Tag Archives: biden

NSF Grant to TXST Will Count Border Bodies

Since I’m an SWT alum, what happens at my alma mater interests me. Having a sibling who graduated with a degree from their Anthropology department adds to the interest. So, when I saw that the National Science Foundation gave a $1 Million to TXST Anthro and other departments it was good news to hear.

A large, but unknown number of migrants die every year trying to enter the United States along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is no accurate count because there are no central databases documenting migrant deaths. As a result, national authorities, policymakers, and public health officials don’t know how many migrants are dying or how policies can curb migrant mortality.

Texas State University recently received a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help document and share this important data and fill the gap.

Dr. Alberto Giordano and Dr. Nick Herrmann are co-leading the project entitled Migrant Mortality Mapping Portal Project (M3P2). Giordano is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies whose prior work on historical geographic information systems (GIS) includes studies on the Holocaust and other genocides. Herrmann is a professor in the Department of Anthropology whose prior work in forensic anthropology and geospatial studied eastern Mediterranean bioarcheology.

The three-year NSF project has two parts. First, the team will collect and organize big data on migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border from various sources—from law enforcement reports to newspaper articles. Then, the team will develop a publicly accessible website where the data can be downloaded and explored with tools that the team will develop for exploring the data. Students will have opportunities to participate as research assistants in both areas. A post-doctoral researcher and doctoral and graduate research assistants will help the team with collecting and standardizing the data and designing and maintaining the database and tool.

No doubt, SWT’s work in body ID and the growth of their body farm research put them on the map to earn this grant and recognition. I have no doubt that it will be good work and a great contribution to society.

When the database is complete, more lives lost at the border will be counted, more stories recovered, more families reunited and more humanity regained.

That said, it is sad that the Feds would need to fund such a program. The fact of the matter is that if a Democratic President, House, and Senate had prioritized immigration reform and reformed its border enforcement policies instead of bolstering them, perhaps we wouldn’t need to match dead bodies to broken families. According to law enforcement on the border, bodies are found almost every day.

Some of the deaths are also due to migrants taking more and more risks to evade detection by federal authorities, he says. People are crossing the tumultuous Rio Grande, walking through dangerous ranchlands in the record Texas heat and paying the ultimate price, the sheriff adds.

It’s something immigration rights advocates have warned about as the latest tragic trend: people being forced to take increasingly risky paths due to mix of border policies that have made it more difficult for migrants to seek refuge in the US.

So many migrants, including children, who have attempted to cross the US southern border have died in this region that the forensic pathologist serving the area says 2022 is on pace to become the deadliest year on record in recent memory.   

Whether it’s the Border Patrol, Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden, or Greg Abbott, nothing has been done to actually save people from imminent death as their policies force migrants to change paths to get to this side. Paths which are more dangerous, treacherous, and deadly. Paths that walls, armed enforcement, and federalized local cops make more dangerous, thus, causing death.

Yes, kudos to NSF for funding this important work. But it further exhibits how broken our government is when it comes to people escaping violence and poverty. At least people who are south of us.

Another Influx in The News

Credit: Texas Tribune

Hitting the news, and just in time for campaign season, is news that there is another migrant “influx” happening at the moment. It shouldn’t be a surprise. We’ve known since early in the summer that it was going to happen. Title 42’s end certainly will be a contributing factor. That said, what about the children?

Back in May, reports began about an influx of unaccompanied children expected to arrive soon. A friend of mine in South Texas told me about all of these job openings put out by a government contractor. It’s the same contractor who ran (or hired for) the kiddie jail in Carrizo Springs during Trump’s reign, Deployed Services, Inc. (Ominous name, huh?)

Well, Joe Biden is using the same facility and same awful contractors. The difference is that the agency doling out the cash is Health and Human Services. Still, buildings with a fenced perimeter is pretty prison-y for kids. And with the feds preparing as many as 19,000 beds for migrant kids escaping violence and poverty, well, there will be a lot of money to be made in small-town, lacking jobs, South Texas and other places. And the contractors will make a pretty government penny, too. Billions of pennies.

Meanwhile, Greg Abbott is running a campaign on the “failures” of the Biden administration on migration issues by causing more problems in other states with his human trafficking buses. But it makes for a great attack ad later in October. (Once the annoying re-intro ads stop.)

You get a boondoggle! You get a boondoggle! Everyone gets a boondoggle!

There’s enough blame all-around for what is a human rights crisis. A Democratic majority in the House and Senate who have failed to pass immigration reform is tops on my list. One can certainly blame Republicans, but Democrats are in charge. Instead, one party avoids the issue to save a few anti-immigrant Dems and the bigoted Republicans use it for all it’s worth to win in November.

And who suffers? Children and migrants who just want to get away from violence and poverty.

AP Expands on Lockdown Fatigue in Uvalde

Jake Bleiberg and Acacia Coronado at the Associated Press provided a good report on the lockdown fatigue in Uvalde caused by bailouts from the Border Patrol’s and other agencies’ migrant chases.

The new findings that a culture of lockdowns in Uvalde played some role in the failures on May 24 reflects how one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history intersected with immigration policies and thousands of Border Patrol agents, National Guard members and state police assigned to apprehend migrants and stop drug traffickers. Of the nearly 400 law enforcement officers at the scene of Robb Elementary, more than half were Border Patrol agents or state police, according to the report.

As I stated early on, the Facebook rumor mill in Uvalde was blaming migrant bailouts for the school shooting initially, some even saying they got the information from “inside sources” in a law enforcement agency.

Even the first officers on scene at Robb Elementary wondered whether the threat was a so-called “bailout” — the term used by law enforcement along the border to describe suspected migrants or drug traffickers who have fled. Pete Arrendondo, the embattled Uvalde school police chief who has become the target of angry demands by parents to resign or be fired, told the House committee the thought crossed his mind since it happens so often.

For all the fear-mongering by Greg Abbott and his Republican cohorts, the report stated this fact:

The committee report said there had been no incidents of “bailout-related” violence on Uvalde school campuses before the shooting. 

Migrants are escaping poverty and violence in their home countries; why on earth would they be violent toward children? Or anyone? They’re tired, hot, thirsty, and hungry and just want to make it to safe haven. Even one of the local JPs knows this.

Diaz, the Uvalde justice of the peace, serves as a magistrate when police make arrests in the area as part of the governor’s massive border mobilization known as Operation Lone Star. He sets bail for people taken into custody for alleged human or drug smuggling, but also for crimes unrelated to national security, like minor drug charges.

He said Abbott’s operation hasn’t made Uvalde safer.

“These people who are coming through don’t want to be in Uvalde,” said Diaz. “They are looking to get away from the border and we’re too close.”

For those who say ignorant things like, “they should come to the US the right way,” a reminder that there hasn’t been a right way in decades. The “line” to get in has been non-existent, unless it’s from a favored country the US is trying to save from a government they don’t like (Cuba, Venezuela). While some are escaping US-supported right-wing governments in Central America, others are simply wanting a better life. And they have waited long enough that they will make a deadly and dangerous trek to the US. Not to save their assets, as those in some of the favored countries, but to save themselves.

As far as Uvalde goes, and the rest of South Texas for that matter, these migrant chases are dangerous, sometimes deadly, and clog up and waste needed resources. Whether it is money that can be better spent on economic development, education, or health care, the money thrown at a problem that the Biden administration has failed to improve (citizenship and deportation reform) and that Greg Abbott has created for photo ops and political mud to throw has been ineffective and wasteful. And it’s our money. And these policies are part of the problem of children being killed in a classroom.

Inaction Claims Migrants Escaping Violence and Poverty

The media reports that at least 46 human beings were found dead and another 16 barely alive in a semi trailer in San Antonio. All were migrants escaping poverty and violence in their home countries, exploited by traffickers who continually exploit the US political weaknesses of Republican hate and Democratic indifference.

Gustavo García-Siller, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Antonio, wrote on Twitter: “Once again, the lack of courage to deal with immigration reform is killing and destroying lives. We do not learn. God teach us to change.”

Scenes with stacked bodies will provide fundraising opportunities for Democrats and masturbation material for Republicans (because they get off on the suffering of others). Greg Abbott, in all of his racist glory, chooses to make a political statement blaming others, instead of taking responsibility for his bigoted border policies which force migrants to choose alternate, more dangerous routes to get to this side of the river. Failed policies that hand out money to local law enforcement agencies who love participating in migrant chases, rather than saving children in classrooms threatened by active shooters. No Greg Abbott, this is on the entire political system. Especially on bigots like you.

Yes, there is a lot of blame to go around. And when Democrats have a President and a majority which has done nothing on most issues, instead supporting the re-election of anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and religious zealot Democrats (Cuellar), the message is clear and the same old platitudes are ineffective.

As much as Democrats used Trump’s racist policies to get this majority, they have failed miserably to make change regarding migrant policies, choosing to continue draconian human rights-violating enforcement, detention, and deportation practices, all while expanding legitimate and illegitimate profiteering opportunities for equally bad people.

But most Democrats will remain willfully ignorant of all of this and continue to support the incumbent leadership which continues to fail, well, everyone. Those who will definitely not like my comments probably get a paycheck from political leadership that has failed. Go figure. Anyway…

Locally, we heard that Sheriff Ed Gonzalez finally told the Biden Administration he was withdrawing his name from consideration to be the ICE Director after Senate inaction on a confirmation vote. Way to go, Ed! You don’t need to be tainted by inaction and bigoted policies that our own Party fails to change or even challenge.

I thought I’d sleep off my lack of hope, but I still remain lacking in hope this morning.

This Week’s Abbott Idiocy

Abbott Wants To Starve Brown Babies

Greg Abbott continued to show how evil he is this week when he blamed migrant children for the baby formula crisis. Abbott pointed to migrant children receiving formula while in federal lock-ups while blaming Biden for not providing it to the rest of the country. Standing with the bigoted Border Patrol Council, a club of white supremacists who do Border Patrol spin, they stated, “…the Biden Administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border,” while a crisis created by baby formula companies who have failed to come up with a solution to the problem has been going on for months.

The problem is that Democrats and advocates want to debate Abbott on something that is not up for debate–child starvation and abuse. Call Abbott and his bigoted base evil and heartless for their actions, instead. A debate only provides Abbott more free advertising and gas to throw on a fire, rather than a forum for solutions. The Biden administration is at least attempting solutions, such as increasing imports (which Trump purposefully screwed up with his USCMA), cracking down on price gouging, and doing away with WIC restrictions that force consumers to buy smaller portions, thus, allowing companies to produce large containers faster. These are all things Abbott would never support, thus, he’s evil!

It’s Always Been A Boondoggle

Whether it’s been both political parties supporting the $4 billion Republican boondoggle at the border or, now, the use of pandemic relief money from the feds to fund a money giveaway at the border, it’s always been a waste and a policy based on bigotry strictly to appease right-wing bigots for their votes. Biden’s Treasury Department is looking into pandemic money being used for border militarization after some Dem Congressmen, including Joaquin Castro of SATX, demanded it. I’m with Kuff on this, there are no consequences for Abbott other than beating him in November. We’ve had our chances in the past, but even some Dems have given Abbott a 2nd chance by making weak , coded excuses to not vote for his opponents.

Kinney County Flush With Migrant Cash

Part of Greg Abbott’s bigoted boondoggle is to open up state-run prisons to warehouse migrants who are given a bogus trespassing charge for walking on private land while escaping poverty and violence, and are finally convicted before being turned over to the Migra. The county that has benefited the most seems to be Kinney County in Southwest Texas. They have collected over $2 million in bond money from family and advocates who have bonded out migrants. The money is sitting in a bank account, but Kinney County is putting up rules and requirements that block that bond from being returned once the cases have been disposed. (Reminder: Bonds are not punishment, they are a guarantee that the accused will show up in court.) Greg Abbott has created all sorts of boondoggles to benefit dirty cops at the border, whether with state, federal, or migrant money. And no one seems to want to stop it.

My May 7 Election Report

The most uneventful election this year was held on Saturday and Texas homeowners voted themselves some minor tax giveaways.

Voters approved two propositions intended to lower property taxes for homeowners by decisive margins — one aimed at older and disabled Texans and another that would provide modest relief for homeowners across the board.

Unfortunately, renters were largely ignored by the Texas Lege. It’s no secret that, as property values increase across the board, renters are taking any tax bill increases in the teeth. But if you think about it, any tax giveaways to property owners would probably never make it to renters. Makes me think: They couldn’t have added a $175 gift card for renters? I mean, they’re giving away money that will negatively affect us in the long-run, let’s all benefit.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are eyeing a $12 billion surplus in state revenue to pay for some public school costs so districts may lower their property tax rates. Texas is also suing the federal government for the right to use $3 billion in federal stimulus funds to pay for tax cuts.

In other words, they’re using money that all Texans contributed to the pot to reward some while giving the rest the shaft. There’s no idea on how these cuts will be paid for in the future, either, unless they slice education budgets. Also, there is no fairness in this, but it wasn’t like anyone was going to launch a campaign against it.

Local Races

A friend of mine ran for Mayor in a tiny town to the south of Houston, but was defeated. On the other hand, one of my CCHS classmates (who’s also the Dem Party Chairman in Zavala County) squeaked by to win his race for Crystal City City Council. Congrats, Joe Uribes!

Otherwise, this was a boring election.

The Run-Off

But the Democratic Party run-off is on May 24, with early voting starting on May 16th and ending on May 20th. Find your sample ballot here (when it becomes available) and study those in the running.

I know my initial leanings have either changed or are drawing a blank at the moment. Races to watch include Texas Attorney General, Texas Land Commish, Texas Comptroller, as well as the Harris County Commissioner Pct 4 race and local judicial run-offs. It’s a busy ballot and all the races will all become a lot more interesting. Kuff has something on one of the judicial races. I’ll have a new and improved Stace Slate soon.

Beto’s Right. Where’s Biden post-Title 42 Plan?

While many of us celebrate the demise of the Trump-era, yet Biden-continued, Title 42, there is no plan to address the needs of those being released by DHS after their asylum process has begun. And Beto O’Rourke is calling out the Biden administration for the lack of a plan.

The small towns on the border where the Border Patrol detention centers process migrants will be getting the brunt of the effects of this lack of a plan. While there are nonprofits and humanitarian groups which do most of the work, they will not have the resources to fully respond.

All that said, there is a lot more to the border than Title 42.

Greg Abbott’s policies of militarizing the border with the National Guard; his deputation and corrupt behavior of local cops and courts to terrorize migrants with arrests and trumped up charges while imprisoning them in state-run prisons; the dangerous chases on state roads by the Border Patrol, DPS, and local cops that continually cause deadly accidents; are a lot more dangerous than humans fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.

What bad policies and lack of them at all levels have created is a front for human trafficking, more violence, and government corruption in our own country. Meanwhile, Congress and the Biden administration (and previous administrations) continually fail to create workable solutions to the asylum process and immigration, generally.

Instead, politicians and pundits get mad on camera at higher food prices because of Abbott’s inspections at the border as the cost of all this while at the same time defending and funding war policies and oil companies profiting from higher gas prices because of those war policies.

I’m just saying there is a lot to this border issue and even the whining seems to be coming piecemeal.

Abbott Calls For Volunteer Migrants to Self-Deport From Texas

Another Abbott border boondoggle? Or is it a show of bigotry and idiocy? Probably both.

Greg Abbott called a press show to announce a new program to bus migrants to Washington, DC to drop them off at Joe Biden’s (and America’s) front yard so that he can deal with them.

What sounded like a pretty bigoted shit-show worsened when reality set in.

The governor’s office clarified that the program is completely voluntary for migrants and would happen only after they had been processed and released by the Department of Homeland Security. And in addition to buses, Abbott also ordered the state to charter flights to transport migrants to the nation’s capital. The migrants would have to show documentation that they had already been processed by DHS. Many immigration advocates have noted that providing transportation services for asylum-seekers to reach their final destination is something the state should invest in.

Abbott’s announcement led to immediate criticism from both his left and his right. Immigration rights groups said his rhetoric was still dangerous.

No doubt, when I thought about it, I thought it a great idea. These are recently released migrants, not migrants caught by Abbott’s border initiative, which includes local Sheriff’s offices. Because one way or another, migrants must be released by the yokels and the smokies to DHS/Border Patrol for processing. DHS then releases them from border area facilities to the towns in which they are located. A free ride to parts east where there is a need for exploitable and cheap labor would be a big help all-around, right?

Still, the underlying reasons are obvious and the whole program is a dangerous one.

Small border towns have been having a freak-out as the Trump/Biden Title 42 rule, which blames migrants for COVID and not Abbott’s unmasking and unvax’ing of Texas, is on the verge of ending in the next few weeks; thus, a surge is expected at the border and from DHS releases of processed migrants. So, it’s obvious this is part of a “response” from Abbott.

Fortunately, both the left and the right are calling it an empty gesture.

State Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, vice chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus denounced Abbott’s announcement as a political stunt.

“Instead of using our tax dollars to drive economic growth and build infrastructure, Governor Abbott is funding political stunts at the expense of Texas families and our troops.”

Let’s get serious, though. The Biden administration has had every opportunity to continue making changes by executive order to our Nation’s asylum process and the overall immigration process. Lawsuits from the right, be damned! Meanwhile, Congress and Justice continues lollygagging with another failed prosecution attempt of Trump, instead of pushing immigration legislation, even in piecemeal fashion.

What some call a immigration crisis, or worse, an “invasion,” is caused by migrant’s home countries run by dictators and drug kingpins who on the daily threaten innocent people. They are left with no choice but to leave their home countries for land considered safer. So, it is not an immigration crisis as much as it is US foreign policy that bolsters right-wing and corrupt government in Latin America. Ultimately, it all becomes a human rights crisis when migrants go hunted by people like Greg Abbott and Biden’s corrupt border patrol for profit.

Wholesale change is needed, but no one wants to do anything substantive. So, this kind of crisis at the border will continue while borders are open for other lighter skinned folks from other violence-torn countries on the other side of the world.

Yes, Another COVID-19 Week

Did You Order Your Free Test?

The Biden Administration’s 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests are now available for all to order at COVIDtests.gov. Also, if one is insured, get information on how to get reimbursed by ones health insurance at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. Since we’re Texas, there are different and varying ways in which workplaces are dealing with in-house infections (or trying to avoid them), so, there is an unfortunate chance that one can get infected if some boss or co-worker is walking around unmasked and coughing up a lung at work. PCR Testing is probably better to get to the bottom of ones status, but if one is showing symptoms, then an at-home rapid test could be helpful. Get Vax’d/boosted, wear a mask in public places, and avoid crowds.

Free N-95s?

The Biden Administration also announced that 400 million N-95 masks will become available to the public starting next week. Higher level masks, like N-95, KN-95, and KF-94 masks increase the time for COVID-19 to spread; meaning, if you’re in a workplace setting with a lot of people or a crowd, these masks can be more effective.

The plan consists of working with pharmacies and community health centers to distribute the nonsurgical masks, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile. The administration will begin shipments this week and hopes to have the program fully operational by early February, the White House official said.

That’s nice and all, but I wish there was a way for Biden and company to lower the costs of higher-level masks. No sooner had I ordered a batch of 50 KN-95 masks at a good price, Omicron arrived in full-force and so did the profiteering, thus, doubling + the price within days. Instead, Biden is making stuff available from the stockpile while manufacturing capacity has somewhat increased, but costs have not been controlled.

It’s Getting Better?

Notwithstanding several exposures that required more than one test in my own family over the last month, there are reports that COVID-19 measured through our Houston wastewater is seeing a decrease, and hospitalizations might be waning in a few places. That kind of talk worries me because people begin to act like fools as if they can go back to their most recent “normal,” which means unmasked mass events with people beyond their circle of trust. Don’t! It’s going in the right direction, but we’re still at almost 40% positivity.

Bottom line, we are still in the thick of it. With schools and universities reopening after the holiday, the “end” of this surge may be delayed. If schools have access to testing, masks, and vaccinations, then there is hope. But it will not be an easy task.

Many state universities are doing “soft openings,” which will begin with online instruction before going back to full capacity. For all the complaining about having to go back to virtual learning, if people wore masks indoors all the time and got vaccinated/boosted, and if higher ed leaders were to stand up to the likes of Greg Abbott, we may have had a better shot at keeping things open. But even the simple tasks are too much for people at all levels.

As always, mask up, get vax’d and boosted, and stay away from big crowds.

Another Week in COVID-19

A friend pointed me to a pretty good podcast on how Omicron is counterintuitive. Check it out here. It talks about where we are and about where we may be heading. There may be some hope in a world of “WTF is going on?!?”. Still, we must mask-up and not just be vax’d and boosted.

A few weeks into Omicron, it seems Greg Abbott finally panicked enough to beg the Biden administration for help. He still doesn’t want Texans and Texas schoolkids wearing masks, and, though vax’d and boosted himself, doesn’t want to require it for anyone else. But he demands more tests and monoclonal antibodies for his unvax’d and unmasked fans. C’mon, Abbott, Marco Rubio is calling you “irrational“!

Of course, he is also suing Biden because he says he is the state’s national guard leader (Remember Jade Helm!) and doesn’t think they should be vax’d if they don’t want to be. This is the same “leader” who has overseen recent suicides of his soldiers who are tired of being at the Texas border wasting time and taxpayer money. Some leader.

But Biden isn’t in the clear despite his press conference, either. ICE facilities have failed to give their migrant guests vaccine boosters to protect them from Omicron. We know that Omicron spreads easily and in close quarters like an immigrant prison, well, everyone is endangered. One would hope that Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez will be asked by Senators about this, since he’s been re-nominated for ICE Director after the Senate failed to act on his original nomination. Or will it be the Senate’s original questions on human warehousing and hunting and profits? Good luck, Sheriff.

Well, we’re still on fire here in Texas. COVID-19 continues its spread, infections continue to rise, and hospitalizations of the unvaccinated continue. Anecdotally, folks still seem to be acting as if invincible as I see them unmasked (and hacking up a lung) at the store. The good thing is that the holidays are over and there are less mass events among Democrats again. At least, I’m not seeing any selfies at events.

Stay masked. Stay vax’d and boosted. And stay away from large gatherings.