President Obama has vowed to veto the federal measure if it gets to his desk. And hopefully, enough GOPers will vote against it to kill it in the Senate. (26 GOPers voted against it in the House.) Greg Abbott we’re not so sure about regarding killing the Texas DREAM Act.

Anyway, this is just one of the big fights on immigration and other issues that will surely show the world that Texas will dig itself into an even deeper hole, rather than lift itself based on its diversity and deep talent pool.

Eduardo Maldonado, a 21-year-old University of North Texas psychology major, was one of the dozens of dreamers at the rally.

“I’ve been here 17 years, and I consider myself American and Texan. I grew up here. This is who I am,” Maldonado told the Observer. “I deserve the chance to attend college.”

 

Only One Issue, Wendy?

I have to admit, Wendy Davis’ open carry support didn’t offend me all that much, nor surprise me. That she is calling “backsies” on her support of open carry, though, has really disappointed me considering she supported immediate deportation of the Central American children escaping violence and poverty, as well as Rick Perry’s boondoggle of a DPS surge that has amounted to nothing. Now, I don’t support open carry, but playing politics with defenseless children is a lot more offensive to me than open carry. I think she flip-flopped on the wrong issue if she intends to run again in the future.

Now, Davis got a few points for defending driver licenses for immigrants and joining the usual Dem call for “comprehensive immigration reform,” but when hit with the issue of Central American children, she joined the Republicans on using them for political points.

barbiemigra

#deportationbarbie ?

I was among a few (if that many)  liberal bloggers willing to call her out on her Hillary-like hawkishness toward the children to the point where it earned me a contact from her campaign trying to explain her position away. Whether it was her letter to Obama calling for more deportation judges, her support of the wasteful militarization of South Texas, or a call for a special session to give more money to local border cops (who had previously supported Rick Perry when he bought them with money and toys), all of it was bad. But, no, there were conservative votes to earn, supposedly.

Some Dems were telling me I shouldn’t “cannibalize” Democrats, while they defended Davis. Hell, I thought I would lose my papers–the Democratic ones–by pissing off Democrats.

Some will say she was following her “handlers” orders, but if a candidate can’t tell the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, and feels playing both sides of an issue is an effective vote-getting strategy, then that’s just a loser of a candidate. It happens all the time to Democrats who play that game. “She should have fired the handlers,” some say, but, who has the power to hire/fire handlers; the candidate or the check-writers? Ultimately, the candidate decides which policy track to take, and, unfortunately, based on political calculations rather than on doing what is right.

Of course, I played nice because, what else did we have? Why be mean and call her #deportationbarbie or #migrabarbie if most of us knew what the outcome would be? Sometimes, I’m just too nice, I guess. In reality, it’s not like a flip-flop would have satisfied most voters who winced at her position; if anything, it just would have made voters a lot more cynical (Jim Mitchell at DMN has a good piece on the open carry flip-flop.)

In other words, it was a straight out campaign team decision, not a core belief. This of course raises the question of what else did she say that wasn’t a shading of her beliefs but an outright capitulation of her principles.

The solution:  Always go with what’s right the first time. Of course, some of us are waiting for the flip-flop on this position.

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.

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/Admin Relief Watch Parties – Houston

 
November 20, 2014
 
Own The DREAM Admin Relief Watch Party
1900 Kane St., Houston, TX 77007
6pm
 
Mi Familia Vota’s Immigration Action Watch Party
4124 Telephone Road, Houston, TX 77087
6PM
 
FIEL Watch Party
6610 Harwin, Houston, TX 77036
6PM
 
Also…
 
Neighborhood Centers Inc. will be hosting two live watch parties. One at our Leonel Castillo Community Center (2101 South St, 77009), and another at our Baker – Ripley Neighborhood Center (6500 Rookin, 77074).