Category Archives: Harris County

Sheriff Gonzalez Ends 287(g)

trumpfamilycrossing950As the Trump regime continues its onslaught against Mexicans and other Latinos, immigrant and citizen, with a steroid-laden immigrant hunting plan, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has ended its 287(g) agreement with ICE, citing a burden on resources and the need to place resources out in the field.

The withdrawal of the sheriff’s deputies will still allow ICE officials to come to the jail and screen jail inmates to determine their immigration status and the county will hold them for deportation if requested, Gonzalez said.

The sheriff said serious overcrowding in the county jail complex, where staff shortages have hiked overtime costs to $1 million every two weeks, has forced him to deploy his ICE-trained deputies elsewhere. He said his decision was not political “but an issue of resources,” explaining the deputies may also be assigned to help improve clearance rates of major crimes or ad to the patrol division.

“After thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided to opt out of the voluntary 287(g) program,” said Gonzalez, who sent ICE officials notification of his decision Tuesday. “We’ll still be cooperating with local, state and federal authorities as we always have, we just won’t have our manpower resources inside the jail doing that.”

The thing about local jails is that they’ve usually had the ability to report immigration detainers  that pop up on the national database so that ICE can pick up folks at their own discretion and with their own use of resources (other than local jailers). 287(g), which was always a voluntary program, used local resources to exclusively work on increasing deportation numbers in quicker fashion, including low-grade offenders who were not targets for deportation.

Of course, this was evident during the Obama era which broke deportation records, and counties like Harris and Arizona’s Maricopa were among the leaders in helping increase deportation numbers, while Congress did nothing to fix a broken immigration system. It wasted resources and was purely a political tool for whomever was in office at any level. Let’s face it, it became part of Obama’s push for “comprehensive immigration reform” as a possible dealmaker to offer Republicans. It didn’t work, obviously. Because it was in place, it also caused stress for good elected officials who wanted to rid their agencies of the flawed program, but had to deal with threats from right-wing elected officials.

For Sheriff Gonzalez, who also recently provided a statement against Senate Bill 4, the so-called anti-sanctuary city bill currently in the Texas House, he will have to deal with the ire of right-wingers like Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and some of the members of the Harris County Commissioner’s Court. Gonzalez, though, has the right idea. His decision is all about resources and public safety, while the Republican and Trump plans are all about fear and hate. And that should be the narrative of this debate.

This decision has been a long time in coming. This blogger had quite a few debates with the previous Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia about 287(g). And his Republican replacement was pretty much useless on the issue. Unfortunately, the Trump regime is hell-bent on hunting Mexicans and others. And even a lack of 287(g) will still leave an open door for Trump and his immigrant hunters at local jails. Add SB4, if Texas House Speaker Straus allows it to move forward, and local law enforcement could still be a part of the terror.

What people must understand is that we are in a whole different era. The same “bipartisan” rules no longer apply. Given Trump’s attitude, not even civil discussion. The right-wing, anti-immigrant members of Congress and state elected officials we dealt with in the past now have a leader to do everything they’ve ever wanted. And Republicans (and Democrats) who simply sit back and say nothing are just as bad, or worse, than those we’re dealing with today. Hate is hate. It cannot be defended.

The political implications are enormous, though. And 2018 is right around the corner. Republicans are useless, but Democrats still could rebuild into something with a spine, especially on immigration, detention, and deportation issues. It’s the one issue that they’ve felt useful for campaigns, as if they were actually going to attract bigoted votes in gubernatorial elections (2014). Instead, it demoralizes voters–base voters. Even voters like me, lifelong Dems, who have felt a need to skip around candidates during the last decade because they’ll say something stupid on immigration, or on child refugees from Central America, feel disconnected with the Democrats. Something’s gotta give.

For now, though, things seem ominous, even with a victory like ridding Harris County of 287(g) (Kudos to United We Dream-Houston). Trump’s new immigrant hunting plan expands the targets to include many more undocumented immigrants than the Obama era. Whether Trump sends out deportation forces or not, the fear is unsettling and certainly destabilizes communities and local economies. The Republican intent has never been about public safety, but about hate.

It’s time for ALL to fight back, and for the fight not to be left only to the immigrants under attack. Stand for all!

 

 

 

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A State Rep Working On Real Issues

With today’s news that Dan Patrick is more interested in potties and sending back billions in federal education dollars to DC, it’s time to remind folks that there are folks representing us in Austin that are actually serving their constituents.

Last weekend, I attended State Rep. Gene Wu’s (HD137) town hall. Having lived in the district for a few years, I had yet to attend one, but since this one would have much to do with moving toward a set of legislative priorities, I thought I’d better go.

Upon arrival, I found a pretty diverse crowd that looked just like Houston. “De todo un poco,” or, a little of everything. And Wu didn’t make the meeting all about him, though I wouldn’t blame him since he’s up for re-election. In fact, he showcased some local experts on issues, such as education, health care, and public safety.

H.D. Chambers, chief at Alief ISD, presented on the realities about public education in the area, and especially on the lawsuit filed by numerous Texas school districts regarding education finance. (The lawsuit was decided today by the Texas Supreme Court and, let’s just say, the kids, the people, and the schools lost). The lawsuit was mainly about having the courts decide how enough resources would be provided to meet expectations that we place on our schools. The Court decided that the state met minimum constitutional standards of funding.

Anyway, he reminded us that there are 5 million students in K-12, but that there are 3.5 million children age 0-3, who by 4 should be getting into Pre-K. Of course, Pre-K support from the state is non-existent. This poses a major threat to the future of Texas, which includes a startling statistic:  If a child cannot read by 3rd grade, there is a 35% chance that the child will dropout of school.

Freddy Warner from the Memorial Hermann system spoke regarding health care from a major system standpoint. He stated that health care and education are among the top funding priorities in the Texas legislature and that in the coming session, they may be crowding each other out. Considering Texas was just bailed out by the Obama administration regarding Medicaid, one would think that Medicaid expansion would be a priority. Warner stated that there is zero chance it would be addressed as health care doesn’t seem to be a priority for most in Austin. He did mention that Memorial Hermann does provide $1.4 billion in charity care.

A startling statistic he provided is that we shouldn’t be surprised if there is a budget shortfall in 2017. While the State Comptroller based a budget on $65 per barrel oil, we’re currently at $40 ($46 today) per barrel. It just doesn’t look good for our next budget.

Now, take Dan Patrick’s potty boycott of $10 billion of our federal money that we’ve paid into the system into consideration. Now, open a bottle of booze and start worrying.

Next up was Januari Leo of Legacy Health, which is a federally qualified health center. The majority of people seen by them are uninsured who cannot afford the emergency room or private clinics. They weren’t helped when Harris Health changed their qualification threshold, thus cutting 19,000 patients from their services.

With uncompensated care growing, and Obama bailing out Texas Medicaid, if a politician for state or local office (Republicans) promised you a cut in property taxes, it is not going to happen. Texas needs to pay its bills. How that is accomplished when we take losses in oil revenue, dismal tax collections and other budgetary nightmares into consideration, well, go ahead and open a second bottle of booze.

The public safety presentations by Assistant County Attorney Vinson and Lt. Conn from HPD centered on some of the things their agencies are working on. The County Attorney’s office is mostly working on ridding the district of nuisance businesses–massage parlors and after-hours clubs. They attract crime, drugs, etc. HPD’s Midwest division helps businesses develop surveys of the areas they serve as to type of crimes and how to protect themselves. They have programs to work at Lee HS with at-risk youth.

Overall, a very interesting meeting that has prepared me for the 2017 session. While State Rep. Wu will definitely have a list of priorities based on open communications with constituents, he’ll have to deal with some of the odd-ball and bigoted priorities being presented by Dan Patrick and his potty buddies.

Ultimately, elections matter. We have a run-off coming up and early voting begins on May 16. You best start practicing for November.

Thanks to Rep. Wu’s staff for putting on an informative meeting and for that open door.

 

Ed Gonzalez Calls on HCSO to Reinstate Inspectors, Diversify Staff

cafeed2Ed Gonzalez, Democratic candidate for Harris County Sheriff, challenged current Sheriff Hickman to reinstate jail inspectors and diversify the staff if any criminal justice reform plan is to succeed.

Here’s the press release from Gonzalez:

Ed Gonzalez, the leading Democratic candidate for Sheriff, called on Sheriff Ron Hickman today to join the county’s push for criminal justice reform by reinstating jail inspectors and replacing his command staff with a more diverse leadership team

Gonzalez applauded yesterday’s action by county commissioners to accept a $2 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation and spend millions more on reforms that include expanding pre-trial diversion programs, implementing a new bail system and improving relationships with minority communities.

“Commissioners are moving in the right direction with their new reform plan, but it won’t be enough until real reform comes to the Sheriff’s office,” said Gonzalez.

“Sheriff Hickman must immediately reinstate the jail inspectors and the investigative unit he dismantled and replace his command staff with a leadership team that is more reflective of the communities served by the sheriff’s office,” said Gonzalez.

Hickman’s first act after being appointed sheriff was to replace the existing diverse command staff with all white men. After intense pressure, Hickman later made some additional appointments, but the command staff is nowhere near reflective of the communities that make up Harris County. Gonzalez expressed concern that, until the sheriff truly diversified his command staff, the county’s new racial and ethnic diversity coordinator would continue to face barriers in rebuilding the trust of minority communities in the criminal justice system.

“If the county’s law enforcement leader fails to recognize the need for real diversity,” said Gonzalez, “what chance will the county’s new criminal justice diversity coordinator have to succeed?”

Gonzalez also expressed serious concerns about the ability of the county’s new jail coordinator to speed up the release of inmates awaiting bail, a key element of the new reform plan, given existing management problems at the jail.

Earlier this month, a suspect awaiting bail on a charge of stealing a guitar was beaten to death by inmates in his holding cell – continuing a pattern of violence, abuse and neglect at the jail that was exposed in a 2015 Houston Chronicle investigation. Hickman’s response was to reduce oversight at the jail, including dismantling the investigative unit that had uncovered some of the worst cases of abuse and neglect.

“For the county’s new reform plan to succeed, we must incease oversight, transparency and accountability at the county jail,” said Gonzalez. “That’s why I’m calling on Sheriff Hickman to live up to the values of this new plan by diversifying his command staff and reinstating the jail inspectors he cut earlier this year.”

Ed Gonzalez is a leading candidate in the May 24 Democratic Party primary runoff election for Harris County Sheriff. He is a veteran Houston Police officer who rose to the rank of Sergeant, led murder investigations and served on the elite hostage negotiating team. He served two terms on the City Council, chairing the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and becoming mayor pro-tem. On the Houston City Council, Gonzalez led efforts at criminal justice reform – including creating the Houston Center for Sobriety, which keeps people who need help out of the criminal justice system and allows police officers to spend more time on patrol, catching criminals.

 

Harris Dems Will Get Some Contested Races

donkey-fightAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, contested races are what democracy is all about, and the final filings show quite a few contested races in which local Dems can choose. And in Harris County, it doesn’t matter what part of the county you live in, your Democratic vote matters in the Primary!

What may be a hotly contested race is that of County Chair in which the incumbent, Lane Lewis, is being challenged by recent candidate for City Council AL-5, Philippe Nassif. Any search will show that I’ve said nice things about both of these candidates. As I’ve told some folks, Party Chair is one of the most thankless jobs in the county which requires the ability to herd various groups and keep them happy, piss off certain people as a means of keeping said groups happy, and then, there’s also the requirement of raising money and winning elections. I still can’t tell which is more important, though. I’m noticing who’s involved in either camp and that’s all I’m saying, for now.

Adrian Garcia seems to have surprised some folks and filed to run for Congressional District 29 against long-time incumbent Gene Green. I’m not surprised, since Garcia is fresh off a campaign, probably still has an infrastructure he can implement, and it’s a great way to avoid a free-for-all that would occur if/when Green would retire with other familiar Latin@ faces who are probably ready for their next move. Garcia says he was moved to run by Donald Trump’s vitriol and the need to wake up the Hispanic electorate. With a 70% Latino population, and Latinos being forced to wait for a court to decide if there will ever be a second Latino district in Houston, Garcia seems to be in at the right time. We’ll keep an eye on this race.

Texas House District 126 has a contested race as Cris Hernandez and Joy Dawson-Thomas face off for the nomination to take on a right-winger to replace another right-winger. I haven’t read up on the demographics of the district, but it is pretty diverse. Perhaps an opportunity? We shall see.

My own State Rep. Gene Wu has a challenger in HD137. Hopefully, it’s a negligible challenger, but I’m pretty sure Wu and his folks aren’t taking this district for granted no matter the kind of challenge.

Texas House District 144 has a three-way race to hopefully kick out the GOP incumbent in a mostly Latino, yet low-propensity voter district. Mary Ann Perez is a familiar face, and Cody Ray Wheeler, a Pasadena Council Member, has been campaigning for a while. Another name is Bernie Aldape, III whom a few friends of mine seem to support and have put on my radar. This one is a race to watch.

The 11th District Court has a three-way race, too, with Kristen Hawkins, Rabeea Collier, and Jim Lewis. I’ve known Rabeea for a while from my days in Kingwood. In fact, back in ’08, she was a fierce advocate for then-candidate Obama, while I argued for more Clinton delegates to the State Convention during our district convention. We remain friends, though.

The 61st District Court provides another 3-way race, featuring Julie Countiss, Dion Ramos, and Fredericka Phillips. Of course, Ramos served the 55th District Court previously, and Phillips has served as Vice-Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. Countiss is a teacher-turned-attorney and is currently an Assistant County Attorney.

The 165th Court will be a hot race featuring former 165th Judge Josefina Rendon and Municipal Court Judge Ursula Hall. I know both quite well and I’m looking forward to watching this race.

The race for Harris County District Attorney offers up a previous candidate Kim Ogg, a perennial annoyance in Lloyd Oliver, and the first African-American elected statewide to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Morris Overstreet. Should be fun to watch.

The race for Sheriff has current Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez and a few other unknowns–at least in my eyes. I think one can tell whom I support.

In the race for Tax Assessor Collector, we’ll have a hotly contested race featuring Ann Harris Bennett, who has run previously and came very close to victory, as well as Texas Senate staffer Brandon Dudley. It’s a race to watch, for sure.

There are other contested races, but these immediately caught my eyes.

Look over the list of races, learn about the candidates (google them!), and make an educated choice. And keep an eye out for Kuff’s interviews.

Update:  Kuff has more on statewide and regional judicial races.

Update #2:  Since it was brought up to me, one of our favorite elected bigots, HCC’s Dave Wilson (the white guy that ran as a black guy for an HCC district), filed to challenge State Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148. As I’ve told a few Dems, I’m hoping such a progressive Democratic Primary would re-elect its incumbent state rep. without much of a problem. It’s not the HCC district to which he got elected, and Farrar has served her district well-enough that Democrats should know better.

Ed Gonzalez Files for Harris County Sheriff

cafeed2Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez announced through Facebook that he had filed to seek the Dem nomination for Harris County Sheriff.

This afternoon I officially filed for a place on the ballot to serve as your next Harris County Sheriff!

I’m a proud life-long Houstonian and have spent the last 24 years as a public servant. As our city’s Mayor Pro-Tem and as an 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, I’ve dedicated my career to: crafting innovative and effective solutions to modern-day crime issues, transforming government through the use of innovation and technology, improving mobility and infrastructure, and ensuring that our city’s future leaders have access to world-class educational opportunities.

As your next Sheriff, I’ll keep our families safe, the budget balanced, and criminals off our streets. I’ll ensure that the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is transparent, efficient, and responsive to the needs of every neighborhood. Thank you for your support as we embark on this campaign!

With Gonzalez’s entry into the 2016 political scene, we have an exciting candidate with a record of effective service to the community. As Mayor Pro-Tem, his reach has gone beyond the District H he serves. And, as he finishes his third term, he’s kept on working hard for Houston as was noticed this past weekend with the opening of CafeCollege Houston–a service for all Houstonians who want to go to college or find information on how to change careers and earn workforce certifications in which Gonzalez played a major role in developing. Obviously, his service as a local police officer gives him an edge in regards to political viability and the ability to manage HCSO.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to lead our countywide slate in 2016.

 

Garcia, Others Chosen by Obama for Executive Action PR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kuff Features David Rosen for County Treasurer

Kuff is back at it with interviews of some of our November candidates. Today, he featured my friend David Rosen, Democrat for County Treasurer.

David is young, energetic, and wants to bring some transparency to the way business is conducted in Harris County. Give his interview a listen and then vote for him in November.

Jensen Withdraws From HCDE-7 Primary

Traci Jensen announced today that she has withdrawn her name from the 2014 Democratic Primary ballot in the race for Trustee of the Harris County Department of Education. The final-hour candidacy of outgoing City Councilmember Melissa Noriega is the reason for the withdrawal.

After much thought and discussion I decided to withdraw my name from the ballot for HCDE. It was a tough decision but I felt that for the good of the party it was better to maintain unity than to divide loyalties. My money, resources and talents will be better served working towards public education rather than against a fellow candidate that I believe will do a great job protecting HCDE programs. I know Council Member Noriega will make sure Don Sumner stays retired and that she will serve her 6 years in the interest of public schools across Harris County. Thank you to my supporters who were excited by my candidacy. I will remain working behind the scenes for the children of Texas.

Many of Traci’s early supporters, including myself, were shocked to find out the line-up in the race after filing for office closed. Some had mentioned Noriega as a possible candidate for County Commissioner Pct. 2, which left some interested in the post on a holding pattern thinking any last-minute filing could happen, as usually happens in spots that haven’t been filled. Wow, were many surprised.

Some call a contested primary “democracy in action,” others call it an expense of resources that could be better expended against the Republicans. It’s easy to be “against” them when you have a favorite candidate, and it’s easy to be “for” them when you see an unopposed candidate whom you’d prefer was contested. Oh, well.

Since I haven’t heard anything from the other candidate in the race (Lily Leal), I’ll assume that there is still a race to be had for this position.

Needless to say, it takes a pretty cool, selfless person with not a lot of ego to withdraw from a race for the good of the Party.

The Run-Up to Filing Day

I know, we’re not even done with City of Houston/HCC races, but we can’t wait to talk about 2014. Kuff gives us a rundown of those who have filed, thus far, in Harris County. If you want the Secretary of State’s list to check out who’s running from both parties, well, here it is. The filing deadline is December 9.

Obviously, there a lot of judicial seats that seem lacking of candidates right now, but I know there are a whole bunch of Dems that are ready to file, including my friend Julia Maldonado for the 246th Family District Court.

Kuff mentions a couple of suburban Texas House seats, including HD-150, in which my good friend Amy Perez has announced her intention to file later this week. Amy is an award-winning educator, a wizard at public policy, and a forward-thinking individual, which is much more than we can say about Riddle.

Also, be on the lookout for an announcement for another House seat, HD-132, which is now an open seat out in Katy/Cypress. There will be a teabagger battle on the Republican side, so, the Democrat who I’m hoping will announce a run will be a breath of fresh air.

So, stay connected. By Monday evening or Tuesday morning, we’ll have the complete list of Dems on the Primary ballot.

Analyzing the Jail Bond Vote and 287(g) Is Still Here

Kuff has numbers on the jail bond vote.

I found it quite interesting that predominantly Latino districts, like H and I, voted against the jail bond–53% and 54%, respectively. Even the Latino vote went against it by 1,000 votes, if you go by those numbers.

I voted against the jail bond because I wanted to stick to my principles–I’m not in favor of Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s insistence on keeping the flawed Latino round-up program, 287(g). He uses this program to boast thousands of apprehensions, a large percentage of which were for low-level offenses, according to performance reports from ICE. Of course, this comes at a cost of about $50 million.

Yesterday, I got a few angry text messages asking me if I knew the Sheriff was asking the Commish court to reauthorize the agreement with ICE. My question to them:  Did you vote for the jail bond? Obviously, I wasn’t surprised since the Sheriff has been quite the defender of this flawed program. And it’s a waste of tax money.

Data being collected under a new state law shows Harris County spent nearly $50 million from October 2011 to September 2013 to house immigrants here illegally being held at the request of federal authorities – more inmates by far than any other county jail in the state.

During that time period, the county reported housing 30,306 immigrants with ICE detainers at a total cost of $49.64 million.

On Tuesday, the court accepted an annual federal reimbursement of just $1.8 million for the cost of housing incarcerated illegal aliens in the jail. The county must absorb the rest.

The Sheriff’s office says that ICE detainers have fallen since 2009 and that they are only going after “big fish”–serious criminal. Well, since that’s how the policy was written, it’s nice that almost 20 years later, they’re more focused, right?

I must say, though, that I like Horwitz’s perspective at Texpatriate.