Category Archives: U.S. Capitol

Stopping Boosters Is Not The Answer

The World Health Organization chief called for wealthy countries to stop the use of COVID-19 vaccine boosters while non-wealthy countries try to catch up.

“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it,” Tedros added.

High-income countries administered around 50 doses for every 100 people in May, and that number has since doubled, according to WHO. Low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply.

And it’s a sad fact that has mostly to do with greed and stupidity. Greed from companies and leaders who do not want to allow these vaccines to be reproduced by other companies, and stupidity from those who choose not to get vaccinated, thus, forcing vaccines to be tossed because they expired.

The bottom line is that there has not been much of any world cooperation in tamping down the spread of COVID-19. It doesn’t help when countries like the United States push sanctions on countries like Cuba and Venezuela that curtail vaccine development and production (as well as daily sustenance) for the sole purpose of regime change. The US makes it very clear with whom they like to work and it’s never leaders who want to actually provide for their people through “socialistic” means. They prefer doing an “aid package” in exchange for complete loyalty and unfettered access to their natural resources.

But to put the blame on “healthy people” getting a booster is a far reach by WHO. At least in America, half the country has some sort of comorbidity that could be enhanced by a breakthrough case. Another portion is immune compromised in one way or another and they are always in danger.

Just in the last few weeks, the CDC decided to “consider” if boosters are needed. But it’s good to know that another 200 million doses were ordered for children and boosters. At this point, people with medical issues must do their own leg work and find a booster themselves.

That said, there is a lot wrong with the world, and most of it begins with foreign policy imposed by the US and backed up by their nation-minions. Unfortunately, foreign policy doesn’t change no matter which party is in charge as long as their pockets are filled with defense contractor cash.

The boosters must continue to be a priority.

The DACA Decision Is Still Joe Manchin’s Fault

Salon.com

Back in 2010, President Obama and Democrats held a majority in both the House and Senate. The DREAM Act, which had bipartisan support at one time, sailed through the House. When it arrived in the Senate, Democrats had enough of a majority (60) to pass it and it would likely be signed by Obama. Unfortunately, Joe Manchin and four other Dem Senators voted against it, as did all of the Republicans and the bill only achieved 55 of the 60 needed votes. Note: Manchin couldn’t even be bothered to show up, but was on record against it.

You can blame republicans all you want, but some of us have known their bigoted tendencies for a long time and haven’t been in denial about them.

They were quite evident in 2006 when the Sensenbrenner Act was being pushed by Republicans, along with REAL ID. And this challenge to DACA was brought on by Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott because they are just that hateful.

But FIVE (5) Democrats voted against the DREAM Act in 2010. They blamed their “tough to win” seats and the Democratic rank-and-file went along with it and defended their vote. Thus, by 2012, with no more majority and republicans dead-set against anything President Obama supported, the only thing that could happen was DACA–an executive order for which immigration activists lobbied and practically forced Obama’s hand after he continually denied he had the power to sign it.

DACA has provided over 600,000 DREAMers the benefit of prosecutorial discretion and deferred action, thus barring them from deportation. And for nine years, now, it has been challenged by republicans, in the courts and by Trump. They finally found a federal judge who would call it “illegal,” thus sending it back to Homeland Security to somehow make it right. In the process, all new applications are cancelled, but the 600,000 or so are safe, for now.

I don’t know how many more still need to apply or haven’t for a host of reasons (financial, etc.), but since the legality is now in question, it is worrisome and emotionally tiresome for many. Furthermore, all DACA has ever been is a loose band-aid that leaves young people in limbo, while continuing to expose their parents to deportation and politically-driven harrassment by ICE and similar agencies.

As some Democrats in the Senate have stated, it is high-time to pass the DREAM Act and/or comprehensive immigration reform. But we are in the same predicament as 2010: Hateful republicans and a slight Democratic majority in which a few (Joe Manchin and Kristen Synema) seem to be holding immigrants hostage. They will not make it easy to pass anything; if anything, I expect opposition to citizenship and DREAM-type bills from these two.

Filibuster reform would be great, if Manchin and Synema could be trusted to support immigration reform. With Manchin attending a fundraiser in Texas given by high-dollar republicans, I can’t say I’m hopeful of much; other than being hopeful that la lucha sigue (the struggle continues). Hopefully, Joe Biden will learn to wield power within his own party; which was something in which Obama failed miserably regarding immigration policy.

Finally, I would have hoped that over the last ten years, Democrats would have learned a lesson about using their power when they have it. The myth that is bipartisanship only seems to work when the issue is money in individual members of Congress districts for their own pet projects. If it’s about helping the least among us, it becomes a hot potato worthy of political exploitation. And both parties do it well, as Manchin has exhibited on a host of Biden goals.

Anyway, just food for thought as folks try to find someone to blame.

Sheriff Ed Goes To Washington?

First of all, congratulations to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez on his appointment by the Biden administration to the position of Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

I met Ed while he helped get Adrian Garcia elected Sheriff back in 2008 and then rooted him on when he ran for City Council District H to take over where Garcia left off. Intelligent, compassionate, and responsive are a few good words to describe him. All-around good guy is probably the better descriptor. Professionally, I’d expect him to do a great job in pretty much any capacity.

That said, ICE has had a lot of problems since way before Trump made it worse. It had problems during the Obama era, too. It is a relatively new agency created after the racism and bigotry that came about post-9/11. No one on either side in DC seems to want to get rid of ICE or the detention boondoggles that come from it. Reminder: While President Biden has banned private prisons in the Bureau of Prisons, he didn’t budge at all on immigrant warehousing and remains steadfast in warehousing children–just through another department.

Whether one points to ICE, or anything under ICE, like the Border Patrol, these agencies were created from racist sentiment and their practices are continually just as racist. It’s easy to say that structural change is needed, and that the culture of these agencies must be changed; however, no one person can do that without really taking a wrecking ball to the entire agency and creating something better. Simply changing a policy here and there will not rid the agency of its racist and corrupt practices. That’s why we say #AbolishICE.

Well, it is obvious that President Biden does not have this in the plan and Democrats are too damn squeamish to do anything about it. Unfortunately, that means Ed Gonzalez will be receive the brunt of criticism from both sides of the issue–those who desire change and compassion versus those who want to round-up and warehouse anyone brown or foreign with impunity and for profit. The centrists will argue for something in-between, but they aren’t the people who have been historically abused and targeted by ICE. The rest of us will just hope for the best and know that whatever happens, it is Joe Biden who is in charge.

And, with this said, a recent article regarding the Biden administration’s upcoming review of the extremist threat within Homeland Security (which includes ICE) gives some hope, as long as it is an honest and thorough assessment. Or, as DHS Secretary Mayorkas stated, “As we work to safeguard the nation and our values, we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat domestic violent extremism within both the broader community and our own organization. Violent extremism has no place at DHS and we will work with urgency and focus to address it.”

Detention Watch Network said it best in regards to Gonzalez’s appointment:

“People uniting for the rights and dignity of immigrants will soon have a new face to direct demands to at ICE, which include:

  • Releasing people from immigration detention halting deportations (including Title 42 expulsions) amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the interest of the health of those detained and the public.  
  • Closing detention facilities, including immediately ending all contracts with private prison corporations and state and local governments as a first step towards ending the harmful detention system entirely.
  • Adopting generous prosecutorial discretion guidelines in order to protect as many people as possible from detention and deportation. 
  • Ending state and local entanglement with immigration enforcement, reducing the pipeline to detention and deportation.

“Under Gonzalez’s leadership, we are eager to see immediate shifts in ICE’s culture and operations. During the Trump era the agency saw a constant revolving door of short-lived, draconian leadership that double-downed on cruel and punitive enforcement practices. If confirmed, Gonzalez must hit the ground running to meet immigrant rights advocates’ demands and peel back the layers of secrecy that have created a deadly culture of impunity at the agency, where accountability is evaded at every turn.”

“And while we are looking for transformative culture change at ICE, we know that the racist underpinnings of ICE will continue regardless of who’s in charge.  Ultimately, ICE’s premise for existing is rooted in white supremacy, rendering the agency rotten to its core. ICE needs to be abolished.” 

Houston organizing group, FIEL, had this to say:

We have worked with Sheriff Gonzalez for a number of years and what we can attest to is the fact that he has been and continues to be a man who listens to and takes input from the community.  We understand that the role he is about to undertake is a huge and controversial role and we wish him well in this endeavour. However we have some things we would not like to see again such as massive raids, lack of prosecutorial discretion and continued separation of hard working families.  Some of the things that we hope to see in policy changes would be: 1. We would like a more just and uniform application of prosecutorial/administrative relief. 2. No more massive raids which send a shockwave of fear into our communities destroying community and government relations. 3. A definite end to the 287G program and Secure Communities which are policies that Sheriff Gonzalez understands hurt communities. 4. Treat people more humanely by suspending the use of ankle monitors for people who do not pose a flight risk. 5. Ending the ‘Collateral Damage’ policy when it comes to ICE enforcement in our communities. We are hopeful for a more positive future for ICE and at the end that we will see the agency’s power diminish as we move forward on immigration reform.

FIEL Press Release 4/27/2021

Obviously, when someone you know “makes it,” you can’t help but be excited for that person. ICE, though, is one of those agencies whose history reeks of hate, racism, corruption and more. While the leadership of the agency under Biden may say one thing, it is the rank and file and their bigoted Border Patrol union and associated groups that get more attention from the media and add to the bigotry already promoted by the Republican Party and white supremacists, thus roadblocking any change that is proposed. It is my hope that Director(-designate) Gonzalez is able to change the culture of the organization to one that is more compassionate in the realm of migration and that controls its messaging from the top. It is long past due that migrants be treated with compassion–in policy and rhetoric–rather than criminalized and hunted by the largest police force in the country.

Best of luck to Ed Gonzalez.

Biden States Case For Latino Support

credit: Alamy

Joe Biden stated his case for the Latino electorate with a lengthy article stating where he stands on issues affecting Latinos.

President Trump’s assault on Latino dignity started on the very first day of his campaign. His assault doesn’t just reveal itself in the betrayal of the Dreamers or in the pardoning of a sheriff who has terrorized the Latino community. It’s in the underfunding of schools, in attacks on labor and the ability of workers to bargain for their worth, and in the neglect of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Trump’s strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American.

Generally, he promised the following.

Biden will:

  • Invest in Latinos’ economic mobility.

  • Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.

  • Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.

  • Combat hate crimes and gun violence.

  • Secure our values as a nation of immigrants.

Specifically, he talked about supporting a Latino museum at the Smithsonian and political appointees to his administration that will look like America. Included is a promise to expand Latino small business opportunities and jobs creation through infrastructure development. Within this, improving the treatment of workers and expanding worker protection is on his to-do list. To support Latino families, he would address lack of access to child care for essential workers and early education. Expanding Latino homeownership is on his list, too.

One important part of his plan is expanding access to health care through a public option for health insurance and ACA subsidies to make Obamacare more affordable. Most importantly, addressing the inequality experienced by the Latino community that block their access to health care. It’s not Medicare-for-all, but given his primary campaign, I didn’t expect it. Given how COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in health care and insurance, it should still be discussed.

In the realm of higher education, Biden is committed to increasing college graduation rates, tuition-free higher education including 2-year workforce programs, increased access to student financial aid, student debt forgiveness, investing in Hispanic-Serving Institutions, bringing HSI and HBCUs into high-tech research, among other commitments.

Pointing to Trump’s anti-immigrant nature, Biden promises to send an immigration bill to Congress on Day 1 which will modernize the immigration system and include a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents of the US.

On the detention side, Biden promises to decrease its use, passing on the case management responsibility to nonprofit groups while migrants go through the system. And Biden also promises to stop Trump’s policy of caging children in favor of family reunification. [I hope they aren’t reunified in family-style prisons.] Added on is a decrease in the use of 287(g) agreements to take out local law enforcement from the equation.

Really, folks, check out this article, which includes links to his policy pronouncements on his campaign website. It’s actually better than I expected, though, we will have conversations about his Latin America policy soon enough since it doesn’t seem to be any different than what Republicans offer:  More election meddling and coups in support of right-wing, murderous regimes who care little for the poor and indigenous.

Some of you will see articles about the Orange one making a play for Latinos, too. Basically, he’ll speak to the same self-hating, anti-immigrant, bigoted brown folk (including some of our relatives) who think they’re excluded from Trump’s anti-Latino hate. For some reason, they buy into it. So, Democrats should not waste time with them, instead concentrate on increasing the bottom line with folks who want a reason to vote for Democrats.

Yes, many of us feel like we’re just voting for the next guy we’ll be protesting. For sure, we will be making Biden accountable for these promises during the campaign and once in office. And another thing, Biden cannot be a repeat of the Obama years in which access for Latino activists to the White House was controlled by elitists not involved in progressive causes. Latino activists must be part of the discussion of issues, and not just inclusive of those content with invites to the White House Cinco de Mayo event and other photo ops.

And guess what? There will be Dems (brown ones included) who will be upset for the people demanding what was promised. But tough shit. We are only exercising our right to participate and to petition our government for a redress of grievances. Trump has expanded those grievances and “going back to normal” is not an option. It must be better.

The job for everyone who wants to rid us of the Orange one is to sell what Biden is offering, and NOT what Trump is doing or saying. Dems need to stop being a free ad for the Orange one where all they do is point a finger at how bad Trump is. Biden has stated his case and Dems need to back it up when trying to earn the Latino vote.

 

DACA – It’s A Small Win

No doubt, there was a sigh of relief after the 5-4 SCOTUS decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was announced. Many of my friends are less worried.

For the meantime, Trump and his minions have been told that they will have to find another way to make a declaration on DACA’s legality that would lead to its end.

As SCOTUS stated:

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. “The wisdom” of those decisions “is none of our concern.” Chenery II, 332 U. S., at 207. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”

This may only further delay its demise, although, any new Trump effort to end DACA will once again be met by a challenge in the courts. This decision certainly adds to the political pressure against Trump and Republicans to do something about the entire issue (immigration and deportation reform and not just DACA), but also places pressure on Democrats who tend to get squeamish on any of these issues within the realm of immigration reform during election time.

For now, it’s still election season. As local group FIEL’s ED Cesar Espinosa stated:  “We are ecstatic that the supreme court sided on the right side of history and allowed for the DACA program to be in place for the meantime. We hope that in this interim time we are able to petition congress to come up with a permanent solution not only for DACA recipients but the immigrant community at large.”

And as various DREAMers stated at a press conference held today at FIEL, “It’s a small win,” and it is time to vote. It is time to study the candidates, find who is really on the side of DREAMers and immigrants, and vote them into office. It’s time to get beyond executive orders and actually do something.

This is not to say it’s all about politics. Much like the drive toward police reform, it’s about saving people’s lives. If politicians aren’t in it to work for the betterment of the people. then it’s just another popularity contest. Here’s a chance to do something.

There will be more on this, for sure. For now, it’s a good day.

More on the #StaceSlate

Some folks have asked me:  Why ________ (this candidate)? For most, I have my reasons. Here are a few races in which I’ve been most vocal on social media.

Bernie Sanders for President:  When it comes to US policy in Latin America, it’s Sanders that gets it. He isn’t afraid to blast US policy supported by both political parties that has been detrimental to native (indigenous) and poverty stricken communities in those countries. Certainly, Sanders doesn’t support policies that bolster the right-wing, anti-indigenous, and anti-poor wealthy class in Latin America. The class that, given the opportunity, will literally impose violence, kill and disappear their opposition as has been ignored by the US for too long . (And these are a few reasons people from these countries are fighting to come here!) The other candidates fall short. Way short. If anything, they support the status quo which tells the poor and native that their votes do not matter, even when they come out to vote in huge numbers and elect progressives to lead. It happens here, too and is one cause of low voter turnout. It is obvious that Sanders’ competition cares little for anyone else but their own political hides when it comes to talking about Latin America, preferring to talk “democracy,” without noticing that they want to impose the same kind of democracy that gave the US Trump. The Democratic Party needs to do a lot better on Latin America and it starts with Bernie Sanders leading the way.

Any opposing argument that questions his support of progressive leaders in Latin America, as well as any idiotic questioning by local elected officials as to his “Democratic” credentials is a weak attempt at red-baiting and an insult to our intelligence as voters.

Royce West for US Senate:  As I’ve stated before, if you ask me for my vote and you haven’t done anything that has hurt native or poor communities, and you have actually defended communities from awful, racist laws (SB4), chances are you will get my vote. No doubt, Christina Tzintzun Ramirez ranked up there in my choices because of her legislative leadership on these issues, but it came down to simply being asked by someone with a track record of political leadership that I trusted. Retail politics still matters in this huge state. All the other candidates fall short of having done anything on these issues that matter to me.

Roberto Alonzo for RR Commissioner:  I’ve known Roberto most of my adult life. We grew up in the same hometown. For many, he’s “un buen ejemplo” because, like many of us, he came from nothing but a loving family. And like many of us, his life was about struggle and helping those that struggled. For Roberto, serving in public office isn’t about some whim that came about after a bad election or finally speaking up after enriching oneself in an industry.  As a State Representative serving in Dallas for two decades, whatever progressive agenda he supported, and he’s been consistent in doing so, has been about helping people overcome barriers, and the poverty and struggle that come with those barriers. His years of service, which includes fighting on environmental issues, qualifies him for this post. So, this one was an easy choice.

I’ll try to write a few more of these before Tuesday. But some asked, so, there you go.

Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez Enters Senate Race

Have you ever had a bunch of candidates to choose from and still can’t make a decision? Yeah, me too.

But Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez has entered the race for the Senate to rid us of  John Cornyn, so, perhaps the choice is easier today.

Ramirez is an activist and organizer who founded the Workers Defense Project and voter engagement group, Jolt Texas. Many of us have watched her interviews on MSNBC speaking on behalf of the pro-migrant cause during these painful days of mourning since the El Paso shooting and since Trump’s attacks on the Latino community. Obviously, she’s running as a progressive on all the issues Democrats love.

I’m running because I want to ensure that every Texan has high-quality healthcare, to build an economy that creates millions of good jobs and positions our state as the leader in our global transition towards a green future, to protect the rights of immigrant families and communities of color, and to ensure that every single Texan that wants to go to college can afford it and graduate debt free.

Given her positions on these issues, I do not expect her to change her views mid-General to appease the unreachable and unattainable, which happens in most Texas campaigns. So, I expect her to run a strong, grassroots campaign funded by working people who seek real change in Washington, DC.

I’m running because I have the most beautiful two year old son in the world, Santiago, and when I imagine the world he’s going to inherit, and the one I leave behind for him, I want him to be proud of what I stood up for. What we stood up for together. I want him to know that in a moment where 1 in 6 Texans didn’t have access to healthcare and millions were struggling just to make ends meet, when communities were being pitted against one another on the basis of race, and our world was at the brink of an imminent climate catastrophe, we came together and worked as hard as we could to make his life and other children’s lives like him better.

What’s the path to victory? Given her message, it’s through all communities. And that will take visibility across Texas. From the Trib:

Tzintzún Ramirez welcomed a competitive nominating contest as healthy for Democrats, saying the candidates in the Senate race are “all essentially at the same starting place,” unknown to most voters statewide and thus forced to run on the merits of their platforms. Asked how she plans to distinguish herself, she pointed to her forthrightness on the issues and her record of mobilizing the kind of voters often overlooked by politicians.

“I know how to speak to the diversity of this state,” Tzintzún Ramirez said.

This kind of video helps.

The Trib has more.

 

 

Houston CM Amanda Edwards Enters US Senate Race

And with this announcement, I can honestly say I don’t know where I stand on this race. But I will say Edwards’ video announcement is one of the best I’ve seen in recent times, featuring imagery to capture hearts and minds. And that’s what it’s going to take, along with a lot of campaign cash, to defeat Cornyn.

Edwards joins the already announced MJ Hegar, Sema Hernandez, and Chris Bell. (Maybe there are others.) We await announcements from State Senator Royce West and Jolt CEO Christina Tzintzun Ramirez.

Texas is a huge state, so, one has to ask themselves what the path to victory is for all of these candidates. Only Hernandez (US Senate primary in 2018) and Bell (for Governor) have run statewide. Houston area candidates obviously know Houston is where it’s at in this state, especially during an active presidential primary. Dallas is no different, though.

But South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley will play a major role, as always, and must not be ignored or ceded by any of the candidates–no matter what they think their chances are based on the ethnic make-up of the region. Remember, one of them will end up taking on Cornyn and if they ignore big swaths of the state, they won’t get much attention in November 2020. So, don’t ignore South Texas!

We will be seeing more and more activity about 2020 given all of these announcements. I’ll remind you that, here in Houston, we have a 2019 City of Houston election that should be on our minds. Obviously, Edwards not running for re-election in City Council At-Large 4 changes things and we’ve seen some current candidates switch from one race to another, including Nick Hellyar from a very crowded District C and Dr. Letitia Plummer from a crowded At-Large 5. I expect more to announce as we move toward the filing deadline. As Kuff reminds us, today, there are a lot of open seats and these races are crowded.

As always, follow Eric Manning’s spreadsheet to find out who has filed campaign treasurer appointments for City, HISD and other races. It’s starting to get interesting, if not exciting.

 

Julian Castro Continues To Impress in Houston

First of all, thanks to the Harris County Democratic Party for inviting presidential candidates to Houston so that Democratic voters can get a closer look at them. In the case of Julian Castro, he impressed from arrival to exit.

Entering a packed St. John’s Downtown to Selena’s Baila Esta Cumbia, Castro showed that his campaign is indeed connecting with voters and much of the interest is owed to his debate performance. No, not because he schooled some of his opponents on immigration reform, but because his delivery on a variety of issues was strong and to the point. Castro has brought the issues of policing, housing, and education to the forefront, and he expects to release a plan on climate change soon. And we must keep listening.

Check out the video!

Yet, I would venture to say that if it were not for Castro’s bold immigration reform plan, the campaigns would not be responding to the issue as strongly as they have been. While the current wave of anger toward the Trump administration is because of children in cages, awful prison conditions, and a racist, inhumane Border Patrol, Castro has pointed to a broken system beyond asylum seekers and the easier platform point of DREAMers. Getting to the root cause as to why people are coming to the US is something that hadn’t been spoken of since Bill Richardson ran for President in 2008; in Castro’s case, a proposal for a Marshall Plan to bolster those countries whose citizens are suffering through bad economies, bad right-wing regimes, and government- and gang-led violence.

I hope that we will hear more about Latin America policy from the candidates. Let’s face it, much of the cause of Latin America’s issues is US intervention in democratic elections, including a coup in Honduras during the Obama administration because they didn’t like the progressive-minded guy who won. We’re talking hard truths that Democrats must swallow if they really want to move toward fixing a problem, rather than putting a band-aid on it and ignoring it for two terms.

Check out the video

This said, I’m glad Julian Castro is on the debate stage. He’s brought a Mexican American point of view to American politics that has gone ignored for too long. Castro offers his rich political and family history that America has neglected to embrace and he just happens to show off his abilities to talk domestic and foreign policy in a manner that doesn’t sound like “inside baseball.” So, let’s all of us keep listening. We may just learn something.

 

 

4/24/2019: Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia To Host ITC Town Hall