Category Archives: HoustonVotes 09

Huerta, Chavez and Rondstadt Team Up With MALDEF, Others

From the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

PHOENIX, AZ – Today, MALDEF, ACLU, ACLU of Arizona, and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) held a news conference on the House of Representatives Lawn of the Arizona State Capitol Building in Phoenix, Arizona to announce their upcoming legal challenge to Governor Jan Brewer’s recently signed SB1070.  In addition, the organizations sought to address misinformation and fears that have been spreading throughout the Latino community across Arizona. Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, ACLU, ACLU of Arizona and NILC leaders were joined by civil rights leaders Dolores Huerta, Richard Chavez and multi-Grammy winning artist and human rights advocate, Linda Ronstadt.

“Today, the three most experienced immigrants’ and civil rights legal organizations nationwide — MALDEF, ACLU, and NILC — announce their partnership, together with local Arizona-based counsel, to challenge SB 1070 in court,” stated MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz. “The Arizona community can be assured that a vigorous and sophisticated legal challenge will be mounted, in advance of SB 1070’s implementation, seeking to prevent this unconstitutional and discriminatory law from ever taking effect.”

“This law will only make the rampant racial profiling of Latinos that is already going on in Arizona much worse,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “If this law were implemented, citizens would effectively have to carry ‘their papers’ at all times to avoid arrest.  It is a low point in modern America when a state law requires police to demand documents from people on the street.”

Linton Joaquin, General Counsel of NILC, added, “This unconstitutional law sends a strong message to all immigrants to have no contact with any law enforcement officer.  The inevitable result is not only to make immigrants more vulnerable to crime and exploitation, but also to make the entire community less safe, by aggressively discouraging witnesses and victims from reporting crimes.”

There are a number of serious constitutional problems with the law, the groups say. It violates the supremacy clause by interfering with federal immigration power and authority. The law also unlawfully invites racial profiling against Latinos and other people of color.

“What we are witnessing today is the blatant targeting of an entire American population, Latinos,” stated civil rights leader, Dolores Huerta. “We must not give in one inch to Arizona’s effort to blame our community for all the ills of the state or their efforts to run us out. We have worked this land, built and maintain these buildings, and sacrificed as much as any other. We must put an end to SB1070.”

“My family, of both German and Mexican heritage, has a long history in Arizona. It has been our diverse and shared history in this state that unites us and makes us stronger,” stated Linda Ronstadt. “What Governor Brewer signed into law last week is a piece of legislation that threatens the very heart of this great state. We must come together and stop SB1070 from pitting neighbor against neighbor to the detriment of us all.”

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.  Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.

Gavin Newsom Next Big City Mayor to Blast Arizona

While we await a stronger response from Houston Mayor Annise Parker, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has joined New York City Mayor Bloomberg in blasting Arizona for their new racial profiling law. Newsom has called for a ban of all City-related travel to Arizona.

The moratorium is effective immediately as the mayor and others are considering an official city boycott of the state and take steps “to develop a smart and effect boycott that sends the appropriate message to Arizona while protecting the city’s financial interests,” Newsom said in a prepared statement.

And it’s not all talk.  Newsom is putting his words into action.

In order to work out details regarding the extent of such a boycott, Newsom announced the formation of the Arizona Boycott Workgroup, which brings together the city controller, purchaser and treasurer along with members of the city attorney’s office, among others.

Meanwhile, my friend Kuff has some tips on how to put pressure on local sports teams to continue a growing trend against Arizona sports teams, major sporting events in Arizona, etc.  What is bad for Arizona could be good for Texas and Houston, but we need a show of leadership.

Along with Kuff’s sports contacts, I would also suggest contacting Mayor Parker’s office to request a stronger response to Arizona similar to that of Bloomberg and Newsom.

Email:  mayor@cityofhouston.net

Mayor Bloomberg Condemns AZ Law

Along with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg becomes another mayor of a major American city to blast Arizona’s racial profiling law.

Foreign investment and tourism are critical to our national economy, and this new law sends exactly the wrong message to international companies and travelers.  It will adversely affect America ’s international reputation as a place to do business, and it will cost America jobs at exactly the time we should be doing everything possible to create them.  Instead of misguided efforts by states, we need Washington to lead the way with comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, promotes economic growth, and honors our American heritage.

Did you notice that no where in his statement did he mention checking immigration status “in the jails.”  This is what makes New York City an international city.

Dem. Rep. Coleman: AZ Bill Draconian

Thanks to Katherine at BOR for posting Rep. Garnet Coleman’s response to Arizona law.

This bill is reminiscent of dark times in our country’s history when people were targeted based on the color of their skin.  With the stroke of her pen, Governor Brewer has mandated racial profiling.  The citizenship of Americans who have lived in Arizona for generations will be questioned based on their appearance.

Instead of focusing on stopping crime, Arizona police officers will be forced to sweep up students, gardeners and nannies who have committed no crimes.  Immigrants who witness crimes will be too afraid to report them, therefore turning immigrant communities into safe havens for criminals.

It’s unfortunate that the Republican party continues to use this community as scapegoats to rally parts of their base. This is bad public policy that no state should mirror.  I’m thankful that responsible legislators and people of good will at the federal level are taking a hard look at this issue, and I encourage them to pass a sensible comprehensive immigration reform bill as soon as possible.

I trust Rep. Coleman to continue fighting in Austin against the biannual rash of anti-Latino and anti-immigrant bills that continually threaten educational opportunities for immigrant students.

TXDEM FAIL on Arizona

KHOU reported last night on the response from Texas and Houston leaders to the legalized racial profiling bill recently signed into law by Arizona Republican Jan Brewer.  I must say that I am disappointed with the responses:

“The federal government has let us down on its constitutional responsibility to protect our borders and enforce immigration policies. This has gotten worse under Gov. Perry, but ultimately, border security is a federal responsibility,” White said in a written statement from a campaign spokesperson. “As Governor, Bill White will fight for more federal funds for local police in our state.”

Can you expand on that Bill? Are you saying local police should be racially profiling Latinos? Because this is what the Arizona law is all about.  Can you respond specifically to the Arizona law?  And will you join the call for comprehensive immigration reform that also includes citizenship and legalization in your quotes and not just tough-on-Latinos language?

Meanwhile, from Downtown Houston…

“Mayor Parker’s position has always been that we don’t want to create a situation where people are afraid to call police when they need help or have information that could help solve crimes,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s Communication Director Janice Evans. “She supports checking immigration status only when someone is taken to jail.”

At the protest rally on Sunday, Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois blamed the existence of such programs as 287(g) and the euphemistic “Secure Communities” as the very reason the Arizona Republicans declared open-season on Latinos.

“When the president,” explained Gutierrez, “said to us it is because we have not enacted comprehensive immigration reform that we give an excuse to people in Arizona to pass 1070. Let me just say, every time the federal government said that you can carry out [a 287(g)] extension, you gave Arizona an excuse to do 1070.”

So, will Bill White now take credit for 287(g) and Secure Communities in Houston for political purposes? Or will he denounce the Arizona law as legalized racial profiling?

We deserve a better response, Mr. White.

DosCentavos is still keeping an eye out for other responses from Texas electeds and Democratic leaders.

My Water Bill Is Going Up!

After some of our Councilmembers ensured some equity in the increase in our water bill, I guess I must support it.  What’s more important is the reason behind the increase:  We had to catch up to the actual cost of services.

“It’s important that we take this system and make it a more equitable system,” said Councilman Edward Gonzalez, who successfully pushed for increases that would force all users – single-family, apartment and commercial – to pay what it costs for the city to provide water and sewer service. “It’s really critical for the long term sustainability for our water system.”

Gonzalez warned that the city risked having its debt downgraded if it continued to run multi-million dollar deficits in the system, including a $102 million shortfall this fiscal year.

Avoiding small increases can sometimes bite you in hind side and then this happens.  So, let’s get the increase out of our system and invest in updates to the system.  As consumers (especially corporate ones), we should be more mindful about using less of this resource as a means of controlling costs.

Kuff as more on the lawsuit that will surely come up because of revenue cap propositions passed a few years ago.  Leave it to right-wingers who whine and moan about government being required to pay for what’s needed, yet giving us a law that basically blocks government from doing so.

Mayor Parker Selects Airport Director

Mayor Annise Parker announced that she has selected the new Houston Airport System Director–Mario C. Diaz.

With more than 20 years of experience in the transportation industry Diaz has held positions with New Jersey Airports, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and John F. Kennedy Airport. He is a licensed private pilot with instrument certification.

A native of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, Diaz graduated from Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He holds an M.B.A. in finance from Rutgers Graduate School of Business Administration in New Jersey. His nomination requires confirmation by Houston City Council.

It looks like the Mayor has been quite meticulous and thoughtful in her recent choices for key positions.  You have to like that.

LatinoVote ’10: Stir It Up or Just Enough?

Obviously, Democratic junkies have been reading this article two and three times attempting to dissect the “formula” to win in November.  The big question:  Can we get enough Latinos to vote to ensure a Democratic win?

Despite the numbers, the Hispanic vote may never be the cohesive and reliable bloc the party needs to dye the reddest of red states blue. Instead of a slumbering giant, a more pertinent metaphor may be that of a brilliant Fourth of July firework arcing into the night sky. When the firework reaches its apex, to the Democrats’ dismay, it branches into multiple voting patterns. The Hispanic vote may eventually be as difficult to categorize as the Italian vote or the Irish vote.

Since 2006, Latinos have definitely been on the Democratic side of things; however, there hasn’t been a real test in Texas. Allow me to continue insisting that Tony Sanchez did get the vast majority of the Latino vote in 2002; however, no one seems to point out that a majority of Anglo Dems voted for Perry–or else, how else would a landslide have occurred?

And in case you don’t believe me, well, here’s Kuff.

Say what you want about Tony Sanchez and his Titanic campaign, but he helped bring a huge number of Democratic voters out to the polls.

Especially in very Democratic, Very Mexican American South Texas.

As insistent as some may be that immigration is not the top issue for Latinos, it is an issue that has stirred the worse in the Republican Party, so, key to convincing Latinos that Rick Perry is not, as the old Republatino Sosa tells us, “moderate” on the issue, is throwing Perry into the same category as the tea bagger-wing of the Republican Party.  And delivering that message to Latinos.

But the bottom line is that the Texas Democratic Party (and local parties) have not done a good job of branding themselves the Party for Latinos. While the Republicans have done a terrific job of branding themselves as the all-American no-Latinos-allowed Party, I have yet to see the Democratic Party pounce on this opportunity.  And whether the leadership wants to admit it or not, it goes back to immigration.

DosCentavos exposed the national Democratic leadership on the issue of immigration  and Chairman Kaine was quite uncommitted to doing much to push the issue forward, since, obviously, his job is to protect the blue dogs–the same ones who voted against health care reform.  Worse, even after a diverse crowd of 300,000 marched on Washington, DC, the Administration failed to seize the opportunity, instead, punting to Congress and Congress punting back to the President.

Latinos are definitely watching, and we’re not happy with the goings on when it comes to this issue.  Granted, we know the vitriol will fly once the issue is truly tackled and that is exactly what we need to happen in order to galvanize Latinos against the Republican party.  Let me tell you, I agree with our good Sheriff.

“It’s a galvanizing debate,” says Garcia, a former Houston police officer who served as a Houston city councilman from 2002 to 2008. “Young people today will remember the impact of these conversations for a very long time.”

But the bottom line is that Bill White, Linda Chavez-Thompson and the rest of the crew need “long time” to become November.  And the experts are talking numbers.

If White is to run a competitive race against the GOP incumbent, he needs the Hispanic vote to increase from 11-14 percent to about 15 percent statewide, and he needs about 70 percent of those who vote, says University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray. He also says that White needs about 90 percent of the African-American vote and about 40 percent of the Anglo vote.

“Obviously, if White can drive up the minority turnout and his vote share, that drops his needed share of Anglos down toward 35 percent, much more easily reached than 40 percent,” Murray said in an e-mail message.

But if we reduce Latinos to the “just enough” category, we are doing nothing but taking a growing group of voters for granted…again.  During a time in which both sides of the spectrum are losing touch as evidenced by low voter participation, there is an obvious need for some relationship-building.

While the Republicans can be more disciplined in their message because their base is quite homogeneous, the Democrats feel the need to keep everyone happy, particularly on “social” issues and worse, on immigration. From now until November, the Democratic Party has one job:  Be Seen. Especially in the Latino community.

While some feel that it takes having a Latino elected official in your corner to win over some of those Latino Texas House districts, I’m willing to say that it take a lot more than that, or else, Annise Parker would not be our Mayor right now. It takes being seen in the community and it takes engaging the community, forging relationships that develop into a sort of movement, and not just your usual quest to attract “just enough” for the win.

The Democratic Party has seven months to get something started–in Harris County and Texas.  I hope that it begins sooner than later, because, frankly, I don’t want to hear that same ol’ thing I keep hearing from non-Latino Dems:  “Why didn’t Hispanics vote?”

Believe me, I’ll have a list of answers.

Immigration Forum Responds to 287(g) I.G. Report

It’s about time law enforcement agencies, including the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, ended the 287(g) program. Here’s why!

FROM THE NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM:

Washington, DC Today, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General released a report on the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s 287(g) program. This program authorizes local law enforcement agents to enforce federal immigration laws.  The program has created tensions within communities where local law enforcement agents have used their delegated authority to conduct large-scale operations in Latino and immigrant communities.  Law enforcement organizations and officials have cautioned against participating in 287(g) partnerships that foster community distrust and operate with inadequate supervision.  The Inspector General’s report indicates that ICE has little control over the program, and is unable to assess whether it meets ICE’s stated goals.  Following is a statement by Brittney Nystrom, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs for the National Immigration Forum, a non-Partisan pro-immigrant advocacy organization based in Washington.

Today’s Inspector General’s report on ICE’s 287(g) program confirms our worst suspicions about this program. While some local law enforcement agencies continue to use this program to intimidate and terrorize immigrant communities, ICE does not have the structures in place to evaluate or restrain the actions of rogue enforcement agencies.  The Inspector General calls attention to the program’s inability to safeguard civil rights and civil liberties, to assess the program’s effectiveness in targeting dangerous individuals, to properly train officers enrolling in the program, to receive and respond to community input, and to oversee local officers enrolled in the program. In sum, the Inspector General made 33 recommendations for fundamental reforms necessary to make the program accountable and effective in its mission.

We believe the program has proven itself to be beyond repair and should be terminated.

Particularly troubling is the program’s lack of concern about civil liberties and civil rights.  The Inspector General found that in program documents, training, and tracking, there is little thought given to the protection of civil rights and civil liberties of those who come into contact with program officers.  According to the IG, “an emphasis on civil rights and civil liberties was not formally included in the 287(g) application, review, and selection process, or in draft procedures for modifying, extending, or terminating existing” 287(g) agreements. In its training materials for officers enrolling in the program, the IG found there is “limited coverage” of civil rights law and of public outreach and complaint procedures.  There are not even guidelines for handling complaints of civil rights violations by local officers enrolled in the program.

Given the well-documented abuses committed by some local enforcement agencies enrolled in this program, the lack of concern with the civil rights record of enrolled agencies is astounding.

Also troubling is the program’s the lack of ability to track whether it meets ICE’s stated goals for the program-to remove non-citizens who pose a threat to public safety or a danger to the community.  In fact, the IG found that ICE’s performance measures are more concerned with the quantity of arrests rather than adherence to program goals.  This raises again the specter of arrest quotas driving ICE’s detention and removal operations, which have been the subject of criticism earlier this week.

The 287(g) program strikes at the heart of the ability of local police to gain the trust of immigrant populations in their communities.  Law enforcement officers know that to be effective at crime control, they must have public support.  Since its implementation, we have seen rogue agencies use the program to carry out an anti-immigrant agenda, terrorizing immigrant communities, resulting in dozens of allegations of racial profiling and civil rights abuses.

The Inspector General’s report shows that ICE is a very long way from being able to get this program under control.  It should be abandoned.

County Bites–Dynamo Get Their Stadium…

If all goes as planned, the Dynamo will have a stadium in Downtown Houston by 2012. What somehow became a major issue in the 2009 mayoral election, although it seems there was support all around for the facility, seems to be moving toward becoming a reality.

If you all recall, then candidate-Parker was accused of not supporting Dynamo Stadium, but in reality, the County had not yet agreed to throw in their share of the deal.

The city of Houston and Harris County have struck a potential deal on a new stadium for the Houston Dynamo and Texas Southern University’s football team, agreeing to jointly pay for $20 million in infrastructure upgrades if the soccer team follows through with a commitment to foot the bill for the $60 million stadium construction costs.

So, I guess the ball will be on the Dynamo’s side of the field.

I guess the only question left is:  Do we get a Hispanic Museum, too?