Category Archives: Sensible Immigration Reform

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.”

 

 

 

 

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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?'”

 

Harris County Republican Commissioners Chicken Out on SB4 Lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

 

Commissioner Ellis Seeks County Authorization to Join SB4 Lawsuit

This past week, Houston finally joined Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and various organizations in suing the state of Texas over its racial profiling law (SB4). In his weekly e-mail to constituents,  Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis stated he had sent a letter prior to the City’s action to County Attorney Vince Ryan requesting him to seek authorization from the Harris County Commissioner’s Court to join the SB4 lawsuit.

As the nation’s third-largest county with the fifth-largest foreign-born population, Harris County is at particular risk under SB4. Immigrants are a vital part of our community and strengthen the social fabric of Harris County. This new legislation threatens to tear families apart. Immigrants cannot and should not be driven back into the shadows or live in fear because of this unconstitutional law.

Already, local governments have filed suit against SB4, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday in San Antonio. Just this past week, the Houston City Council voted to join San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Bexar County and other local governments in a consolidated lawsuit challenging the law.

As Commissioner, I will continue to stand with immigrant families and defend the right of local government and law enforcement to set their own priorities. In a June 9 letter, I asked Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan to seek authorization from Harris County Commissioners Court to join the lawsuit against SB4. I believe it is vitally important for Harris County to fight this unjust law and look forward to working with County Attorney Ryan on this important issue that we both care about. 

SB4 is a reflection of the anti-immigrant sentiment permeating our society and stands in the way of comprehensive immigration reform. It upholds a flawed and outmoded form of immigration control that tears families apart, increases racial profiling, and violates due process. We need immigration solutions that attend to the complex issues surrounding reform with compassion, efficiency, and effectiveness in mind. And wherever there is discrimination, we must be prepared to speak out and take action.

Some may think there is a slim to none chance of a Republican-heavy court doing the right thing, but we have a County Judge who has taken more moderate stances on immigration issues, and the commissioner of Precinct 2, who is up for re-election in 2018, serves a Latino-heavy precinct. Who knows? Maybe they can be convinced to do the right thing. At the very least, they should provide an audience for discussion of this issue since it affects a majority of county residents.

Muchos thank yous to Commissioner Rodney Ellis for taking a strong stance on the lawsuit.

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!

San Antonio Joins SB4 Lawsuit; Still Waiting on Houston

The Rivard Report reported that San Antonio’s City Council instructed the city’s legal team to join the sb4 lawsuit against Greg Abbott and the State of Texas in the hopes of striking down Senate Bill 4–a law that allows for racial profiling by local law enforcement for the purposes of immigration enforcement. San Antonio joins other Texas cities in taking on the State.

San Antonio City Council instructed the City attorney to pursue litigation against Senate Bill 4, the State’s controversial immigration law also known as the “sanctuary cities” law.

[…]

The decision was made on May 25 during executive session, a meeting not open to the public. Similar lawsuits to block the law have been filed by Austin, El Paso CountyMaverick County along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the city of El Cenizo south of Laredo.

If only Houston had a City Council empowered to make such decisions; however, Houston has a “strong mayor” form of goverment in which the Mayor decides what is on the City Council agenda, or, what kinds of legal maneuvering can be done by the City’s legal team which he appoints. Of course, such a form of government doesn’t preclude members of Council from speaking up to the Mayor.

So, we’ll keep waiting on whatever analysis and decisions are made on SB4 locally. I guess.

FIEL: Time’s Up, Mayor Turner, Sue Texas Over SB4

Immigrant rights group, FIEL, held a press conference this morning to remind Mayor Sylvester Turner that the end of the legislative session has come and that it is time for Houston to join other cities in filing a lawsuit against Greg Abbott and the State of Texas over its new racial profiling law, SB4. Turner has stated he would begin to look at SB4 after the legislative session.

KPRC reported on today’s action. FIEL has provided video of the press conference.

“Our community and many of its leaders have been very patient and have continued to have trust in Mayor Turner. We are less than 100 days from SB4 being implemented. We do not need more promises of a welcoming Houston. We need the mayor and City Council to take action to protect Houston immigrant families,” said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL.

Mayor Turner has since responded with a press statement.

Now that the Legislative session is over, the city is in the process of reviewing and analyzing all bills that passed the House and Senate, including Senate Bill 4. The city, of course, will adhere to all laws that are deemed constitutional and consistent with the rulings of the Supreme Court.  SB4 does not take effect until September 1, 2017. In the meantime, the city of Houston will do its analysis.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

On Wednesday, May 31, the City Council will hold a public session and SB4 opponents are expected to appear to ask the Mayor and City Council for legal action against the State of Texas.

The last-day-of-session antics of Republican State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (Irving) in which he stated he had called ICE on Texas Latinos who were protesting SB4 at the State Capitol prove the intent of bigoted racial profiling laws created by Republicans. These laws do nothing for public safety; if anything, they have a negative effect on safety and the economy. But everyone involved already knows this. Let’s call it what it is–state-supported racism.

City leaders have a duty to protect its residents from these kind of laws, and the only recourse left (other than the 2018 and 2019 elections) is the courts. Frankly, if the City of Houston can pay for lobbyists to push for pension reform, then it can pay for lawyers to ensure its residents are protected from SB4.

Or, maybe the Mayor is just waiting for the governor’s signature on pension reform. And for the ink to dry.

Will Houston Sue Texas for SB4?

traveladvisoryAt a community forum in which Mayor Sylvester Turner, Chief Art Acevedo and others participated, it seemed the City’s priorities did not include any concrete decisions regarding SB4. At least, not until later.

Turner said that his administration would evaluate the bill after the legislative session ends May 29.

For those of us who would be targeted for racial profiling by local cops (it’s not just immigrants, but brown people in general), the lack of prioritization on challenging SB4 and defending from Republican targeting of Latinos has left a community wondering if it matters to elected leaders.

From Turner, the response to SB4 all along has been the same:

“I want you to know that Houston will be a welcoming, just and compassionate city that will work to protect all people from discrimination.”

Acevedo who had previously said that his department would not be a local INS, changed his commentary, though:

Acevedo made clear that police will be required to fill out a report and detail why they felt it necessary to ask someone’s immigration status.

“If you stop somebody for jaywalking and the only reason you’re asking because they don’t speak English,” Acevedo said, “that will be profiling, and we will not tolerate it.”

So, it is pretty obvious that, much like Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, HPD intends to follow the law. But there is no indication of whether Houston will join other smaller cities and the City of Austin in suing the State of Texas to challenge the law’s constitutionality. Certainly, I don’t expect the right-wing-heavy commissioners court at the County level to do anything, and certainly, Judge Ed Emmett has remained quiet. Frankly, the City’s lawyers should already be studying the law in anticipation of a decision to sue BEFORE it goes in effect on September 1.

In my opinion, nothing says “welcoming city” like a city suing the state government because of a racist law that targets at least 50% of the population. Certainly, it would show the city’s leaders are fighting for people, and not just using “diversity” as a means to increase tourism and business profits.

No doubt, Mayor Turner is awaiting the fate of the pension bill, which is the city leadership’s top priority. But as much as our city’s coffers should be a priority, so should its inhabitants. Immigrant or not, brown or not, we all pay taxes and shouldn’t live in fear of our own law enforcement. And if city coffers are the priority, certainly, Mayor Turner and the City Council should also consider the feasibility of SB4’s enactment and its effect on HPD’s budget, considering that being a Local INS will cost a lot more–in monetary term and in terms of crime-reporting, as the Chief has already specified.

Obviously, let’s stay tuned.

 

 

You Gotta Love ACLU’s Texas Travel Advisory

Unfortunately, this is very real.

Greg Abbott and the Republicans have placed a target on anyone who looks Mexican or has brown skin. It will take lawsuits to try to stop this in the short-run; however, in the long-run, it will take tough-spined candidates who don’t scapegoat immigrants and play politics with immigration to defeat those who create public policy from racist attitudes.

Get involved!