Category Archives: Elections

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

HISD Board Appoints Flynn Vilaseca to Unexpired District VI Post

hollymariaI was happy and proud to hear that Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca was appointed by the Houston ISD Board of Trustees to the unexpired District VI post which I discussed this past weekend. Here’s the story from HISD:

Houston ISD Trustees on Monday unanimously agreed to appoint Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca to serve the unexpired trustee term representing District VI on the district’s west side.

Flynn Vilaseca, who is fluent in English and Spanish, worked as a bilingual teacher at HISD’s Windsor Village Elementary School as a Teach for America corps member from 2004 to 2006. Since then, Ms. Vilaseca has continued working in the education field with Battelle for Kids, K12 Inc., and thinkLaw.

“I am excited to serve the city and students of Houston,” Flynn Vilaseca said.

Flynn Vilaseca holds a master’s degree in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University, and bachelor’s degrees in Latin American and Caribbean studies and in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan.

Flynn Vilaseca, along with newly elected District VII Trustee Anne Sung, are scheduled to take the oath of office on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Both Flynn Vilaseca and Sung are filling unexpired trustee terms that run through the end of 2017.

I’ve known Holly Maria for about five years now and she’s been nothing short of impressive with her commitment to service and to public education. There is no doubt that she will be a good fit on the Board and for District VI. All one has to do is read her workplace bio:
Holly Maria is passionate about affording equitable access to education to all students and has been involved in the fight towards closing the achievement gap for the past twelve years. The daughter of an immigrant mother and blue-collar laborer growing up in a small town where opportunities were limited, she was the first in her family to go to college…
Congratulations to Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca!

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.

 

The 2018 Campaign Begins

donkickWell, at least for Diane Trautman, who announced she is running for Harris County Clerk in the 2018 Democratic Primary.

It’s a smart move by the current Harris County Department of Education Trustee, whose term is up in 2018. And this is an important position which, along with various administrative functions, is charged with running Harris County’s elections.

Protecting our right to vote and ensuring a reliable, secure, and convenient voting process is not new to me. As you know, I ran for Harris County Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar in 2008 and 2010 and came very close to unseating incumbent Paul Bettencourt.
Additionally, I am honored to be serving on the transition team for Ann Harris Bennett, our new Harris County Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar, and I will also serve on her voter registration committee. Meanwhile, I will be speaking to voters at clubs and organizations all over the county to hear their ideas, suggestions, and voting experiences. I hope to hear from you as well. Look for more details on my campaign in the new year.

Those of us who use the #FireStanStanart hashtag whenever we await election results are probably a little too excited about 2018. Of course, it will be a test for the Democratic Party, which swept the entire countywide slate in 2016. Can this be repeated in 2018? Kuff has more.

Which brings us to the race for Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. Chair Lane Lewis announced he is stepping down in February. Although he accomplished various goals as the Party Chair, Lewis wasn’t without criticism in regards to fundraising and because he ran for office while serving as Chair. Then, again, which Party Chair hasn’t been criticized for just about anything, right?

There are some rumors going around as to who is running, but I won’t say anything until I get a formal announcement. I will say that Party Chair is a thankless job, it’s unpaid, and more than a few friends have compared it to herding cats. Whomever is in the job needs to be able to deal with more than a few types of personalities which means that person must be a people-person who is able to calm fears and worries and deal with criticism effectively, while getting the job done. Kuff has his thoughts.

I would like to announce that I am NOT in the running. For now, more than one precinct chair should expect to receive phone calls asking for support since it is they who will decide who gets the job to get Dems to a victorious 2018.

Thanks to Chairman Lane Lewis for serving. I could always count on him to get a heads-up on the latest party happenings. I’m sure he’s not done serving in other ways.

 

Greg Abbott’s War on Latinos Continues

uglyLet’s face it, when it comes to the issue of immigration, Republicans like Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Donald Trump have placed a target on Latinos. They’ve gone from supporting a ban on sanctuary cities to wasting billions of tax dollars on a border surge. Now, Abbott wants to target college campuses who protect immigrant college students from immigration raids.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is promising to cut funds to public universities that become what he described as “sanctuary” campuses for immigrant students. The Republican provided no other details.

Abbott tweeted the vow Thursday in response to a story about Texas State University students urging school leaders to declare the campus a “sanctuary” as immigrant students nationwide fear deportation under President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump pledged during his campaign to launch a “deportation force” and end the practice of granting temporary status to students in the U.S. illegally. The University of Pennsylvania, Trump’s alma mater, has pledged to block federal agents without a warrant from removing students in the country illegally.

No, there’s nothing specific, but Republicans in the Texas Lege have already filed bills to ban sanctuary cities, cut financial aid and in-state tuition for DREAMers, among other bills. These racist threats against Latinos have only increased since election day, including a new call to cut funding for city governments deemed sanctuary cities.

Abbott, who gained some favor for his campaign by parading around his hispanic mother-in-law is showing what he really thinks about the Latino community–again! While immigrant students may be the target, there’s no doubt that federalizing local law enforcement will increase racial profiling. It affects us all.

And for what? To earn political capital with his right-wing-nuts?

With exit polls showing Trump earned less than 20% of the Latino vote, the Republican Party is showing how little they respect the Latino electorate. They’ve been doing it for a long time, but in kinder, gentler tones. Now, there’s a good chance their racism will turn into public policy.

It looks like it’s another legislative session on the defensive for Latinos.