Category Archives: Local Politica

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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The Undocumented Worker: Hated Until Needed

Some will point to Republican hatred toward immigrants since 2006, and others will point to Bill Clinton’s immigration act which created 287(g) and increased enforcement without fixing the system, but all of this time later, and after $150 billion in Harvey damage, now, there’s a freak-out over the target that hovers over the undocumented laborer who would be tasked with rebuilding Houston if everyone just looked away, especially Trump and his ilk.

All of this time later, various attempts at “comprehensive immigration reform” have failed because Republicans and some Democrats just had to show some artificial toughness to keep the bigoted happy. We’ll let in some people, but we’re going to triple the Mexican hunting police force (border patrol), federalize local cops, start a guest worker exploitation program, and build a fence. I’m all for give and take in a negotiation, but most CIR attempts, even Kennedy-McCain, bordered on ridiculous.

Nowhere along the way has there been much discussion of fixing a broken immigration system–fixing the “line” that everyone tells the undocumented to get to the end of. Nowhere along the way has there been much discussion about correcting US policy in Latin America that supports murderous right-wing regimes and US corporate interests, while attacking progressive leaders who want to provide basic necessities to the poor and indigenous–long ignored by the right-wing and wealthy. Yet, the blame only falls on the undocumented.

Now, you add a despot whose supporters hate Mexicans (and others) just for existing and, instead of looking at the human rights aspect of this, people think, “Who’s going to rebuild us?”

While I appreciate Lisa Falkenberg’s article about the undocumented rebuilding Houston, I’m still irked by the assumption by others that the only reason we need them (at this time) is for cheap, uninsured labor without worker protections. Especially when builders and contractors are the ones crying the loudest as they stand to make the most during the rebuild with this source of cheap labor.

It goes back to why we need more than just a DREAM Act. We need the parents of DREAMers and other workers who make up this exploited labor force, too. They must be protected. They must be paid what they’re worth. They must be insured and have worker protections from bosses who will exploit them during these times. Because, suddenly, it seems they’re not “taking someone else’s job;” they are filling open jobs, if we let them.

As Falkenberg stated:

But honesty takes only mere seconds. Enough with the hypocrisy. We need these workers. Right now, they’re digging Houston out of the worst flood in American history. The least we can do is offer them a path out of the shadows.

 

 

SB4 Racial Profiling Law Temporarily Blocked

This is great news, even if it is temporary.

During a stressful time of natural disaster in which people have lost homes, cars, property and have had their livelihood threatened, the added stress of having a racist racial profiling law that targets brown people hanging over them is at the very least stopped while it goes through further review.

The judge found that certain provisions of SB 4 conflict with, and are pre-empted by, federal law because enforcing SB 4 will interfere with the federal government’s authority to control immigration. The judge also found that enforcing SB 4 will result in First Amendment violations.

The judge also determined that vague prohibitions in SB 4 violate due process and “create a real danger of arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”

In addition, he found that enforcement of the mandatory detainer provisions “will inevitably lead to Fourth Amendment violations.”

SB4 was to go into effect on September 1, 2017. Now, Federal Judge Orlando Garcia will likely set a date for a hearing to determine its constitutionality. Obviously, we await a response from Abbott and his Republican cohorts who supported this bigoted bill.

Even before the remnants of Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, there was worry in the air as thousands were expected to end up in temporary shelters run by local, state, and federal authorities. Soon, there were rumors that people would be asked their immigration status to receive even the simplest disaster assistance–shelter, food, medical. Mayor Sylvester Turner offered some relief in stating that Houston’s doors were open to anybody in need. Still, a targeted community was stressed.

Thanks to ACLU, MALDEF, the lawyers, the witnesses, the activists, and the cities who joined the challenge. Obviously, this is not over and continued attention and activism must continue to ensure this bigoted law is finally defeated. This is definitely a welcome first step.

MALDEF provided the following FAQ on the decision (click image to enlarge).

maldefsb4

UPDATE:  Republican governor Greg Abbott will continue his defense of this bigoted law.

“U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side,” Abbott said in a statement. “This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.”

 

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.

 

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.

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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