Tag Archives: houston

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]

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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!

#SB4: 14 Houston-area TX House Members Send Letter to Houston Council

Fourteen members of the Houston delegation of the Texas House have penned a letter in which they ask members of the Houston City Council to support the City of Houston’s participation in a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the “show me your papers” law signed by Greg Abbott, Senate Bill 4. The law would allow untrained local cops to question a person’s citizenship based on little else than the look of a person.

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Pointing to the intent of SB4 as a racial profiling law, the members of the legislature state that over 44 percent of Texas’ population is Latino, Asian-American, or Arab-American. Add to that the 11.5% that is African-American and nearly two-thirds of the population of Texas could be affected by racial profiling.

The legislators also remind members of Council that such a law will send us down the road of past failures in anti-immigrant laws, such as California Prop 187 and Arizona’s SB1070.

Recent headcounts of City Council have shown a divided City Council. For a city that thrives on marketing its diversity, a divided City Council on an issue such as the constitutionality of legalized racial profiling will not make for a palatable, if not, “welcoming” city.

Thanks to these Texas legislators for taking a stand:  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, Gene Wu.

San Antonio Joins SB4 Lawsuit; Still Waiting on Houston

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

DC Reviews: La Santa Cecilia ~ Amar y Vivir

81ezh15i8xl-_sy355_Released just in time for their arrival to Texas, La Santa Cecilia’s Amar y Vivir can only be described in a word:  Special. It’s a visual album, with already a few videos of their album performances on YouTube.

It’s traditional, it’s modern, and it’s full of love and life. The LA band’s newest production was recorded live in Mexico City at various plazas and locations around the city. With invited guests, such as Comisario Pantera, Noel Schajris, Mariachi America, Rebel Cats, Caña Dulce Caña Brava, Mon Laferte, and the amazing voice of Eugenia León to sweeten the various tunes, we are given a musical effort that will remain timeless.

Equally timeless is the voice of La Marisoul (Marisol Hernandez) who seems to knock every tune out of the park. While the guest artists provide some beautiful accompaniment, La Marisoul provides the emotional push to ensure a strong delivery of the songs.

The title track, Amar y Vivir, a haunting bolero thanks to some exceptional electric guitar playing, opens the album, while the amazing vals, Odiame, follows, both tunes solidifying the requinto as central to the album. LSC resurrects an old favorite of theirs with a mariachi-powered version of Como Dios Manda. Mar y Cielo is a sweet bolero, while the rockin’ ranchera Mexico Americano is a needed prideful addition.

La Santa Cecilia also managed to send me into a bawling frenzy during this Mother’s Day weekend with a beautiful rendition of Amor Eterno. Needless to say, I really miss Flo.

Volver a Los 17 is a beautiful tune, while Mon Laferte joins in on a wonderful vals, Ingrata. Then, we’re provided quite the treat with Smokey Robinson’s  You Really Got A Hold On Me, which La Marisoul simply owns.

Leña de Pirul is an old standard brought to life again, while Nuestro Juramento is a a beautiful bolero that will get your toes tapping along with lyrics to make us shudder. But it’s the last track, En El Ultimo Trago, which La Marisoul duets with Eugenia Leon, that will get a concert crowd to sing-along.

No doubt, it’s the voice of La Marisoul and the requinto-playing of Pepe Carlos that set this album apart from others in which standards are attempted. With the simple instruments of guitars and requinto, percussion, and upright bass, a foundation is set for an album that treats the songs respectfully and without a need to be showy. La Santa Cecilia is a band of musicians who take their music seriously, and this genre-bending LA band can compete with the best of them.

The new production is available on CD and vinyl. Get yours today!

THE CONCERT at HEIGHTS

La Santa Cecilia came to Texas to perform in the Big 3– SA, Houston, and Dallas–and I was able to check out their show at the Heights Theater. It was the perfect venue for them and a great crowd greeted them on Saturday.

LSC started with their bilingual rendition of The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever, to which they once released a video depicting the travels of the strawberries that end up in our fridges–starting from the fields worked by farm workers. A few LSC favorites into the show, the crowd was told that Hernandez was feeling under the weather, so, she wouldn’t be doing her usual dancing and jumping on the stage which in itself revs up the crowd.

Still, La Marisoul powered through Vengo, I Won’t Cry For You, Sucede and other favorites, only taking a short minute break toward the end of their set. Their show included some of their latest tunes from Amar y Vivir, including the show closer, Mexico Americano, which earned some “Power to the People” fists in the air.

As much as one loves their albums, you can tell how good a band is through their live performances and La Santa Cecilia is just one of those bands. La Marisoul proved that the show must go on and she delivered vocal perfection. Catch them next time they’re in town.

Opening for La Santa Cecilia was San Antonio genre-benders Nicolas Valdez y Los Nahuatlatos. They can go from SKA to conjunto to cumbia and return to all three and more in one set. Valdez was quite impressive on the acordeon as was the horn and rhythm section.

I’m looking forward to the next time I catch both of these bands.

 

287(g) Rally: Sheriff, Mayor Respond

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Credit: J.M. Diaz

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez appeared at this morning’s rally against 287(g), a flawed immigrant removal program.

Gonzalez reiterated his support of immigrant rights and his promise to rid Harris County of the controversial program. He did, however, ask for patience and time to study and navigate its ending because of its ties to federal and state funding, and because he wants to ensure that such a program targets violent and serious criminals. During the press conference, he also reiterated that the program is run within the jail and not out in the field and that his deputies will not be targeting individual suspects because of immigration status.

Local immigrant rights activists are seeking policy changes and strong statements of support to undo programs that target immigrants and have run amok of their stated intents. Programs which basically federalize local law enforcement are flawed and have been a cause for racial profiling, wasted resources, family separation, and downgraded local economies.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also sought out by immigrant rights activists recently responded with his strongest statement yet.

“I know there are a lot of families and children who are afraid and worried right now about what might happen to them. I want them to know that Houston is, and always has been, a welcoming city, where we value and appreciate diversity. HPD is not the Immigration and Naturalization Service. We don’t profile, and we are not going to start profiling people to determine whether they are here illegally. It hasn’t happened under previous mayors, and it will not happen under my administration.”

Still, at the end of the day, it is policy changes that are sought. And political promises that are expected to be met. And in the era of Trump and his rampant executive orders, leaders feel the need to navigate carefully or else funding may be lost. With the State of Texas attacking elected officials and about to begin consideration of a racial profiling legalization bill in Austin (SB4), it seems some fear taking on the Governor and his bigoted threats.

Stay strong, elected officials. People are counting on you!

Click here for video from United We Dream

Trump Leaves DACA Alone For Now

trumpfamilycrossing950

Credit:  Lalo Alcaraz

 

The Trump campaign-turned-administration has perfected the way it instills fear in communities. Of course, the fear has created plenty of activists who will hopefully remain committed to a multitude of issues utilized by Trump to gain enough votes in a few states to win the electoral vote.  Monday was a stressful day for DACA beneficiaries–numbering about 750,000 nationally. By mid-afternoon, it seemed Trump left Obama’s executive order which created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals alone.

Even his COS Priebus and his alternative mouthpiece Spicer seemed to try to calm pro-migrant forces a bit by stating that the priority is “criminal” immigrants. Cesar Espinosa, ED of FIEL, a local immigrant rights group, asked, “What is ‘criminal?'”

The Obama administration used the same kind of program to deport 3 million and warehouse thousands more in private prisons. Early on, the majority of deportees were convicted of low-grade, non-deportable crimes, but were still sent to home countries, breaking up families, and affecting local economies. Now, with 750,000 DACA lives hanging in the balance, hundreds of thousands more of their parents, and millions more who are simply working and contributing to their communities waiting for Trump’s next move, there’s more fear and stress in the community.

The lack of action by Trump today didn’t provide much comfort. Activists, though, are looking to leadership at the local level.

The newly elected Sheriff of Travis County, Sally Hernandez announced her department would not cooperate with the Trump administration and has earned the ire of Greg Abbott who has gotten really good at making threats about funding. El Paso’s Democratic Sheriff, on the other hand, has decided to cooperate with Trump because he fears losing grant money.

Locally, activists await action from new Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Gonzalez promised to rid the department of 287g, an immigrant removal program which provides grant money to the department. Since taking office, he hasn’t mentioned anything about that promise, and already there is the start of a movement requesting action from him and Mayor Sylvester Turner.

It’s only Day 5 and real issues are now being discussed. And we also have the Texas Lege to deal with who are bringing out multiple cans of crazy. Let’s stay focused.

The HISD Board Vacancy: A Few Thoughts

As Kuff reminded us back in December, there is a vacancy on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees after the resignation of Greg Meyers in District VI, and the Board will be appointing a replacement to complete Meyers’ term. A little bird tells me that the Board is getting closer to naming that appointee, so, it’s time the community have a conversation about this process.

District VI stretches from the Sharpstown area through the Westheimer/Gessner area and on to the far reaches of the west side to Highway 6. Given its meandering through these areas, little doubt is left as to its diversity, and this speaks volumes as to the need for added diversity on the school board. If anything, it also speaks to the need for a responsive, action-oriented individual to serve this trustee district.

That Houston ISD is diverse is nothing new. That 62% of its students are Latinos is also nothing new. Notwithstanding the trustee district’s westerly location, out of 15 elementary schools, eight are majority Latino schools, while two will soon reach majority Latino status. The future is not only diverse, but emergingly Latino at Houston ISD. As such, diversity in political representation is something that must be discussed.

Of course, ethnicity isn’t the only characteristic that is at issue. The recent election in which the vast majority of voters chose to not send local dollars to the State of Texas, instead choosing to call on the State Legislature to fix school finance shows that Houstonians are worried about the city’s educational foundation. The Board of Trustees needs someone who will advocate for Houston’s future–the kids–from Day 1 and beyond the rest of the term for which she/he will be appointed.

Some may argue “voter demographics” as a means of choosing a trustee who better matches up to past election results in the district, but there is such a thing as taxpayer demographics. Whether one is a homeowner or a renter, any ethnicity or color, and whether one lives closer to the west side or to Sharpstown, all are taxpayers and all deserve to be heard. Perhaps in the future the board can venture into a fairer redistricting process, but, until then, it is up to the Board in this instance.

Still, others may argue that District VI merely needs a placeholder to serve until the term is completed, while taxpayers wait for the November election to elect a full-term trustee. With the issues that Houston ISD faces, especially as a Legislative session looms, the Board needs a committed individual who is willing to serve beyond the year that is left in the term. It will not be a surprise if any placeholder decides to run for the full-term.

The Houston ISD Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to be responsive to the needs of constituencies who often go ignored by government entities in this area of the city. Appointing an individual who has worked in and has an understanding of the current and future diversity of the district and who has an undying commitment to public education, K-12 and beyond, is the only path to achieving fair representation.

 

Festival Chicano Friday: Little Joe, Latin Breed, and Isabel Marie

Friday was another big night for La Onda Chicana. Thanks to Festival Chicano organizer, Daniel Bustamante, this one was one for the history books.

The evening began with a reminder from Bustamante:  Tejano is not dead. As much as the gringos in the business or the gringos at the rodeo want to tell us, it’s just not true. Thousands attending a weekend series of concerts ought to tell everyone this. Is it a struggle? Of course! But one only has to watch the musicians on stage to show that they love what they do. And the crowd loves them for it.

The most poignant reminder of the struggle was when Bustamante brought out the producer/promoter for 13 year-old Isabel Marie–one of the newest additions to the Tejano music industry. Abraham Quintanilla came out and offered a few words and also reminded us of that awful day 21 years ago. But that through all that has affected his family he continues to seek out and offer new talent shows his determination. Tejano isn’t dead.

isabelmarieIsabel Marie took the stage first and offered up a set of cumbias, rancheras, and even wowed us with her rendition of Selena’s No Me Queda Mas. At 13, she has a pretty powerful voice. As a stage performer, she is poised, but at 13, she also shows off that awkward stage a teen goes through. (If a crowd applauded me, I’d be a little geek’d out, so it’s understandable.) Still, she showed range, emotion, and the ability to keep a crowd engaged for an entire show. Great job, Isabel Marie. Keep at it!

adalbertoThe Legendary Latin Breed was up next with Adalberto Gallegos at the helm. Hundreds of years of experience took the stage–even Adalberto was a member at age 19 in 1976. Kicking off with 1988’s Latin Breed Medley, they continued on to Yo Lo Comprendo, Todos Dicen, and even ventured one of Adalberto’s solo hits from 1990, Tristes Recuerdos and a hit that I once owned on a 45 rpm record (kids, look that up), El Cisne. Adalberto wowed us with If You Need Me, too. All of this backed up by a precision-based horn section and the bass action of Stanley Revillas and guitaristics of Steve Velasquez.

littlejoeThe crowd loved every performance, but there was no doubt that they were waiting for The King of the Brown Sound–Little Joe. Another band of highly experienced, highly disciplined musicians, La Familia took off in fine form with a medley of Little Joe’s best ballads–Rebelde, Recuerdas Querido Amigo, and Por Un Amor. Then came Redneck Mes’kin Boy and Mi Nena. Then came some blues music with Lonely, Lonely Nights, which Little Joe delivered impressively, backed up by amazing horn and guitar action. Bass master Mike Torres, III delivered on cumbia El Alacran and percussionist Sam Jones on My Girl. The night continued with hit after hit, including Cartas Marcadas, and the big finish with Las Nubes and Borrachera. Of course, the encore brought folks back to their seats and then to their feet with a sing-a-long of Jose Alfredo’s classic, Ella.

In between, Little Joe reminded the crowd of thousands to register to vote–Mi Familia Vota will be there all three nights. Of course, he also gave ol’ Trump a tongue lashing, including, “Vamos a darle en la madre a Trump!” which basically is the equivalent of, “Let’s knock him the f*** out!” Great crowd response to that. Finally, Little Joe’s white duds were in honor of El Leon de la Sierra, Alfonso Ramos, who passed away this last week.

chicharronesNo doubt, by the end of a La Familia gig, one is tired but oh so happy. And after three performances by everything from new talent to two bands that have been around for five decades, one can take a Saturday morning to re-energize with some chicharrones con huevos and then return to Miller Outdoor Theater in the evening for David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, Ram Herrera and The Outlaw Band, and Little Miss Dynamite Shelly Lares.

Mayor Turner Announces Resource Fairs in his March on Crime

turnerMayor Sylvester Turner has the right idea.  The best way to combat crime is to provide resources to low income, high crime areas. Mayor Turner announced the development of resources fairs that will provide these areas with access to job training, resume writing assistance, social services agencies, among other needed services, especially to those trying to turn their lives around after some lapses in judgment. Recidivism is a major challenge in our community that could be overcome by just opening minds and opportunities for an often stigmatized group of people. Here’s more info:

Turnaround Houston will offer access to job training, resume writing, tattoo removal, social service agencies, educational institutions, counseling and intervention to help hard to employ Houstonians turn their lives around.

“There are Houstonians who have difficulty securing employment due to a variety of reasons which may include a lack of education, prior criminal history, poverty, mental health issues and a lack of positive influences,” said Mayor Turner. “There is a part of our city that is in dire need of assistance and it’s our responsibility to ensure that they are plugged into vital resources and become a part of our city’s success. With the launch of Turnaround Houston, we want to eliminate the barriers to employment by offering a roadmap to a brighter future.”

As a part of this initiative, Houstonians who are hard to employ should also know that if they connect with the resources that are available, they can turn their lives around. There are thousands of success stories in the city, one such example is Angel Ponce who works in theMayor‘s Office of People with Disabilities. Ponce was previously involved with a gang and suffered a life altering accident which finally pushed him on the right track.

“I used to have tattoos on my face, I didn’t care what I looked like and I didn’t have a future. I had known about the services available to me at the City of Houston through the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office, but I didn’t take advantage of them until I suffered a spinal injury which caused me to re-assess my life. I am now a productive part of society helping former gang members and those with disabilities such as my own. This wouldn’t have been possible without the City’s resources,” said Ponce.

Each Turnaround Houston resource fair will include workshops on resume creation and interview tips. Participants can also learn how to start their own businesses and hear the success stories of Houstonians who have received a second chance.

The first resource fair will take place Saturday, March 26, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, 9413 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 77033 and is sponsored by Houston First and the Port of Houston Authority.  The dates for the additional fairs will be announced at a later time.

Turnaround Houston resource partners- Include:

  • The Office of Business Opportunity
  • Mental Health Services –Health Department
  • Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office
  • The City of Houston’s Re-entry program
  • Workforce Solutions/Neighborhood Centers
  • SER Jobs for Progress
  • Houston Area Urban League
  • Dress for Success
  • Career Gear
  • Franklin Beauty School
  • Summer Jobs Program-City of Houston

To see a full list of employers, resource partners and to register log on to www.turnaroundhouston.org.