Category Archives: Texas Lege

Lupe Valdez Files for Texas Governor; Farm Worker Family Scrutinized

Sheriff Lupe Valdez has filed to run for Texas Governor in the Dem Primary. It was expected and hoped for by many who have thought of the current choices as a complete flatline–including me. Thanks, Lupe!

Like any major candidate, one attempts to connect with voters with a good narrative. And Lupe Valdez has a story.

Valdez was born in San Antonio in 1947, one of eight children in a family of migrant farm workers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Nazarene University — a liberal arts college in Bethany, Oklahoma — before receiving a master’s in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Texas at Arlington.

The story continues with her service in the US Army as a captain, her work as a federal agent with CPB and as an investigator and her trek toward becoming sheriff of the state’s second largest county. If anything, she was among the first Democrats to inject some hope into Dems about Texas one day becoming blue, having been elected Sheriff in that first blue Dallas wave in 2004.

As Sheriff, Valdez hasn’t backed away from Greg Abbott’s politicization of the immigration issue, particularly the use of 287(g). Valdez at one point decided that low-grade undocumented offenders wouldn’t be reported to ICE, earning her the ire of Greg Abbott and a threat that cities and counties who didn’t cooperate would have their funds cut. Her mention of deportations and family separations in her post-filing speech shows she’s the only candidate ready to take on Abbott.

As excited as I am about her candidacy, I was also a bit irked when I read a “fact-check” article about Lupe in which it seemed her farm worker kid life was being questioned.

“I am the youngest of eight children born to migrant workers.”

The fact-checking PolitiFact Texas project based at the Austin American-Statesman hasn’t independently verified that biographical detail.

What’s Selby looking for? Kennedy-esque 8mm video of the family arriving at some midwestern state? Of them going up and down the plowed fields picking sugar beets? Smiling for the camera? Of old pay stubs, which included the deductions for overpriced rent and groceries billed by the farmers, thus taking most of the summer’s paycheck?

South Texas Chicano families of 10 picking sugar beets in Cassleton, North Dakota, cherries in Sturgeon Bay, WI and tomatoes and strawberries in California and Bluffton, Indiana were the norm in the 50’s. That included the Medellins and the Sernas.

I take it a bit personally, having been the son of farm workers. I even had the privilege of hanging out in a sugar beet field one summer that our family needed to go earn some money. It wasn’t that successful a summer–long story. And I’m sure there are plenty of these long stories that are hard to document, but that many of us wear as badges of honor and with which we can identify.

If Selby and others want to know about Chicano farm worker life, then I suggest he watch “…And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him.” The movie based on the autobiography of Crystal City’s Tomas Rivera.

That said, I’m ready to support Lupe Valdez and I look forward to what develops.

UPDATE:  Lupe Valdez has provided the fact-checkers with photos of her migrant days. Instead of black/white photos, my response to them would have been a lot more…colorful.

 

 

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Looking Forward To The 2018 Dem Primary

Well, looks like all the excitement (and panic) over the race for Congressional District 29 has subsided as current and former officeholders who contemplated running for the seat decided to either run for re-election to their respective seats, or, go in a different direction.

State Reps Armando Walle (140) and Carol Alvarado (145) have decided to run for re-election. Both have served for multiple terms and are considered leaders at the Capitol who will be needed to take on an expected right-wing onslaught of bigoted bills. Of course, both may also be thinking of the free-shot at running for SD-6 without the need to resign if/when Sylvia Garcia is elected to Congress, which we’ll know after the Dem Primary since the district usually goes Democratic in November.

Former Sheriff Adrian Garcia has also decided to go in a different direction and challenge right-winger Jack Morman for County Commish Pct. 2, which covers East Harris County. As much as Adrian Garcia and I have debated on some issues, I’ve always been a fan of his. I think he can run hardest toward November, as well as excite the electorate to vote down-ballot.

Harris Democrats have been updating a page containing folks running for judicial positions. There are a few candidates in contested races that I’m supporting, including Rabeea Collier for the 113th District Court; Fred Cook for the 189th District Court; and Raul Rodriguez for County Criminal Court #13.

I’ve known Rabeea for over a decade, which is most of her legal career. We both organized in the Kingwood/Humble area as activists trying to increase the Democratic bottom line. As an activist, she has worked hard to turn Harris County blue. As an attorney, she zealously represents her clients. She has put in the sweat equity over the years and deserves to be our nominee.

Fred Cook first ran for judge in 2008 in a very contested race in which Judge Steven Kirkland was the victor. I supported Fred back then and we both supported Kirkland afterwards. When I heard he was running again, I felt it was about time.

Raul Rodriguez has run for positions at different times, while also putting in time volunteering in various activities. I mean, whenever I go to something in the community, Raul (and wife Pati) are there! Raul deserves to be our nominee in November. He’s experienced and has a sincere connection to the community.

There will be more to come as more candidates file, especially the statewides. I’m hoping Sheriff Lupe Valdez of Dallas files for Governor, otherwise, I won’t be left with any good choices and I may just skip the race entirely (or hold my nose in November). And I really hope Little Brown Trust Fund Baby gets a challenge for Land Commish.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  And within an hour of this post, this just in:

Election 2017 Begins Today!

Early voting for the 2017 election begins today. You get to vote on state constitutional amendments, school and college board elections, bonds, and probably other important stuff. This kind of election is the kind to which no one shows up–or, a small percentage of the voting population shows up. Some say your vote counts many times more than usual. I’m thinking democracy is in danger when so few show up and a lot is on the line.

Anyway…

ALIEF ISD

I did a small write-up about Alief ISD, since I live in it. My picks are as follows:  Position 4-Jesus Zamora; Position 5-NO PICK; Position 6-Jennifer Key; and Position 7-Natasha Butler. It’ll be good to see new faces on the Alief school board.

STATE AMENDMENTS

As far as the state amendments go, I can’t say any of them jump out at me. You see political expediency, playing of tax-cutting favorites with certain groups, benefits for the banking industry, and one particular item about political appointments. One in particular even sets up rules on when and how people can challenge the constitutionality of a law. The easiest thing for me is just to vote against everything. You do what you want.

Houston Bonds

The City of Houston is having a bond election. You can check out Lift Up Houston to read up on the pension obligation bonds to save the police pension, and the big dollar items ($490 million) the City needs to provide services to its population–fire station and police upgrades, parks, multi-service centers, etc.

The easiest thing is to vote FOR all of them. I may wait a few minutes on Prop A (Pension bonds) before clicking FOR (or not clicking anything)–since we were made to wait on joining the SB4 lawsuit on account of the pension stuff. Too bad I can’t postpone for two weeks. I’ll decide what to do when I walk up to the E-Slate.

HCC

My current HCC Trustee (District V) is Robert Glaser. He needs to get re-elected.

HISD

I don’t live in Houston ISD, but I certainly have a few favorite candidates: District I should vote Monica Flores Richart; District VI would be smart to keep Holly Flynn Vilaseca; District VII should keep Anne Sung; District V has a good candidate in Sue Dimenn Deigaard; and I’ll go with Jesse Rodriguez in District III.

Now, the League of Women Voters has a good resource in their voter guide to help you decide on amendments and candidates. Read up on the items on the ballot.

Find your early voting location here. Find your sample ballot here.

Get to it!

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.”

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

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]

Continue reading

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!

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!