Category Archives: Elections

It’s Election 2017 Season! [Alief ISD Edition]

Well, it’s that time again–2017’s election season. Believe it or not, you have lots to vote on, whether it is amendments to the Texas Constitution, local school and college elections, and even some big bonds. This first post on the 2017 elections, I’ll talk about Alief ISD. One thing is for sure, one has to love the diversity on the ballot in all the races.

ALIEF ISD

With various district races for Houston ISD school board leading the local excitement, I’m lucky to live in Alief ISD. There’s four races in that one and I get to vote in everyone of them since we don’t have single member districts. I’m still trying to get to know the candidates on the ballot since they rarely attempt to get to know us inside of the beltway (I’m only a block away from Houston ISD).

Position 4 is a race to fill a vacancy left by the untimely passing of Dedre Jefferson. Darlene Breaux and Jesus Zamora are in the running.

Position 5 has G. “John” Nguyen and Donald Murphy Guillory in a race to replace Nhi T. Ho.

Position 6 has Jennifer Key and Anton Dowls in a race to replace Sarah Winkler.

And Position 7 has Soren Velarde, Natasha Butler, and Janet Spurlock in a race to replace Tiffany Thomas.

I’ll be studying the candidates more, although by the looks of some who are DACA supporters or progressive-minded on other issues, some may be easier to choose than others.

If you’re an ALIEF ISD voter, click on the links for each candidate, get to know them, and contact them with questions. They answer to you!

Voter registration ends on October 10. Early voting is October 23 thru November 3, so, click on the link to find your nearest early voting center. Election Day is November 7, so you can find your location and print your ballot at this site.

 

 

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No Politics in Disasters? ¡Por Favor!

It’s been said that there are no politics when disaster strikes. But there sure seems to be politics in creating a disaster. For example, Trump’s rescission of DACA.

There’s a lot of talk about its effects on the economy, on schools, and communities. Oh, yeah, there’s also that separation of families thing that no one seems to talk about. ¡

And talk of family unity is avoided when discussing any new “DREAM” act that will be considered. It’s all about the 800,000 DACA kids, but what about their parents? You know, the original DREAMers who wanted a better life and are somehow faulted for “breaking the law” by both sides of the aisle in the current narrative. Yes, I’m concerned about an entire immigration system continuing in its disastrous state, but we gotta start somewhere, I guess.

I don’t care if it’s a hurricane or inhumanity by man, politics exists in everything. Hell, if you signed online petitions to honor a right-winger-turned-humanitarian with a day at city hall, or you want to name a highway that floods all the time after a humanitarian football star who raised $20 million for flood victims, well, congrats, you just got involved in politics. So, maybe it’s time for something meaningful?

Since Trump has punted to Congress on this, the DREAM Act of 2017 is now in conversations. And about how there is bipartisan support for DACA amongst the voters. But what about the people the voters elected?

Back in 2010, and I’ll always remind you, when Democrats were in charge of the White House, the Senate, and the House, we came up short in the vote. Specifially, in the US Senate. 60 votes were needed to support the DREAM Act of 2010, but a 55-41 vote killed it. And I will also remind you that five Democrats voted against, while three (3) Republicans voted for it. (I guess this counts for bipartisan?) And one Democrat, an announced NO vote, didn’t bother to show up.

So, of the five “NO” Democrats, four now go by the title of “former” US Senator (Hagan, Baucus, Pryor, and Nelson). Left are the beloved by lib-labs Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin (the NO no-show). Has anyone checked on these guys as they check to see how many Republican votes are needed?

So, I’ll be asked why I don’t just criticize the Republicans. Well, hell, I’ve been anti-Republican all of my life, as were my parents, and their parents. I know what to expect from Republicans. In the peak of my most recent Democratic involvement, unfortunately, I spent more time fighting with Democratic apologists for anti-immigrant Dems, or worse, Dems who used the issue for their political benefit, reminders of whom would cause some great Facebook fights.

2.5 million deportations, hundreds of thousands warehoused in private prisons, millions of families affected, and a continued broken immigration system later, nothing has changed. And it’s really tough to be hopeful under a meaner regime with their own majorities. But there’s always hope, right?

Which is why this next fight should be led by the DACA/DREAMer activists themselves. Not the corporate-funded national Latino and immigration groups, not Democratic groups, not Mark Zuckerberg, or any 2020 hopefuls. The Activists. The same activists who called out President Obama for years, who pressured him to finally sign the DACA order after he denied he could for so long. The same activists who fought in 2010 and the ones coming up the leadership pipeline since then. The ones who fought for what was right, and not for political expediency. And the rest of us should follow, fund, and support them.

PS – My last post on the topic, I mentioned that Republicans would remind us that President Obama had failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2010. Well, guess who reminded us?

Update:  Kuff doesn’t like what’s going on, either.

 

It’s Not Just About Joe Arpaio

There’s a lot of anger and shock at Trump’s pardon of the bigoted Joe Arpaio. All my liberal friends on Facebook sure are pissed. But they need to admit that none of this started with Trump or Arpaio.

Back in 1996, I was pissed, too. That’s when Bill Clinton signed his own immigration act, which included section 287(g), a license to hunt and racially profile brown people for immigration purposes. Back then, many of us in the immigrant rights movement knew what was to come. Everyone else was just playing politics and ignoring the inevitable. And the Joe Arpaios of the world got exactly what they wanted.

Much like Republicans tell us now that laws like Texas’ SB4 are for the purposes of “safety,” Bill Clinton did the same. That 287(g) was about going after “criminals.” And Obama’s expansion of Dubya Bush’s Secure Communities didn’t help, either. Millions of deportations, hundreds of thousands in profiteering private prisons, families separated, racial profiling gone rampant, economies destabilized, apologists for anti-immigrant Democratic candidates, etc, and the politics of this issue have become pretty screwy.

So, I read all this anger and ask, “Where have you been?”

If you’re not willing to stop the root causes, even though us brown people warned you about them 20 years ago, then what are you angry about? If you’re up in arms about Trump and Arpaio, but are apologists for those who gave them the power to hunt and profile, what is the intent of your anger?

Well, if it’s winning elections and going back to the same old Democratic way of addressing immigration, then, good luck with that. We see right through it. And for someone who has voted in every single Democratic Primary since turning of voting age, it’s pretty much killed my love of politics, not to mention my involvement in it.

No doubt, Joe Arpaio is evil. But Donald Trump is just the jet fuel that is being added to a dumpster fire that has existed since the first immigration laws were written–when the United States decided that there had to be an Us versus Them mentality in 1790. “Them” being the original inhabitants of the land, then, those kidnapped and brought over for profit, then, anyone else who wanted to come over that didn’t fit the profile of the original undocumented people.

There’s a lot of hate in the United States and all the “love” memes and frames on Facebook are not going to change it. And surely, liberal, sanctimonious whitesplaining to Latino voters that they need to vote isn’t going to create political victories. As if the 70% of white people who put Trump in office don’t deserve any blame. Since 1996, we’ve seen what Democrats can do with 287(g) and immigration enforcement, too. It wasn’t just Arpaio.

Taking a stand against racist policies, showing unapologetic support for those being attacked and targeted, and proposing policies that benefit people (rather than target them) are what excite people to go to the polls, among other progressive policies. And calling out members of your own political party when they take the politically expedient route to appease the worst among us is a good start, too.

And if your only response to this post is, “Do you want Trump to win?”, well, perhaps you’re not trying hard enough to beat him and the people who continually support bigoted immigration policies.

 

Harris County Republican Commissioners Chicken Out on SB4 Lawsuit

As was expected, the Republicans on the Harris County Commissioner’s Court chickened out when Democrat Rodney Ellis made the motion for Harris County to join the SB4 lawsuit. So chicken were they–at the very least Judge Emmett and Pct. 2 Commissioner Jack Morman–that they wouldn’t even second Ellis’ motion so that a proper vote would be taken by the court.

A diverse set of leaders and advocates went before the court asking for the County to join the lawsuit against the legalized racial profiling law which would allow law enforcement to ask persons of their immigration status. Included in the list were State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Armando Walle.

As reported by the Texas Observer, it would seem to me that Emmett attempted to provide some political cover for his fellow Republicans.

“Don’t interpret, if we decide not to sue, that decision as an endorsement of SB 4,” he said after hearing the testimony, which lasted about 15 minutes.

“It is!” shouted someone in the audience. She called the commissioners  “cowards,” and promised that she and others would campaign against those who chose not to sue. Police officers escorted her out of the room.

Emmett said SB 4 goes too far in “interfering” with local government, but said that doesn’t mean the county should sue.

So, why not a vote? Admitting to overreach, yet chickening out, says a lot about the lack of leadership that exists in Harris County.

It’s just another way of saying, “We’re not racist, but…”

Anyway, who’s running against the judge and the Pct. 2 commish in 2018? At the very least, we need a good Democratic choice on the ballot, if not a well-funded one. The GOPers sell themselves to the highest bidders.

Democrats, though, seem to be leading the way in fighting SB4, along with various organizations. And as a likely bigoted and anti-education special session nears, at least one Democratic State Rep., Ramon Romero of Fort Worth, has  filed a bill to repeal SB4.

Hey, who knows? Perhaps the ghost of Texas’ Bigoted Past will visit a majority of the Republicans under the dome and they’ll vote for it.

UPDATE:  Kuff has more on the Republicans’ big miss on what might have been a profiile in courage. Morman’s excuse is pretty weak.

 

 

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.

 

 

Coward Abbott Signs Mexican Profiling Law (SB4)

trumpfamilycrossing950Or, he’s outlawed brown skin. Whatever you want to call it, SB4 calls for allowing local law enforcement to racially profile anyone who looks Mexican and question their citizenship. It is also called the “anti-sanctuary cities” law. The law is scheduled to take effect September 1, but legal challenges will hopefully delay it and kill it.

Senate Bill 4 makes sheriffs, constables, police chiefs and other local leaders subject to Class A misdemeanor charges if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold noncitizen inmates who are subject to deportation. It also provides civil penalties for entities in violation of the provision that begin at $1,000 for a first offense and climb to as high as $25,500 for each subsequent infraction. The bill also applies to public colleges.

The final version of the bill included a controversial House amendment that allows police officers to question a person’s immigration status during a detainment, as opposed to being limited to a lawful arrest.

In cowardly fashion, Abbott picked a Sunday afternoon when the targeted communities are usually resting before heading back to the work-week. Abbott also invoked a California crime committed by an immigrant in defense of targeting all brown-skinned people with this law.

Made a legislative priority by Greg Abbott and pushed by the Republicans in the Texas Legislature, SB4 was supported by Republicans and strongly opposed by Democrats. In fact, Democrats put up a good fight and pro-migrant activists showed up to oppose Republican’s bigoted efforts in huge numbers when the measure was taken up in committees and by the House and Senate.

“Governor Abbott signed SB4 on a Facebook live while immigrant families all across Texas were spending time with their loved ones. We condemn this action and we will continue to fight for our families and our communities.  We are here to stay and continue to make Texas the amazing state is is because immigrants built this nation.” Cesar Espinosa Executive Director FIEL.

Click Images Below to Enlarge

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More to come.

Democratic Reaction to Passing of SB4

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These Lawbreakers First!

The Texas Senate passed the committee substitute to Senate Bill 4 on Tuesday night. The bill would stop funding state and local government entities who do not federalize themselves for immigrant hunting duties. As reported by Nacho Aguilar at the Texas Trib:

Senate Bill 4, filed by state Sen. Charles Perry, would punish local and state government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws. Wednesday’s vote was 20-10 along party lines, with state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, absent. Rodriguez was present a day earlier, when the Senate tentatively approved it on a 20-11 vote.

The bill would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. Entities in violation would be stripped of state grant funding and also be subject to civil fines. Department heads could also be subject to criminal prosecution if they violate the provisions of the bill. The bill doesn’t apply to victims of or witnesses to crimes, public schools or hospital districts.

Perry added some steroids to the bill.

Perry amended his bill Tuesday to add tough civil and criminal penalties for entities that don’t comply with the bill’s provisions. One amendment would make a department head whose agency violates the provisions of SB 4 subject to criminal prosecution in the form of a class A misdemeanor. Another added a provision that would subject the local agency to civil penalties, including a fine at least $1,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent violation.

The bill now goes to the Texas House for consideration, amendments, etc. Hopefully, House Speaker Joe Straus doesn’t decide to waste state resources, including those to defend from legal challenges. One can hope, right?

Senate Democrats responded:

 

State Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso: “It is clear to me that this is not about public safety. It is about sending a message that immigrants, whether they are legal permanent residents waiting for citizenship, undocumented migrants seeking to join their families, or refugees looking for a chance at a better life, are not welcome.”

State Senator Borris Miles of Houston: “As a former police officer, I know that relationships with communities and police are essential to ensure public safety. I was proud to stand against this measure and vote no. Now, the bill will go to the Texas House of Representatives and I encourage my colleagues there to carefully consider the impact this bill would have on our communities and Texas.”

State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin:  “I love our state. But Texas has a sad, sinful, stained legacy of mistreating people who don’t look like me. This bill and this vote write another ugly chapter in that history.”

 

 

287(g) Rally: Sheriff, Mayor Respond

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Credit: J.M. Diaz

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez appeared at this morning’s rally against 287(g), a flawed immigrant removal program.

Gonzalez reiterated his support of immigrant rights and his promise to rid Harris County of the controversial program. He did, however, ask for patience and time to study and navigate its ending because of its ties to federal and state funding, and because he wants to ensure that such a program targets violent and serious criminals. During the press conference, he also reiterated that the program is run within the jail and not out in the field and that his deputies will not be targeting individual suspects because of immigration status.

Local immigrant rights activists are seeking policy changes and strong statements of support to undo programs that target immigrants and have run amok of their stated intents. Programs which basically federalize local law enforcement are flawed and have been a cause for racial profiling, wasted resources, family separation, and downgraded local economies.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also sought out by immigrant rights activists recently responded with his strongest statement yet.

“I know there are a lot of families and children who are afraid and worried right now about what might happen to them. I want them to know that Houston is, and always has been, a welcoming city, where we value and appreciate diversity. HPD is not the Immigration and Naturalization Service. We don’t profile, and we are not going to start profiling people to determine whether they are here illegally. It hasn’t happened under previous mayors, and it will not happen under my administration.”

Still, at the end of the day, it is policy changes that are sought. And political promises that are expected to be met. And in the era of Trump and his rampant executive orders, leaders feel the need to navigate carefully or else funding may be lost. With the State of Texas attacking elected officials and about to begin consideration of a racial profiling legalization bill in Austin (SB4), it seems some fear taking on the Governor and his bigoted threats.

Stay strong, elected officials. People are counting on you!

Click here for video from United We Dream