Tag Archives: rey guerra

Houston, We Have A Podcast! (Again)



micsRey Guerra and I have re-started our podcast series which is now known as the DosCentavos Podcast. If you recall, we started a series last year in which we talked about local and state politics, chisme, and other happenings. Our test-run did so well, we thought we’d try it again.

On 2015’s first podcast, Rey and I take on the beginnings of what will be a busy 2015 City of Houston election season. We talk about the Mayoral and City Council races that some folks are already talking about and lend our opinions on these races. Stay connected as the campaign season is just starting. There will be more talk and chisme in the future about campaigns and a whole lot more.


Stace and Rey Are Back!

Houston Politics with Stace and Rey is back! What is that? It’s a podcast featuring myself and local smart guy and activist, Dr. Rey Guerra. We had a few shows toward the end of 2013, but after I fought off a bad case of laryngitis, we are back and ready to talk…a lot!

So, to get back into practice, we recorded this episode last Thursday.

We cover the latest on immigration reform, the City Council election, and Wendy Davis and the Democrats. I also mention how Lt. Governor candidates are making immigration the issue on which to attack Latinos, and Kuff provides some proof today, so, it is fitting that we talked about this.

If you need to copy and paste, here’s the URL:


The plan is to bring in a VIP on our next episode to discuss Women’s Health, the Affordable Care Act, and probably more on the sexist nature of the Greg Abbott campaign toward Wendy Davis and all women. Stay tuned!


3rd Centavo ~ Guerra: S.744 Will Worsen Immigrant Situation, Part III

by Dr. Rey Guerra

This is Part III in a multi-part series discussing the United States Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act).

Part I, introducing the series and discussing the Border Trigger, can be found here.

Part II, discussing the E-Verify Trigger, can be found here.

Part I highlighted the onerous Border Security and Border Fencing triggers.  The triggers, and the bill, are structured such that it is possible that they may never be met and “the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.”

Part II highlighted the fact that S.744 would supercharge E-Verify, at the expense of Latinos, African-Americans, anybody drawing social security, and/or anybody with name issues.

Here in Part III, S744’s insurmountable income and employment requirements are presented.

Income and Employment Requirements

During the initial 6-year provisional status period, if immigrants can’t show regular employment, the bill requires that they then “demonstrate average income or resources that are not less than 100 percent of the Federal poverty level throughout the period of admission as a registered provisional immigrant or their status will be revoked.

Let’s talk about the regular employment part first.  The bill allows for periods of unemployment “lasting no more than 60 days.”  Let me re-state that.  Immigrants cannot be unemployed for more than 60 days during the years (as long as 13 years or longer) that their status is being considered.

To put this in perspective, I have an advanced engineering degree from the 2nd ranked university in the world.  In a city (Houston) that handled the recession better than almost any other city in the world, I was unemployed for significantly longer than 60 days during a very tough stretch in 2011.  I am now doing very well working for a prominent international green/renewable engineering firm.  I pay my share of taxes and give to the community whenever I can.  I like to think that I am a fairly productive citizen.  Were I an immigrant subject to S744, however, I would have been deported.

Wage-theft and work-place discrimination are pervasive and prominent issues here in Houston and across the country.   For those that are able to stay continuously employed, the regular employment stipulation in S744 will perpetuate (and by perpetuate I mean worsen) these issues here in Houston and across the country.

Undocumented immigrants tend to work low-income jobs.  Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute estimate that the number of unauthorized adults over 19 with family incomes below the federal poverty level is 3 million [1].  Peter Schey’s (Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law) analysis suggests that 40% or more of all undocumented immigrants may be disqualified from legalization provisions by S744’s harsh employment and income requirements. [1]

Under the 1986 IRCA, as long as immigrants could show that they were “not likely to become a public charge,” they were eligible for status change, public charge  in this case meaning an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence [1].

By now I hope it’s becoming obvious that although S744 purportedly creates a path to citizenship, it places so many impassable obstacles in the way of that path that the whole of undocumented immigrants will be significantly worse off than if such a bill were never passed.

[1] http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/CIRbrief-Profile-Unauthorized.pdf

[2] http://www.centerforhumanrights.org/6-18-13 CHRCL-Peter Schey Analysis Senate Bill Legalization Program.pdf

Dr. Rey Guerra is an engineer in the renewable energy field and is the Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition, a group dedicated to resolving social, economic, and civic issues through education, training, and advocacy.

3rd Centavo is an opportunity for guest bloggers to sound-off (with a progressive bent) on various issues.

Houston Politics Podcast – Episode 3

Dr. Rey Guerra and I are back with another Houston Politics podcast. We feature our first special guest, Christina Sanders, candidate for City of Houston Council District D.

In this episode, we talk about the Sanders campaign; the Voter ID rules; Wendy Davis announcement and Abbott’s attacks; and the DREAM 30. Plus, we have a little bit of chisme (The Cheez).

So, click here to get to the podcast. And don’t forget to share!


3rd Centavo: Guerra ~ S.744 Will Worsen Immigrant Situation, Part II

by Dr. Rey Guerra

This is Part II in a several part series discussing the United States Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act). Part I, introducing the series and discussing the Border Trigger, can be found here.

Part I highlighted the onerous Border Security and Border Fencing triggers. The triggers, and the bill, are structured such that it is possible that they may never be met and “the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.” Here in Part II, another onerous trigger is discussed.


The bill states that the DHS Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens until “the Secretary has implemented the mandatory employment verification system…for use by all employers to prevent unauthorized workers from obtaining employment in the United States.”

The point of E-Verify is to prevent unauthorized workers from gaining employment by requiring that permission be sought from the federal government when starting a job. It is currently being used in 16 states across the country. S.744 basically turbocharges e-verify, making it federal law, requiring every state and every business, anybody hiring anybody anywhere, to implement it.

The negatives of E-Verify have been outlined and discussed for a while now. One of the major issues that I see is that the government is woefully not ready for the program.

When government program errors prevent anybody from making a living, that’s kind of a big deal. When government program errors prevent hundreds of thousands of people from making a living, well, that program needs to be done away with. Rampant false positives already exist. Here are some stats:

  • The US Government Accountability Office estimates that if E-Verify is made mandatory nationwide, 164,000 people would be held up from being hired just because of issues with name changes [1].
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services reports that in 2012, ~1 out of every 400 cases submitted to E-Verify resulted in false positives [2]. In a nation where there are 154 million workers, that would be 400,000 deprived of the right to work.

Oh, and resolving errors isn’t easy. A report by the National Immigration Law Center highlights examples that are typical of people experiencing false positives. Here’s a good one [3]:

  • A US citizen and former captain in the US Navy with 34 years of service and a history of having maintained high security clearance was flagged by E-Verify as not eligible for employment. It took him and his wife, an attorney, two months to resolve the discrepancy.

In addition to the false positives, the AARP is extremely concerned about the strain a nationwide E-Verify would put on the Social Security Administration’s ability to delivery services to its beneficiaries.

There’s more. History and recent data suggest that E-Verify will lead to widespread discrimination and racial profiling. A 1990 study by the GAO found that when the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 required employers to verify identities, 20% of employers engaged in widespread discrimination against foreign-looking AMERICAN workers [4]. You almost can’t blame them. Businesses may avoid interviewing workers just to avoid dealing with the potential hassle (this is racial profiling).

The Huffington Post has a nice short article highlighting the discriminatory issues with E-Verify. For a more in depth study on the negatives with E-Verify, check out the ACLU’s 10 Big Problems with E-Verify.

[1] www.gao.gov/new.items/d11146.pdf
[3] www.nilc.org/document.html?id=337
[4] archive.gao.gov/d24t8/140974.pdf

Dr. Rey Guerra is an engineer in the renewable energy field and is the Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition, a group dedicated to resolving social, economic, and civic issues through education, training, and advocacy.

3rd Centavo is an opportunity for guest bloggers to sound-off (with a progressive bent) on various issues.

Open Slots Available: Science Extravaganza This Weekend [07/27]


There are still 20 to 30 slots available. Kids from all over Houston are welcome to participate in this program which inspires students to enter into STEM fields.

Here’s the press release:

Helms Elementary Teams Up to Host 2nd Science Extravaganza and Community Affair

(Houston, TX) – On Saturday, July 27, 2013, Dr. Rey Guerra, a Houston engineer and community advocate, is teaming with Camp Innovation to organize a Science Extravaganza at Helms Elementary in the Heights.

The Science Extravaganza consists of a full day of fun and free activities to generate student excitement around studying and working in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.  Participants will have the opportunity to build, experiment, and explore with STEM professionals and community leaders.

What:    Greater Heights Science Extravaganza
When:    Saturday, July 27, 2013, 8:00am to 4:30pm
Where:    Helms Elementary, 503 W 21st St, Houston, TX 77008

 “The first Science Extravaganza we held at Helms this past spring was a huge success!  The kids loved it, the parents loved it, the teachers loved it, and now, we’re back hoping to inspire more children,” said the event’s organizer,” Dr. Guerra.

 “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this country has never been more in need of scientists and engineers.  The ultimate goal is that exposure to early and fun exploration will build the STEM professionals of the future,” he added.

 Ashlee, a past participant who now wants to major in engineering jumped at the opportunity to speak up about the Science Extravaganza: “I think the science extravaganza was really good because instead of learning and trying to memorize science concepts in a classroom, you are actually doing, touching and feeling science, so that it is easier to learn and remember.”

 “That’s what’s great about the design of the Science Extravaganza,” added Diana Del Pilar, Principal of Helms Elementary.  “All students collaborated as teams, regardless of their differences in language or readiness, and were all equally excited about the engineering and science workshops.”

 Joseph Sanchez, President of sponsor Camp Innovation, observed, “It is such a privilege to work with Dr. Guerra.  Research has shown that early exposure and mentorship is huge for these kids.  We are very excited to be a part of this collaboration.”

 During the event, parents will have the opportunity to participate in a town-hall style community meeting where they can voice their opinions and concerns about the state of education in Houston and Texas.  Also, booths offering dental screenings, eye exams, and more will be on site to offer their services to the participants.  The event is free of charge.

 For more information, please call/email Joseph Sanchez at 832-859-6656jsanchez@campinnovation.com.

Show Your Support for a HCDE Finalist

I didn’t make it a secret that I support my good friend Dr. Rey Guerra for appointment to the vacant position on the Board of Trustees of the Harris County Department of Education. But, to be fair, there are five other finalists.

This afternoon, the Board will be interviewing finalists for the post. Make your voice heard by contacting the members of the board. Who would you like to see in the position? And why?

Here is a list of board members to call and/or e-mail. The HCDE general number is (713) 694-6300.

Angie Chesnut
Board President

Debra Kerner
Board Vice-President

Erica S. Lee (Carter)
Position 6, Precinct 1

Marvin W. Morris
Position 1, Precinct 2

Kay Smith
Position 4, Precinct 3

Diane Trautman
Position 3, At Large

We may not get a vote this time around, but we are lucky to have some members on the board who are responsive to their constituents.


HCDE Finalists Chosen

UPDATE:  The list of finalists below or in the linked image are NOT in any particular order. 

In case you hadn’t heard through Kuff, our good friend Jim Henley resigned from the Harris County Department of Education Board of Trustees recently. The process to fill the vacancy began recently, and today, six finalists were chosen to be interviewed by the board.

  • Dr. Davetta Daniels – Local educator, recent candidate for HISD Board.
  • Sue Deigaard – Local education activist
  • Louis Evans – UH-Downtown administrator and recent member of the HCDE Board who did not seek re-election.
  • Dr. Rey Guerra – FODC (Friend of Dos Centavos), Engineer, Community Activist, and the only Latino on the list.
  • Dr. Traci Jensen – Educator, recent candidate for Texas Board of Education.
  • Mubeen Khumawala – According to LinkedIn, he works with Deloitte after having worked with in the charter school industry.

I have worked with Dr. Rey Guerra for a few years on various community projects, including Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting., the highly successful Tacos and Votes, the Harris County redistricting hearings to ensure Latino representation on the Harris County Commissioner’s court. Recently, Dr. Guerra hosted a Science Extravaganza at a Heights Middle School in which he and a team of volunteers brought students and professionals in STEM fields together, while also conducting a town hall discussion with the students’ parents.

The current HCDE Board lacks Latin@ representation. In a county with a fast-growing Latino population one must ask why this is so. Given the opportunity, and given a highly qualified individual such as Dr. Guerra, the opportunity is readily available to add some diversity to the panel. Above all, Dr. Guerra strongly supports the work of HCDE and was among the first to volunteer to join the effort to ensure a legislative threat to do away with the district was thwarted. Although the effort may be defeated this year, HCDE needs representatives who are willing to advocate strongly, while keeping the community informed of the district’s efforts.

Best of luck to the applicants; however, I strongly support the appointment of Dr. Rey Guerra.

On Nationwide Falling Crime Rates: A Surprise Hypothesis (Hint: Immigration)

by Dr. Reynaldo Guerra

First, let me say that this blog entry was motivated by an unfortunately too short conversation with Bill King and Greg Wythe on the set of Kim Davis’ Beyond the Headlines this past week.  This is my effort to keep the conversation going.

It has been in the news recently that despite widespread economic hardship, the nation’s crime rates have continued to fall….but nobody can figure out why.

Let’s frame the discussion.

It’s well known that the nation’s crime rate peaked around 1991 (Wiki “Crime in the United States” for a quick primer).  The crime rate has decreased steadily ever since. Now, what’s been drawing the notice of the press recently is that the pace of the decrease seems to be increasing; According to a recent FBI report violent crimes fell 0.7% in 2007, 1.9% in 2008, an impressive 5.3% in 2009, and 5.5% in 2010.

The nation is still in the throes of a dismal economy.  Conventional wisdom has held that our nation’s economy and crime rates are inversely proportional, i.e. if the economy goes down, crime rates go up, and vice versa.  At first glance, this line of reasoning seems rational.  If there are no jobs around, people may be more inclined to steal in the name of survival, or worse, be in a bad enough mood to commit a violent crime. Well, empirical data has disproven this line of reasoning over and over again throughout the years.  The very low crime rates during the Great Depression is a popular example.

So, why have crime rates fallen?  A couple of plausible, and very provocative, reasons have been formulated…and rejected.  The following outlines some of the rejected reasons and the rationale for their rejection.  I propose a hypothesis of my own toward the end of this article.  If you can’t contain your anticipation, feel free to skip to the A Surprise Hypothesis section of this article.

Law Enforcement Reform

As rising crime rates became a national epidemic in the early 90’s, reforms of local law enforcement strategies began to take place all around the country, beginning in New York City.  The Broken Windows Theory and various other reforms on local law enforcement strategies subsequently received deserved credit for the falling rates.  However, major crime rate drops that we are seeing today are occurring in cities that have not enacted major law enforcement reforms, suggesting other contributing factors.

Large Prison Populations

With an incarceration rate four times the world average, a record 2.3 million Americans were behind bars in 2009 (2009, US Bureau of Justice Statistics).  With respect to explaining falling crime rates, the idea behind incarcerating people is that most robberies and violent crimes are committed by a small number of criminals either repeating crimes or likely to repeat crimes; by incarcerating these types of people, crime rates should fall, or so the theory goes.  Again, it’s not that simple.  States with the largest rates of prison population growth in the 1990’s actually experienced lower crime rate drops than the rest of the country.

Now that we’ve ruled out the silly notion of law enforcement having anything to do with the recent crime-rate drops, some of the more viable explanations have proven to be the most scientifically investigated, and the most provocative.

Lead Poisoning

The government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978 (Note: If your house was built pre-1978, you may want to look to the EPA for more information on the negative effects of lead, especially if you are considering remodeling: http://www.epa.gov/lead/).  Scientists have studied the psychological effects of lead on human behavior for some time now and the link between lead and aggressive/impulsive behavior is well established.  Two of the 20th century’s worst crime eras corresponded to peaks in children’s exposure to lead 20 years prior (first due to lead-based paint and then due to leaded gasoline).  The phasing out of lead therefore seemingly would justify a drastic reduction in crime.


Steven Levitt famously makes the case, in his best-selling book, Freakanomics, for the legalization of abortion in 1973.  Levitt argues that Roe v Wade reduced the number of unwanted babies born into troubled homes and, subsequently, abortion deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the drastic crime-rate reduction 20 years later in the early 90’s.

While compelling, the effects of these policy changes in abortion and lead are inherently transient and don’t explain the sustained reduction in crime that we’ve been experiencing the last couple of years.

A Surprise Hypothesis

It is here where I propose we examine the effects of immigration.

Several scientific studies have monitored and analyzed crime rates among immigrant and non-immigrant populations in the United States.  The statistics have overwhelmingly shown, both recently and for the last 100 years, that crime rates among immigrants are drastically lower than non-immigrants.

Crunching some Bureau of Justice 2008 incarceration numbers, the rate of incarceration for non-native born persons 18-39 years of age (the typical crime-committing age range) is somewhere around 0.5%.  In contrast, the rate of incarceration of native-born persons in this age range is an order of magnitude higher at approximately 5%.

The undocumented immigrant population in the United States is currently held to be somewhere around 12 million, double the undocumented population in 1994.  Since 1994, again, the same time period in which the undocumented immigrant population has doubled, the violent crime rate in the US has declined 40%, with the whole country scratching their heads trying to figure out why.  This decline occurred during a time period when the purported effects of Roe v Wade and changing lead policies should have been ebbing.

It turns out that cities with higher immigrant populations are also some of the safest cities in the country.  The most notable of these cities is El Paso, TX.  Despite a poverty rate approaching 30% (twice the national average) and it’s close proximity to the city of Juarez (with more than 4,000 murders since 2008), El Paso regularly ranks as the safest city in the country (Congressional Quarterly, 2011).  El Paso tallied 5 murders in 2010.  Cities of similar size tallied up to two orders of magnitude higher: Milwaukee (72 total murders in 2009), Memphis (132 total murders in 2009).  New York, the largest city in the country and a historically large immigrant city, was the 3rd safest city in the country in 2010, followed by San Jose and San Diego.

The low crime rate data is jaw-dropping and all the more revealing considering that immigrants are much more likely to settle in poorer, disorganized communities, with a historical propensity for crime…and their presence drastically reduces the crime rate in these communities.  This seems reasonable.  Immigrants leave their home country and family in search of jobs and a better livelihood for themselves and for their families back home.  They have much to lose by committing a crime.

With recent immigration numbers dropping, I wouldn’t be surprised to see crime rates shoot back up in the next couple of years.