Category Archives: City of Houston

Houston Votes on SB4 Lawsuit Today

Over 200 members of the community showed up at City Hall yesterday to deliver public comments regarding this week’s City Council Agenda Item #16, a resolution supporting the City of Houston joining the lawsuit against Greg Abbott and the State of Texas which questions the constitutionality of Senate Bill 4–the “show me your papers” law.

According to the Chron, sparks did fly when CM Greg Travis, a known “NO” on the issue, took offense when several members of the Texas House testified that SB4 is hateful and evil. Travis used the usual conservative rhetoric of “rule of law” as the reason for SB4, rather than racist and evil reasons. State Rep. Gene Wu shot back, reminding the room that he’s heard rhetoric, such as “dirty mexican,” “wetback,” “drug dealers,” being used by those who voted for the bill and those who support those who voted for the bill.

Needless to say, the message was delivered that the City of Houston must join the lawsuit against what is basically a legalized racial profiling law. Right-wingers will say that questioning any given brown person’s citizenship is just “optional,” but opening the door to it is a danger in itself. If these conservatives refuse to get beyond the discriminatory nature of SB4, one would think that their conservative anti-spending side would creep out of them to vote FOR the lawsuit to avoid costly litigation that will come. The message they send is that they just don’t care and don’t mind targeting entire groups of people–citizen and not.

Anyway, you can still make some last-minute calls to your district and at-large council members. Tell them to vote FOR today’s Agenda Item #16–the resolution to support the City joining the lawsuit against Senate Bill 4.

District A Brenda Stardig 832-393-3010
District B Jerry Davis 832-393-3009
District C Ellen Cohen 832-393-3004
District D Dwight Boykins 832-393-3001
District E Dave Martin 832-393-3008
District F Steve Le 832-393-3002
District G Greg Travis 832-393-3007
District H Karla Cisneros 832-393-3003
District I Robert Gallegos 832-393-3011
District J Mike Laster 832-393-3015
District K Larry Green 832-393-3016

At-Large 1 Mike Knox 832-393-3014
At-Large 2 David Robinson 832-393-3013
At-Large 3 Michael Kubosh 832-393-3005
At-Large 4 Amanda Edwards 832-393-3012
At-Large 5 Jack Christie 832-393-3017 (* Still Abstaining?)

Of course, if Kuff is correct, it could also get tagged by an opponent which would delay the vote until next week. Delaying a resolution? Now, that would be a waste of time and resources and a show of how evil and hateful opponents really are.

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Tell Your Houston City Council Members to Support SB4 Lawsuit (Agenda Item 16)

The Mayor and Houston City Council will be hearing public comments today and many opponents of the “Show Me Your Papers” law (SB4) are expected to show up today to voice their concerns. If you cannot make it, but want to urge your district Council Member and At-Large Council Members to vote in favor of joining the lawsuit against Senate Bill 4, here are their numbers:

District A Brenda Stardig 832-393-3010
District B Jerry Davis 832-393-3009
District C Ellen Cohen 832-393-3004
District D Dwight Boykins 832-393-3001
District E Dave Martin 832-393-3008
District F Steve Le 832-393-3002
District G Greg Travis 832-393-3007
District H Karla Cisneros 832-393-3003
District I Robert Gallegos 832-393-3011
District J Mike Laster 832-393-3015
District K Larry Green 832-393-3016

At-Large 1 Mike Knox 832-393-3014
At-Large 2 David Robinson 832-393-3013
At-Large 3 Michael Kubosh 832-393-3005
At-Large 4 Amanda Edwards 832-393-3012
At-Large 5 Jack Christie 832-393-3017 (* Still Abstaining?)

SPECIFICALLY, ask your district and At-Large Council Members to support Agenda Item 16 (6/21/2017).

RESOLUTION in support of the City of Houston joining the litigation to challenge Senate Bill 4 (Commonly known as the Texas Sanctuary Cities Bill)

Recent head-counts show that the Council isn’t fully united in support of the lawsuit. If anything, it’s pretty split for a city that enjoys selling its diversity when trying to attract sporting events and business interests, Those in red may need some extra convincing, including my own CM Steve Le.

Bottom line:  A politician shouldn’t be on the wrong side of history on this one.

KUDOS:  To the Meyerland Area Democratic Club for sending their own message to City Council in support of the SB4 lawsuit. Last night, they passed a resolution stating their support showing that such laws are a threat to all sectors of Houston. Thank you to their president Art Pronin!

#SB4: 14 Houston-area TX House Members Send Letter to Houston Council

Fourteen members of the Houston delegation of the Texas House have penned a letter in which they ask members of the Houston City Council to support the City of Houston’s participation in a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the “show me your papers” law signed by Greg Abbott, Senate Bill 4. The law would allow untrained local cops to question a person’s citizenship based on little else than the look of a person.

cohltrsb4-1

Pointing to the intent of SB4 as a racial profiling law, the members of the legislature state that over 44 percent of Texas’ population is Latino, Asian-American, or Arab-American. Add to that the 11.5% that is African-American and nearly two-thirds of the population of Texas could be affected by racial profiling.

The legislators also remind members of Council that such a law will send us down the road of past failures in anti-immigrant laws, such as California Prop 187 and Arizona’s SB1070.

Recent headcounts of City Council have shown a divided City Council. For a city that thrives on marketing its diversity, a divided City Council on an issue such as the constitutionality of legalized racial profiling will not make for a palatable, if not, “welcoming” city.

Thanks to these Texas legislators for taking a stand:  Alma Allen, Carol Alvarado, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Jessica Farrar, Ana Hernandez, Jarvis Johnson, Mary Ann Perez, Ron Reynolds, Shawn Thierry, Senfronia Thompson, Hubert Vo, Armando Walle, Gene Wu.

San Antonio Joins SB4 Lawsuit; Still Waiting on Houston

The Rivard Report reported that San Antonio’s City Council instructed the city’s legal team to join the sb4 lawsuit against Greg Abbott and the State of Texas in the hopes of striking down Senate Bill 4–a law that allows for racial profiling by local law enforcement for the purposes of immigration enforcement. San Antonio joins other Texas cities in taking on the State.

San Antonio City Council instructed the City attorney to pursue litigation against Senate Bill 4, the State’s controversial immigration law also known as the “sanctuary cities” law.

[…]

The decision was made on May 25 during executive session, a meeting not open to the public. Similar lawsuits to block the law have been filed by Austin, El Paso CountyMaverick County along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the city of El Cenizo south of Laredo.

If only Houston had a City Council empowered to make such decisions; however, Houston has a “strong mayor” form of goverment in which the Mayor decides what is on the City Council agenda, or, what kinds of legal maneuvering can be done by the City’s legal team which he appoints. Of course, such a form of government doesn’t preclude members of Council from speaking up to the Mayor.

So, we’ll keep waiting on whatever analysis and decisions are made on SB4 locally. I guess.

FIEL: Time’s Up, Mayor Turner, Sue Texas Over SB4

Immigrant rights group, FIEL, held a press conference this morning to remind Mayor Sylvester Turner that the end of the legislative session has come and that it is time for Houston to join other cities in filing a lawsuit against Greg Abbott and the State of Texas over its new racial profiling law, SB4. Turner has stated he would begin to look at SB4 after the legislative session.

KPRC reported on today’s action. FIEL has provided video of the press conference.

“Our community and many of its leaders have been very patient and have continued to have trust in Mayor Turner. We are less than 100 days from SB4 being implemented. We do not need more promises of a welcoming Houston. We need the mayor and City Council to take action to protect Houston immigrant families,” said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL.

Mayor Turner has since responded with a press statement.

Now that the Legislative session is over, the city is in the process of reviewing and analyzing all bills that passed the House and Senate, including Senate Bill 4. The city, of course, will adhere to all laws that are deemed constitutional and consistent with the rulings of the Supreme Court.  SB4 does not take effect until September 1, 2017. In the meantime, the city of Houston will do its analysis.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

On Wednesday, May 31, the City Council will hold a public session and SB4 opponents are expected to appear to ask the Mayor and City Council for legal action against the State of Texas.

The last-day-of-session antics of Republican State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (Irving) in which he stated he had called ICE on Texas Latinos who were protesting SB4 at the State Capitol prove the intent of bigoted racial profiling laws created by Republicans. These laws do nothing for public safety; if anything, they have a negative effect on safety and the economy. But everyone involved already knows this. Let’s call it what it is–state-supported racism.

City leaders have a duty to protect its residents from these kind of laws, and the only recourse left (other than the 2018 and 2019 elections) is the courts. Frankly, if the City of Houston can pay for lobbyists to push for pension reform, then it can pay for lawyers to ensure its residents are protected from SB4.

Or, maybe the Mayor is just waiting for the governor’s signature on pension reform. And for the ink to dry.

Will Houston Sue Texas for SB4?

traveladvisoryAt a community forum in which Mayor Sylvester Turner, Chief Art Acevedo and others participated, it seemed the City’s priorities did not include any concrete decisions regarding SB4. At least, not until later.

Turner said that his administration would evaluate the bill after the legislative session ends May 29.

For those of us who would be targeted for racial profiling by local cops (it’s not just immigrants, but brown people in general), the lack of prioritization on challenging SB4 and defending from Republican targeting of Latinos has left a community wondering if it matters to elected leaders.

From Turner, the response to SB4 all along has been the same:

“I want you to know that Houston will be a welcoming, just and compassionate city that will work to protect all people from discrimination.”

Acevedo who had previously said that his department would not be a local INS, changed his commentary, though:

Acevedo made clear that police will be required to fill out a report and detail why they felt it necessary to ask someone’s immigration status.

“If you stop somebody for jaywalking and the only reason you’re asking because they don’t speak English,” Acevedo said, “that will be profiling, and we will not tolerate it.”

So, it is pretty obvious that, much like Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, HPD intends to follow the law. But there is no indication of whether Houston will join other smaller cities and the City of Austin in suing the State of Texas to challenge the law’s constitutionality. Certainly, I don’t expect the right-wing-heavy commissioners court at the County level to do anything, and certainly, Judge Ed Emmett has remained quiet. Frankly, the City’s lawyers should already be studying the law in anticipation of a decision to sue BEFORE it goes in effect on September 1.

In my opinion, nothing says “welcoming city” like a city suing the state government because of a racist law that targets at least 50% of the population. Certainly, it would show the city’s leaders are fighting for people, and not just using “diversity” as a means to increase tourism and business profits.

No doubt, Mayor Turner is awaiting the fate of the pension bill, which is the city leadership’s top priority. But as much as our city’s coffers should be a priority, so should its inhabitants. Immigrant or not, brown or not, we all pay taxes and shouldn’t live in fear of our own law enforcement. And if city coffers are the priority, certainly, Mayor Turner and the City Council should also consider the feasibility of SB4’s enactment and its effect on HPD’s budget, considering that being a Local INS will cost a lot more–in monetary term and in terms of crime-reporting, as the Chief has already specified.

Obviously, let’s stay tuned.

 

 

Gonzalez Continues With 287(g); Goal Remains to Stop Program

A protest of immigrant removal program 287(g) is slated for today, January 26, 2017 at the Sheriff’s HQ at 10AM. This is in response to what is seen as a lack of action by the newly minted Sheriff who made a campaign promise to rid his office of the program; as well as Trump’s recent actions on so-called sanctuary cities and other immigration policies.

In an interview on Mundo Hispanico with Sylvia Oben, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez states that he didn’t know the amount of grant funds that were connected to the immigrant removal program and how difficult it would be to leave the program; however, ridding the county of 287(g) remains a goal, but that it has to be in a responsible manner that ensures people who commit violent and serious crimes are detained like anyone else.

Gonzalez also touched on his priorities, which include jail overcrowding and bail reform to decrease overcrowding. But that becoming a sanctuary county, like Travis County, is not being discussed.

That funds and a flawed program like 287(g) are connected is not a new thing. If anything, it seems like the only excuse used by law enforcement leaders to keep the program. That’s, unless you’re an anti-immigrant zealot who just enjoys targeting immigrants. The program is known to net few violent criminals, as was seen when Harris County became one of the top counties to hand over to ICE low-grade offenders. The vast majority of law enforcement leaders see it as a useless program that leads to racial profiling in the field and is just ineffective.

So, the goal remains to get rid of 287(g), but perhaps his political consultants should have advised him to not make such Obama-esque promises. We just ended eight years with 3,000,000 deportations, thousands warehoused in local jails and private prisons, families separated, economies affected. And much of this was assisted by the last Democratic Sheriff in Harris County.

When a politician makes a promise, they’re expected to act quickly. Or else, they should just say what Gonzalez said in the interview and not in his campaign flyers.

By all means, please protest today.

The HISD Board Vacancy: A Few Thoughts

As Kuff reminded us back in December, there is a vacancy on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees after the resignation of Greg Meyers in District VI, and the Board will be appointing a replacement to complete Meyers’ term. A little bird tells me that the Board is getting closer to naming that appointee, so, it’s time the community have a conversation about this process.

District VI stretches from the Sharpstown area through the Westheimer/Gessner area and on to the far reaches of the west side to Highway 6. Given its meandering through these areas, little doubt is left as to its diversity, and this speaks volumes as to the need for added diversity on the school board. If anything, it also speaks to the need for a responsive, action-oriented individual to serve this trustee district.

That Houston ISD is diverse is nothing new. That 62% of its students are Latinos is also nothing new. Notwithstanding the trustee district’s westerly location, out of 15 elementary schools, eight are majority Latino schools, while two will soon reach majority Latino status. The future is not only diverse, but emergingly Latino at Houston ISD. As such, diversity in political representation is something that must be discussed.

Of course, ethnicity isn’t the only characteristic that is at issue. The recent election in which the vast majority of voters chose to not send local dollars to the State of Texas, instead choosing to call on the State Legislature to fix school finance shows that Houstonians are worried about the city’s educational foundation. The Board of Trustees needs someone who will advocate for Houston’s future–the kids–from Day 1 and beyond the rest of the term for which she/he will be appointed.

Some may argue “voter demographics” as a means of choosing a trustee who better matches up to past election results in the district, but there is such a thing as taxpayer demographics. Whether one is a homeowner or a renter, any ethnicity or color, and whether one lives closer to the west side or to Sharpstown, all are taxpayers and all deserve to be heard. Perhaps in the future the board can venture into a fairer redistricting process, but, until then, it is up to the Board in this instance.

Still, others may argue that District VI merely needs a placeholder to serve until the term is completed, while taxpayers wait for the November election to elect a full-term trustee. With the issues that Houston ISD faces, especially as a Legislative session looms, the Board needs a committed individual who is willing to serve beyond the year that is left in the term. It will not be a surprise if any placeholder decides to run for the full-term.

The Houston ISD Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to be responsive to the needs of constituencies who often go ignored by government entities in this area of the city. Appointing an individual who has worked in and has an understanding of the current and future diversity of the district and who has an undying commitment to public education, K-12 and beyond, is the only path to achieving fair representation.

 

Local Leaders Reinforce Houston as Welcoming City

onaic300Mayor Sylvester Turner today announced the creation of the Office of New Americans, an office which will assist immigrants and refugees with services that will help with their integration into their new hometown. By looks of the website, it is more of a clearinghouse of information, and that’s a good thing.

The Mayor reiterated Houston’s commitment to being a Welcoming City, stating that a task force he created on immigrant communities is developing best practices on how to address the needs of the immigrant community. To the community he said he has their backs.

“Many members of our community are living in fear and asking whether they will continue to have a place in our great city,” said Mayor Turner. “I want all of our residents, including immigrants and refugees, and people of all faiths, to feel safe and protected.  The Houston that existed before the November election is the Houston that still exists today.  We will not tolerate violence or criminal activity against anyone.  Houston is going to remain a city where all are welcome, where neighbors look out for one another and where we are proud of our diversity.”

He passed the mic over to new Houston ISD Superintendent Carranza who stated that schools will not be where immigration raids take place. Citing past Supreme Court decisions, he strongly reiterated that all students have a right to a free education.

Carranza went on to list some of the tasks they have worked on to show their commitment:  Distribution of immigrant rights fact sheets; Hosting a DREAM Summit to provide college and financial aid information to parents and students; and utilizing teachers to distribute information to encourage open discussion on political topics; and a January 4 informational phone bank to assist immigrant families.

Finally, Carranza stated that public schools are not in the immigration enforcement business and that they do not track student immigration statuses. “We will see you in school every single day.”

Chief Art Acevedo encouraged the immigrant community to work with HPD in reporting crimes and facts of crimes without fear of deportation or detention. Acevedo stated that HPD is in place to fight crime and their singular goal is to go after those who do wrong. In Spanish, he stated, “No somos agentes de inmigracion,” or, “We are not immigration agents.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and State Senator Sylvia Garcia also addressed the press conference ensuring constituents that they would stay strong in the fight against bad anti-immigrant policies. State Rep. Gene Wu stated that “we will not be divided and that we stand as one.”

Councilmembers Laster and Gallegos also reflected on the diversity of Houston as a source of strength, stating that they will continue to be of service to the immigrant community. Laster’s is the most ethnically diverse council district, while Gallegos’ is a strongly Latino-populated district. “Everyone will be heard and respected,” stated Laster.

I was unable to attend, but thanks to a couple of buddies and KHOU, I was able to watch the live feed. At the tail end of the press conference, there was a bit of back and forth regarding sanctuary cities, but as feeds go, they were sort of going kaput. Needless to say, Sanctuary Cities will be a major issue in Texas in the Legislature. Dan Patrick has committed to passing Senate Bill 4, a bill to ban sanctuary cities. Will Houston utilize its lobbying pros to try to knock that bill down? (At least, that’s what I would have asked.)

[Here’s a cold, hard fact:  While it is easy to commit to protecting children of immigrants from raids and rhetoric, their parents have just as big, if not bigger, target on them and deserve protection, too.]

From the looks of online reactions, many left the press conference feeling good about Houston and what they had just heard. The fact of the matter is that there are real battles ahead which require political leaders at all levels to take a stand against anti-immigrant policies. But as my friend Cesar Espinosa of FIEL called the Mayor’s new initiatives, “it’s an important first step.”

We’ll keep an eye on things. And, thank you, Houston leaders, for stepping up.

Mayor Turner Signs DACA Letter to Trump; Will Announce Welcoming City Effort

turnerThere’s been a soft grumble regarding what some activists call a lack of attention by Mayor Turner and the City of Houston’s commitment to keeping the city’s law enforcement out of the immigration enforcement business in this new era of Trump.

The recent hiring of HPD Chief Art Acevedo and the recent signing of a letter by many big city mayors, including Turner, asking soon-to-be President Trump to protect DACA beneficiaries from deportation, have provided somewhat of a signal of where the Mayor stands. During his stint in Austin, Chief Acevedo spoke out against the use of 287(g), an immigration enforcement tool for local law enforcement agencies.

While speaking out against 287(g) as a law enforcement leader brings a little comfort, the DACA letter only represents the protection of less than 800K young people nationwide from deportation. Of course, with 287(g) still in play, so is the opportunity for racial profiling and immigration round-ups. Activists want to see more from local governments given Trump’s standing on deportations.

Since election day, many city mayors have come out against 287(g) and the federalizing of local law enforcement, including some of Texas’ large cities. Specifically, they have stated they would not cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement. Locally, incoming Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has been vocal, as well.

Local government leaders around Texas are now facing the threat of losing state funding if they remain “sanctuary cities.” Greg Abbott has now threatened universities who have committed to providing a sanctuary from immigration enforcement. The threat against Latinos and immigrants in Texas because of Republicans’ threat of legalized racial profiling and funding cuts is very real. The fear, also, is very real.

According to the Mayor’s public schedule, he will be announcing a community effort to reinforce Houston as a “Welcoming City.” Texas Organizing Project is promoting the Monday morning, December 12, event on Facebook to be held at 9AM at NCI Baker-Ripley Chase Opportunity Center, 6500 Rookin, 77074.

Stay tuned.