Category Archives: Local Politica

Sheriff Gonzalez Ends Use of Private Jails

Now, this is the kind of news I like to hear coming out of Sheriff Gonzalez’s office.

For years, Harris County has spent millions transporting and warehousing inmates in private jails and prisons because of overcrowding. Sure, the article states that this was done mostly for budget savings and to curb overcrowding, but these private jails are badly run with little oversight. Still, it’s good to see the Sheriff take action on the matter.

“I simply think we incarcerate way too many folks; and there is a cost associated with that. Whether it be the cost of daily housing or sometimes outsourcing inmates. So I think that we need to change those practices… And that’s why I’m a big advocate for reform, and really addressing our mass incarceration complex that we have in this country,” Gonzalez said.

He says there are also other benefits to bringing inmates back in-house.

“We have more control of what we’re doing. You know, the medical records, things like that,” Gonzalez said.

Another benefit? Loved ones can visit inmates, without having to travel to other municipalities or cities.

There are still some major systemic problems that need to be dealt with, but, I guess culture change takes a lot of time to achieve buy-in and implementation. At least that’s what I keep getting told by the local experts.

One thing’s for sure, we really need to do something about that bail system; however, for that, we’ll also need some good candidates to defeat the incumbent county judge and Precinct 2 commissioner.

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Harris County Attorney Files Brief Against SB4

As was reported last week, the Republicans on the Harris County Commissioner’s Court may have chickened out of joining the SB4 lawsuit, in what may have been a pre-emptive move to avoid getting on Greg Abbott’s “list,” but it didn’t stop County Attorney Vince Ryan from submitting a brief to the federal court asking for a stop to any implementation of the racial profiling, anti-immigrant law.

Ryan makes the case that SB4 affects children his office represents.

The Harris County Attorney’s office, objects to the law for the following reasons:

The office represents the state Department of Family Protective Services in child protection cases, advocating for children’s best interests and the preservation of families — irreconcilable with the thrust of SB4, which is to “to cooperate in efforts which will lead tothe deportation of parents or kinship caregivers, the separation of families, and further trauma to children,” according to the brief.

Federal mandates require that assistance and benefits should be available to children and families “irrespective of their immigration status,” according to the brief. State law also directs that “the provision of the services necessary to give effect to children’s best interests are not conditioned on their, or their parents’, immigration status,” according to the brief.

Ryan states: “Any county attorney who declines to engage with assisting in the enforcement of immigration laws or discourages colleagues from doing so in order to advocate for the best interest of the child and promote family unification — as child welfare laws mandate — would not be “providing enforcement assistance” and would be “adopt[ing], enforce[ing], or endors[ing] a policy” or engaging in a “pattern or practice” that “materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws.””

Children of parents or family members who have been deported will be placed in an overburdened and potentially harmful foster care system.

Immigrant communities will fear cooperation and will not report abuse or neglect or provide information to authorities seeking to protect children.

SB4 will leave a huge swath of the community affected in one way or another. Whether one sees it as a legalized racial profiling law that targets anyone of color to be asked their immigration status, or a license for local cops to shirk their crime-fighting duties in favor doing some immigrant hunting, or in the case of the County Attorney, a law that will affect children caught up in their own brand of hell, it’s just a bad law.

“S.B. 4 will do irreparable damage to this State’s child welfare process, place county attorneys charged with representing DFPS in an irreconcilable conflict, and do further trauma to children who have been placed in the State’s care. Further, there is no legitimate state purpose in treating children who have an unauthorized immigrant parent or other potential care giver differently in child welfare cases,” states Ryan’s brief, which was filed this month in federal court.

In other news, the City of Laredo has joined the SB4 lawsuit. In fact, their City Council voted unanimously to join it. Now, that’s what I call a “welcoming city.”

 

 

 

 

Still Seeking Statewide Democrats

As Greg Abbott announces his re-election campaign, Democrats are still left wondering who will carry the Donkey flag in 2018 for governor and the other statewide offices. News came out that a Dallasite has announced a run in the Dem primary to take on Abbott, Jeffery Payne.

What caught my eye:

he also opposes the new state law banning sanctuary cities.

While he supports increasing border security, he says those who are in the U.S. illegally should be placed on a path to citizenship.

He got two out of three there. As I’ve always said, never sound like a Republican and “increasing border security” sounds quite Republican. My question to Payne is, what the hell does “increasing border security” even mean?

In a state race like this one, does it mean he supports the DPS border surge which has been all waste, all fear-mongering, and all border militarization? State police border enforcement is OK, but not SB4-type local police enforcement?

Or is he talking about supporting federal efforts, like Trump’s border wall? Or added militarization on the border, except with the national guard?

Or is he just trying to gain a few conservative votes? Ask the last Dems who ran for governor how that went for them, then seek some clarity.

Now, if he is against the sanctuary cities ban, he’s not a bad guy. but seeking “balance” on an issue in which the Republicans have been completely hateful and divisive isn’t necessarily the correct response.

The better response may be to simply call out the hundreds of millions in waste and fear caused by Abbott and his DPS border surge. The increase in crimes not investigated by DPS. The increase of DPS traffic tickets in the Valley. The lack of crime reporting by immigrants and a Latino community that distrusts the police. The travesty of deaths on the border under a hot Texas sun caused by these militarized efforts. Or, the fact that all of this is a political ploy to keep Texans in fear, blaming others, for the problems caused by the Republicans.

We’ve got a lot of material to work with just on this one issue. “Increasing border security” will never be believable to those who vote based on fear and/or hate.

I recently wrote about recent calls for the move to “centrism” as a means of making some anti-immigrant policies acceptable to Democrats. I hope this isn’t the advice our statewides will pay for in 2018.

As West Wing’s Leo McGarry told Jed Bartlet, “Because I’m tired of it – year after year after year after year, having to choose between the lesser of ‘who cares?'”

 

Houston Area Senators Urge Harris County on SB4 Lawsuit; To Be Considered on July 11

From the inbox:

(Houston, Texas) The Harris County Commissioners Court is set to consider joining the lawsuit against Senate Bill 4 at their meeting tomorrow, July 11th at 10am. Senators John Whitmire, Sylvia R. Garcia and Borris Miles issued a joint letter urging commissioners to vote in favor of joining with counties and municipalities across Texas in suing the State of Texas over the controversial legislation.

The 85th Legislature passed Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), the “show-me-your-papers” law, scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2017. We were extremely disappointed to see the state’s leadership endorse legislation that strips local control from Harris County, incentivizes racial profiling, and makes our communities less safe.

SB 4 contains numerous provisions that simply cannot be allowed to take effect. SB 4 would prevent local law enforcement leaders from setting their own policies to work with the communities under their jurisdiction. It would further allow individual law enforcement officers to decide on their own whether and how to question individuals about their immigration status, creating a troubling path to unchecked racial profiling. This will have a chilling effect on crime reporting in vulnerable neighborhoods, and make our community less safe.”

Senator Garcia will personally attend the meeting to testify in support of litigation. The agenda item has been brought up by County Commissioner of Precinct 1, Rodney Ellis. The full letter can be read here.

Houston-area State Reps have also sent a letter urging the County to join the SB4 lawsuit. A federal court hearing was already held in late June; however, there was no immediate ruling. So, let’s stay tuned.

 

Is “Move to Center” Talk by Dems Code For Anti-Immigrant Talk?

An op-ed appeared in the NYT written by a Bill and Hillary Clinton pollster (Mark Penn and some other guy) calling for Democrats to move to the center because that’s when they were most successful, i.e., the Clinton years. Of course, they get really specific on the definition of “center”: Go to the right on immigration.

Specifically, it states the following:

Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.

The suggested immigration policy?

Washington should restore the sanctity of America’s borders, create a path to work permits and possibly citizenship, and give up on both building walls and defending sanctuary cities.

They blame so-called “identity politics” and then call on the Democrats to save  others who are hooked on opioids while calling for the ceasing of  pardons and early prison releases of black kids caught up in the US war on drugs.  And that Dems must also stop protecting brown people from deportation, thus, becoming “anti-sanctuary city” like the other guys.

Let’s be honest,  “working class,” is also code for  “white people in Wisconsin, Pennsylviania, and Michigan,” which are the states Clinton lost. So, kicking a group of people around is OK as long as Dems win? While they may consider it a path to victory, some Latinos will consider it a clear path out of the Party, or worse, away from their polling location.

Now, this may be one op-ed in a major newspaper by some high-paid consultant, but no doubt I’ve heard (and read on social media) the conversations by and about Dems needing to become more centrist ever since the big loss last November. “Change, or else!”, is the mantra. This op-ed, though, is the first time I’ve read something so specific. Otherwise, it’s been elected officials and activists on social media (still) whining about railing on Bernie, or on the “fringe,” which could be anything from Black Lives Matter, Immigration activists, and even “bathroom” policy protesters. (I miss the old days when Dems only hated the LaRouchies.)

This isn’t anything new, and I’ve certainly blogged about it many times over the last twelve years. For some reason, immigrants, and by default, Latinos in general, are usually the first groups with a boot placed on their necks in the name of “working class outreach.” I still recall an East Texas Dem Chair telling my client to “go against the illegals” to win the white vote (and probably his own vote). Is this making a comeback? Please, tell us now, instead of a few weeks before the 2018 election.

Obviously, conversations must be had about the Democratic message, perhaps also about candidate quality, and the stances Dems take on issues. There are smart ways to communicate with voters without being openly divisive. Thus far, these members of the consultant-class who wrote the op-ed aren’t very much into party unity, and much less into the defense of those who come under attack for political purposes by the other side. Dems need to be smarter than what these guys offer.

Something on which to keep an eye and ear open, for sure.

Local TX House Delegation Asks Harris Co to Join SB4 Lawsuit

A group of Houston Texas House members has penned a letter to the Harris County Commissioner’s Court requesting they join the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SB4–the “Show Me Your Papers” racial profiling law signed by Greg Abbott.

Texas House members include:  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, and Gene Wu.

Pointing to various constitutional flaws in the law, the group also made a case for the lawsuit citing the law’s threat to public safety:

With the fifth largest foreign born population in the country, Harris County is especially at risk. All people in the community must feel safe and free to report crime and call law enforcement when necessary, without the fear of the same law enforcement asking for their papers. The provisions of SB4 will diminish trust and chill the reporting of crime, making our county less safe.

The letter further states the constitutional liability the county could face for unlawfully detaining individuals without warrant or probably cause.

Already, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and the tiny town of El Cenizo, along with Bexar, El Paso, and Maverick counties have joined the lawsuit. Efforts have increased to add more parties to the lawsuit, including Brownsville, Pasadena, and other Texas communities.

For the latest on the lawsuit, head over to MALDEF’s twitter feed for the latest arguments being made by the good guys and the bad guys at the federal court hearing in San Antonio.

Thanks to the office of State Representative Armando Walle for keeping us informed and for their work on these efforts. [copy of letter below]

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Houston City Council Votes 10-6 to Join SB4 Lawsuit

Well, unsurprisingly, Houston City Council split on a resolution in support of joining the SB4 lawsuit. The vote was 10 to 6 in favor, with the six against being:  Kubosh, Martin, Travis, Knox, Stardig, and Le.

In breaking news, some of us are now looking for “welcoming” opponents and/or replacements for: Kubosh, Martin, Travis, Knox, Stardig, and Le.

The mayor chose to go the “democratic” route in allowing for discussion on a resolution. The resolution isn’t a permission slip, as much as it is a show of support from Council. Perhaps even a temperature-taking of the City Council for any other litigation against the state that may come up in the near future. I’m of the opinion that we went the democratic route in 2015 and made Mayor Turner the executive to make executive decisions.

OK, so it got done Mayor Turner’s way. I understand the political games politicians feel they must play. Meanwhile, MALDEF and other organizations have already been hard at work defending against Greg Abbott’s overreach and his Republican Party’s hateful nature.

With the coming Texas legislative special session, we can expect more overreach on bathrooms. Will Council need to vote on whether Abbott, Patrick and company need to be sued on this if it passes? As always, I’ll be on the side of human rights. When it’s the right thing to do, you just do it.

I do have a whole bunch of appreciation for CM Gallegos for leading on this, and I appreciate the support given by the others on Council. Kudos to Cesar Espinosa and FIEL and the other groups who were fighting from Day 1.

A hearing is scheduled for June 26 in which a federal judge in San Antonio will hear a preliminary injunction filed by the tiny city of El Cenizo, TX to stop SB4 from taking effect on September 1.

 

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.

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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.

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.