Category Archives: Texas Lege

2016: Brandon Dudley for Tax Assessor-Collector

dudley.jpgAnother friend of mine, Brandon Dudley, has also filed for the Democratic nomination for Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector. I’ve known Brandon since his 2010 run for a judicial post here in Harris County, and I appreciate his work on the Wendy Davis campaign in 2014.

He has served my own State Senator Rodney Ellis for a decade as Chief of Staff and General Counsel, and his work in criminal justice reform is very impressive.

Here’s more on Brandon:

Brandon’s commitment to public service began at an early age, working in programs for at-risk youth while attending the University of Texas at Austin. Brandon worked as a juvenile counselor after earning his degree, and went on to the Graduate School for Social Work at UT-Austin to further develop his administrative skills in the field of public service. After graduate school Brandon came to Houston to create and direct outreach, crime prevention, and community economic development programs for at-risk youth.

These experiences inspired Brandon to attend the University of Houston Law Center, where he twice received the Public Interest Fellowship Award. This also led him to pursue legal and policy advocacy work in the areas of criminal justice reform, economic fairness and voting rights.

After graduating from UH Law School and being licensed to practice, Brandon worked for the Innocence Project, which works to secure the freedom for those wrongfully convicted and advance criminal justice reforms. He later served as managing consultant for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s Harris County Project to advance “smart on crime” reforms to improve public safety, increase fairness and justice, and save taxpayer dollars.

Read more on Brandon here and his platform is here.

I’m running because the right to vote is an essential component of our democracy, and ensuring that freedom is protected for all eligible voters is key to holding our government accountable.

But right now too many citizens’ freedom to make their voices heard in Harris County is under attack by intentional barriers making it harder to vote, tactics that wrongfully deny eligible voters their freedom to vote, and antiquated voting systems that are prone to mistakes, cause long lines, and increase taxpayer costs.

I’m running because the people of Harris County deserve a Tax Assessor that’s standing up for all us, not working against us.  A Tax Assessor that will fight for a fair and equal tax system and protect our freedom to vote, so we can have the Harris County we deserve.

We deserve better schools for our children, an economy that works for all of us, fair and equal justice, and a Harris County that treats all people equally and fairly.

But we have to stand up for it. We have to fight for it.  And we have to vote for it.

Stay informed, folks!

Anti-Latino Bills Move Forward in Texas Senate

Credit: Denver Post (Click to Enlarge)

I think this is the most unsurprising news of the week. A Texas Senate subcommittee on “border security” moved two bills forward that would, (1) Legalize racial profiling of Latinos for immigration purposes, and (2) Stop in-state tuition rates for immigrant students whose families have more than established residency in Texas. Both bills move on to a full committee. Of course, all of this happened after dozens of students and advocates testified against both bills versus a few who spoke in favor.

While Republicans call these bills changes in policy, the targeted nature of these bills says a lot more. Anti-Latino attitudes by Republicans have once again come up to the surface and more lies are spread about the community. Some will call it fear, I’ll call it downright bigoted policy-making for their own political purposes.

Then there are those who will say that Latinos need to vote in larger numbers. I don’t disagree, but the caveat is that Democrats need to do a better job of defending Latinos and immigrants, instead of playing to right-wing voters by talking anti-immigrant nonsense with some delusion that they will earn their votes. Frankly, these attempts at “centrism” remind me of Rahm Emanuel working with racist Tom Tancredo on immigration reform.

Whether Republicans will come to their senses and kill these bills is still up in the air. Obviously, there’s a race against the legislative clock. How hard they work for these nonsense bills versus bills of dire importance will further show us what they are really about.

Update:  Earlier today, this post caught my attention. In other words, SB1819 (in-state tuition ban) can be beaten. It’s time to deluge Republican senators with phone calls telling them to vote NO on SB1819 if it reaches the Senate floor.

UPDATE:  Both bills (sb185 and sb1819) were approved by the full committee and will be sent to the full Texas Senate.

Inbox: Anti-Immigrant Bill Heard in Senate Subcommittee

Credit: State Senator Sylvia R. Garcia

Since I’ve been busy with my move to another part of Houston, I was unable to take part in the actions today at the Capitol. Thanks to Senator Jose Rodriguez’s staff, we got this e-mail about the Subcommittee hearing on SB185–the racial profiling bill (aka sanctuary cities).

 

AUSTIN – Senate Bill 185, which was heard in the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security today, would outlaw so-called “sanctuary cities” — a term that has not been defined — by prohibiting Texas governmental entities from passing laws to restrict police from asking about immigration status.

The bill affects cities, counties, special districts, and districts attorneys. It exempts school districts and hospital districts, but includes peace officers employed or commissioned by school districts and hospital districts.

S.B. 185 specifically prohibits policies that prohibit:

  • Inquiring into immigration status lawfully detained;
  • Sending or requesting information from U.S. CIS or ICE;
  • Maintaining the information;
  • Exchanging information with other state or federal entities;
  • Assisting or cooperating with a federal immigration officer as reasonable or necessary; and
  • Permitting a federal immigration officer to enter and conduct enforcement at a jail.

S.B. 185 provides that any entity in violation shall be denied state grant funds for the following fiscal year after a finding of a violation by a judicial determination. Senator Rodríguez issued the following statement:

Even after today’s lengthy committee hearing, it is still unclear what problem S.B. 185 is attempting to solve. If it’s an attempt to address criminal activity along the border, then we need to better fund local law enforcement, not interfere with local governments’ ability to work with their respective communities. If it’s an attempt to address immigration issues, then that is clearly within the purview of the federal government, not the state.

This bill is a repeat of legislation that was defeated in 2011, and it’s simply bad policy and bad business for our state. I am concerned about the message S.B. 185 sends. Even if it’s not written exactly as Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the intent appears to be the same. The goal seems to be to encourage more local enforcement of immigration laws, and although it could affect anyone, it’s aimed at Texas’ immigrant communities.

With less than eleven weeks left in the legislative session, we have serious business that we need to attend, including passing the budget, school finance, infrastructure and other key governance issues. Yet here we are spending far too much time on legislation that is unwarranted and divisive. I hope that we will prevail as we did in 2011, and the Legislature will demonstrate that Texas is not a “show me your papers” state.

Six major points illustrate why S.B. 185 is bad for Texas:

  1. It seeks to solve a non-existent problem. There is no indication that local law enforcement needs this authority, which is reserved exclusively for the federal government, to keep communities safe. Quite the opposite, as point number two illustrates.
  1. It harms public safety. Today, El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles and El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal spoke out against this legislation because it would undermine law enforcement’s ability to work with immigrant communities and effectively combat cartel activity. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and many other local law enforcement leaders have made similar comments.
  1. It’s bad business for Texas. Similar legislation in Arizona cost $5 million in lost taxes from S.B. 1070 and $135 million in lost economic output. As President/CEO of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce Richard Dayoub testified today, we can’t afford to lose current business or future investors. It also does not make sense to drive workers away from labor-intensive but critical sectors such as construction and agriculture.
  1. It targets children. While S.B. 185 exempts school officials, it includes school peace officers. I’m not one who thinks it makes sense to punish children who are in our communities, regardless of documentation, by pushing them out of school and into the streets.
  1. It has legal consequences that will inevitably lead to racial profiling, and violations of the Equal Protection Clause, the Supremacy Clause and the Fourth Amendment. In fact, the issue already came up in El Paso County, where the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department was sued for pulling passengers off a bus and asking them their immigration status; the lawsuit was settled when the department agreed to establish a written policy and train its officers. Further, it places schools in an untenable position: If their peace officers do not ask immigration questions they could lose state funding, and if they do ask they could be sued in federal court.
  1. It hurts families. So called “sanctuary cities” policies have the potential to divide mixed-status families in Texas. Leading leaders speaking against this legislation today, including the Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Anti-Defamation League, Evangelical Pastors, and numerous other religious orders and clergy members.

Rodriguez: SB185 is a Rehash of Bill Defeated in 2011

senrdzSenator Jose Rodriguez outlined reasons why SB185, the s0-called “sanctuary cities” bill, is bad public policy. While it’s been delayed, chances are it will be brought back up by the committee.

This bill, a rehash of legislation that was defeated in 2011, is simply bad policy and bad business. I’ve summarized six major points that illustrate why it’s such a time-waster for a Legislature that has important business to take care of — budget and taxes, education funding, access to health care and other key governance issues.

1. It seeks to solve a non-existent problem. There is no indication that local law enforcement needs this authority, which is reserved exclusively for the federal government, to keep communities safe. Quite the opposite, as point number two illustrates. I find this particularly ironic given that it’s being put forth by representatives who claim they are for small government.

2. It harms public safety. In 2011, this legislation was overwhelmingly opposed by county sheriffs and police chiefs. El Paso County Sheriff Wiles spoke out against this legislation because as he stated it would undermine his ability to work with immigrant communities and effectively combat cartel activity. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and many others made similar comments.

3. It’s bad business for Texas. Similar legislation in Arizona cost $5 million in lost taxes from SB 1070 and $135 million in lost economic output. We can’t afford to lose current business or future investors. It also does not make sense to drive workers away from labor-intensive but critical sectors such as construction and agriculture.

4. It targets children. While SB 185 exempts school officials, it includes school peace officers. I’m not one who thinks it makes sense to punish children who are in our communities, regardless of documentation, by pushing them out of school and into the streets.

5. It has legal implications that don’t appear to have been thought through. It will inevitably lead to racial profiling. It is likely to lead to violations of the Equal Protection Clause, the Supremacy Clause and the Fourth Amendment. In fact, the issue already came up in El Paso County, where the El Paso County Sheriffs Department was sued for pulling passengers off a bus and asking them their immigration status; the lawsuit was settled when the department agreed to establish a written policy and train its officers. Further, it places schools in an untenable position: If their peace officers do not ask immigration questions they could lose state funding, and if they do ask they could be sued in federal court.

6. It hurts families. So called “sanctuary cities” policies have the potential to divide mixed-status families in Texas. Leading faith leaders opposing this legislation in 2011 including the Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Christian Life Commission, Texas Impact, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League, Evangelical Pastors, and numerous other religious orders and clergy members.

Only a few days ago, President Obama, in his Selma speech, reminded us of one of our country’s enduring sources of greatness, immigration. The United States of America still is the world’s greatest destination for those yearning to breath free. We need to fix our system to reflect that reality, not punish those who have risked everything to be here.

Inbox: Sens Rodriguez and Garcia Delay Hearing on SB185

DelayedWell, this is good news. It’s obvious Republicans wanted to railroad this through without debate or discussion given that they called the hearing on midday Friday for 8AM Monday. Is this a delay of the inevitable? Hey, nothing should pass without a real debate–and the opportunity to catch some GOP nut-jobs saying something crazy on camera.

Inbox:

AUSTIN – Today, state Sen. José Rodríguez, Chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus (SHC), and state Sen. Sylvia R. Garcia, Vice Chair of the SHC, used a Senate rule to postpone the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security hearing on SB 185, the “sanctuary cities” bill, which was scheduled for 8 a.m. The notice for the hearing was published mid-day Friday, which gave potential witnesses insufficient time to make arrangements to testify at the hearing.

“This bill will have a tremendous impact on families, law enforcement and local government. I heard from a number of elected officials and stakeholders that the timing of the hearing notice did not allow for the type of transparent, open debate necessary for such a wide-ranging measure,” Sen. Rodríguez said.

“Senate Bill 185 has major ramifications to our state – to our public safety, to our economy, to the education of our children, and it takes away local decision-making based on the needs of individual communities. It should be carefully considered. In the past, hundreds of individuals have testified against similar legislation. Yet, a hearing for SB 185 was set with less than 72 hours of notice and over a weekend. It has been extremely difficult to get in touch with my local city, county and school officials over the weekend and to inform constituents who want to share their voice. I am extremely disappointed that my colleagues would try to limit public participation in the legislative process with a maneuver like this,” stated Sen. Garcia.

In 2011, a similar bill to this session’s SB 185, which essentially mandates that local law enforcement take on the role of immigration agents, was heard in Senate Transportation and Homeland Security. Concerned Texans from across the state, including religious leaders, city and law enforcement officials, and community members, came to testify in opposition, but they were told they could not because the bill (then HB 12) no longer contained the sanctuary cities language. The language was added back and the measure passed out of committee, with no opportunity for meaningful public comment.

“Despite these tactics, we were able to stop the bill from becoming law by using the two-thirds rule. Now the concept, which would build walls between law enforcement and Latino communities, is back under consideration in the Texas Legislature,” Sen. Rodríguez said. “Law enforcement officials already have testified that it will hurt their efforts to keep communities safe. City and county officials have made clear it will add costs for training, as well as putting them in the precarious legal position of either potentially violating federal law or violating the state law. Faith leaders, business leaders, community leaders — all have testified to the negative impacts of this legislation.

“The business of the state – budget and taxes, public education, infrastructure, and other key governance issues – requires every bit of attention and energy we have. This kind of proposal, which is unnecessarily divisive and not good public policy, has no place in the Texas Legislature.”

ALERT: Texas Senate Republicans Set Hearing on Anti-Latino Bill

Republicans have set a hearing to debate and railroad through committee SB 185, a sanctuary cities bill which will allow local and state law enforcement to participate in immigration duties through the practice of racial profiling (frankly, I can’t see how racially profiling Latinos will not happen). Here’s the committee hearing info:

SENATE

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

COMMITTEE: Veteran Affairs & Military Installations-S/C Border Security

TIME & DATE: 8:00 AM, Monday, March 09, 2015

PLACE: 2E.20 (Betty King Cmte. Rm.)

CHAIR: Senator Brian Birdwell

The Subcommittee will consider the following:

Relating to the enforcement of state and federal laws governing immigration by certain governmental entities.

One can read the bill here. And the bill analysis is here.

Here’s a bit of the explanation:

(f) Provides that, in compliance with Subsection (e), an entity described by Subsection (a) may not prohibit a person employed by or otherwise under the direction or control of the entity from doing any of the following:

(1) inquiring into the immigration status of a person lawfully detained for the investigation of a criminal offense or arrested;

(2) with respect to information relating to the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any person lawfully detained for the investigation of a criminal offense or arrested:

(A) sending the information to or requesting or receiving the information from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including information regarding a person’s place of birth;

(B) maintaining the information; or

(C) exchanging the information with another federal, state, or local governmental entity;

(3) assisting or cooperating with a federal immigration officer as reasonable and necessary, including providing enforcement assistance; or

(4) permitting a federal immigration officer to enter and conduct enforcement activities at a municipal or county jail to enforce federal immigration laws.

The law will punish local governments who do not participate in legalized racial profiling by not providing any grant funds the state may give. It all allows citizens to file complaints through the Texas AGs office to punish local governments, too. And even file frivolous lawsuits.

Interesting was that the proposed law would not include school districts, charter schools, or hospital districts; although, a cop working for a hospital district is allowed.

It’s just your usual racist bill from Republicans who have nothing better to do. If you want to go fight it on Monday, send them my regards.

If you want to contact all three members of the Border Security Subcommittee, here’s links to their contact info:  Birdwell, Hall, Lucio.

It’ll get uglier as Republicans have their sights set on Latinos and immigrants this session.

 

 

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.

Did You Sense Sadism in Their Tweets?

So, all of the pro-migrant groups (good and bad) have told me that the right-wing anti-immigrant federal judge’s temporary injunction on President Obama’s immigration executive order will be overturned or overruled or something. We shall see.

abbott-el-diablitoThat all of this money is being wasted by Republicans to stop an executive order that only does so much in regards to reform says a lot about these bigots. What was more disturbing were the celebratory tweets by Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Ted Cruz in which they declare victory against “executive amnesty.” Given their past vitriol, I’d guess they mean Obama AND Latinos (immigrants).

I think I sense a little sadism in their tweets.

I’ve seen some local groups trying to talk right-wing Republicans into “saving” HB1403 (in-state tuition). Pretty soon, some will be begging to stop Greg Abbott’s continued militarization of the border. Perhaps there will be some groveling to right-wingers to stop any “sanctuary city” legislation. Frankly, the Republicans are set in their ways–they’re bigots and are set on putting on an anti-immigrant sideshow.

So, are we done playing that fake game of “bipartisanship”? Because there’s no sense in our side looking like masochists when the other side continues to perfect their ability to inflict pain on the defenseless.

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.”

 

 

Bigot Day at the Capitol

I guess y’all heard that the bigot circus came to the Capitol today.

Photo Credit: KERA

I’m sure this will be one of many, what, with the Muslim community doing some lobbying at the Capitol today, and Planned Parenthood having theirs soon, and Latinos and immigrant rights groups playing defense against the Republicans; the list goes on. I’m sure each lobbying day will have a coinciding Bigot Day at the Capitol like today’s. The difference from previous years is that Republican legislators (Molly White) seem to be encouraging the hate in obvious ways, instead of staffing it out (but I guess she did that, too).

In June, she took to the social network to pledge that “finding Jihadists in Texas and arresting them” and purging the state “of all Muslim, military training camps including Imam’s who promote, assist and encourage Jihad” would be among her top priorities as a legislator.

In the comments on that post, she warned her followers that “Muslims cannot be trusted no matter how peaceful they appear.”

“If they come here and convert to the American way of life I may be more willing to trust,” she continued. “When they come here to advance their way of life, Islam, then no trust there.”

And here I thought Debbie Riddle would never have competition.

I’m so looking forward to any immigration-related debates and the protestors who will show up. (Sarcasm)

Some say this kind of hate is not representative of Texas; unfortunately, when hate takes the form of Texas public policy, one cannot deny what Texas has become.