No sanctuary: On Gov. Abbott’s promise that `Texas will hammer Travis County’

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Good morning Austin:

You may recall that in March 2013 it was revealed that North Korea’s  U.S. Mainland Strike Plan had targeted New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles for attack.

Oh, and Austin.

 

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It was not clear #whyAustin. Nor was it clear that the North Koreans had ICBM’s capable of delivering on the threat.

Apparently, in the years since Austinites laughed off the threat, North Korea has been working hard on its capacity to wipe South by Southwest off the map. But, thanks to God, we’ve got President Trump watching our back.

But, now comes another threat against Austin.

Uh oh.

The governor of Texas is going to hammer Travis County, which is where Austin finds itself. It is also where I find myself and many of you find yourselves. It’s where the governor, and the Governor’s Mansion and the Texas State Capitol find themselves.

And  yet we have now come to the pretty pass where, apparently, it becomes necessary, as was the case with the Vietnamese city of  Bến Tre in 1968, to destroy – or at least hammer – our city/county in order to  save it.

The good news is that, unlike North Korea’s obscure rationale for targeting Austin, Abbott’s reasoning has been plainly articulated.

Austin, he has declared, is a sanctuary city, thanks to its new sheriff, Sally Hernandez, who, the governor contends, by refusing to cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities, is in violation of her oath of office and, if she does not change her ways, must be removed from office. In the meantime, as of last week, the governor has begun to deny Travis County some state funds under his control to try to force the sheriff to bend to his will.

Even amidst the ongoing hostilities, that tweet about Texas hammering Travis County seemed harsh, or at any rate a bit too Trumpian for a man who, after all, is not Donald Trump.

I wondered where that language came from and so I watched Gov. Abbott’s interview with Bill O’Reilly that same day.

 

O’Reilly:  So what are you going to do to Travis County governor.

Abbott: Texas is not going to tolerate any sanctuary city policies, so yesterday, I withheld more than $1.5 million in government grants from the governor’s office to the Travis County sheriff’s office. Also, today we introduced legislation that will put the hammer down on Travis County as well as any sanctuary city policy in the state of Texas. We are seeking fines. We are seeking to withdraw more state funds. We are seeking court orders that will compel officials, like this sheriff, to comply with the law or possibly go to jail themselves.

O’Reilly: What does Sheriff Hernandez want?

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Abbott: She wants to pick and choose which laws she will follow and which laws she will enforce.

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O’Reilly: Austin is a very liberal place and Travis County outside of Austin is a regular Texas place, but what is the sheriff’s justification for defying the federal law?

Abbott: It’s her own policies. It’s her own perception of what she thinks is right. She took an oath of office to uphold the United States Constitution and laws and what she is doing right now is violating that oath.

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O’Reilly: But why, why is she violating it?

Abbott: Because his is her perception and the perception of the people in the liberal Austin city, oh we don’t want to hold these people behind bars.

O’Reilly: Is Miss Hernandez doing this for political reasons. Is she trying to curry favor with the far left? I don’t understand her motivation.

Abbott: It’s both of those that you mentioned. It’s to try to curry favor with the far left or political grandstanding. It’s certain;y bad policy for the safety and security of the folks who live in Travis County and the state of Texas. So basically her policy is idiotic but she is doing it to  pander to the ideology of the left, just like what you see in California, which I will not allow to happen in Texas.

O’Reilly: OK, so you’re going to put the hurt on the county and the sheriff.

Unlike when we were under threat from North Korea, in this case President Trump does not have Austin’s back. He has Gov. Abbott’s back and vice versa.

Bill O’Reilly asked Trump about sanctuary cities in an interview that aired just before yesterday’s Super Bowl, which turned out to be an uncanny replay of the 2016 Trump-Clinton election from beginning to end.

O’Reilly: Let’s turn to domestic policy. I just spent the week in California. As you know, they are now voting on whether they should become a sanctuary state. So California, and the USA, are on a collision course. How do you see it?

Trump: Well, I think it’s ridiculous. Sanctuary cities, as you know, I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime, there’s a lot of problems. If we have to, we’ll defund. We give tremendous amounts of money to California — California in many ways is out of control, as you know. Obviously the voters agree, otherwise they wouldn’t have voted for me.

O’Reilly: So defunding is your weapon of choice?

Trump: Well it’s a weapon. I don’t want to defund a state, a city.

O’Reilly: But you’re willing to do it?

Trump: I don’t want to defund anyone. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.

Still, I wonder.

The problem with collective punishment is it never makes the punisher look good and that it makes martyrs of the victims.

The Moon is Down

The Moon is Down

The funding Abbott rescinded for Travis County included criminal justice grants for projects such as family violence education and a special court for veterans.

Take that.

In a First Reading last week advancing Abbott’s State of the State Address, in which he made legislation to ban sanctuary cities an emergency item, I wrote how the governor and other Texas Republicans were going to have to figure out a new political paradigm now that they couldn’t run and govern against a Democrat in the White House.

(A)s I watched developments in Austin from a distance last week, I was surprised to see how the spirit of Trump was having an energizing, synergizing effect on Abbott, with his judicial background and judicious, unTrumpian temperament, and how, improbably, in newly-elected Travis County sheriff Sally Hernandez, Abbott had found a worthy substitute for Hillary Clinton, and, in sanctuary cities, an issue that would fully align with the ‘you’re fired,” Trumpian zeitgeist of our time.

The problem, though, for Abbott, is that attacking President Obama  – or, had things worked out, President Clinton – is punching up, while beating up on Sally Hernandez is punching down, and punching down is a lot less attractive than punching up.

On Tuesday, Abbott made sanctuary cities legislation one of four emergency items, and on Thursday, the Texas Senate held a marathon hearing on it.

From Sean Collins Walsh’s story in the Statesman.

A young woman who attempted suicide after her father was deported. An unauthorized immigrant who has lived in Dallas for 17 years and owns a small business. Police chiefs who say they depend on strong relationships with immigrant communities to solve crimes. A nurse whose patients are largely immigrants. The Catholic bishop for Austin.

They were among the more than 600 people who signed up to testify Thursday at a marathon state Senate committee hearing on Senate Bill 4, which aims to eliminate so-called sanctuary cities and counties, where local officials decline to participate in federal immigration enforcement efforts. All but a few spoke in opposition to the bill by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock.

But at 12:45 a.m., after 16 hours of testimony, the State Affairs Committee approved the bill in a 7-2 party-line vote, sending it to the full Senate next week.

Of the more than 600 people who signed up to testify, only a handful were there to support the bill. There appeared to be as many Garcias signed up to speak against the bill as the sum total of supporters..

I talked about this over the weekend with John Mckiernan-Gonzalez, an associate professor of history at Texas State University, who specializes in Mexican American history, Latino Studies, the social and cultural history of medicine, and immigration history.

JMG: One of the things that’s clear is that a number of people who participated (in the hearing) are not enfranchised. They are not legal residents. They are DACA. Their dad’s legal status might not be there. But they are participating in the political arena, which is petitioning government, which is supposed to be accessible to everybody even if the vote isn’t.

That’s the big disjunction between all of Texas and it animates a lot of Texas politics.

But it speaks to the big typhus bath riots that happened in El Paso where overwhelmingly working women – and men – who crossed over into El Paso to work – were offended by being put into kerosene and vinegar baths.

(For decades, U.S. health authorities used noxious, often toxic chemicals to delouse Mexicans seeking to cross the border into the United States. A NPR report from John Burnett on the book, “The Bath Riots: Indignity Along the Mexican Border.”)

This offended their dignity, their access to jobs, and just their sense of worth in the streets of El Paso. And I think SB 4, asking police to treat everyone as a potential illegal immigrant – and it should be everybody and not the people you think are Mexican – is, and should, be offensive to everybody. The cops’ job is to make sure crimes are investigated or crimes do not happen, not whether or not people are here legally.

Just as a thought exercise, what if people inquired into people’s tax records before investigating the crime they are alleged to have been a victim to. It would be a very strange world.

I don’t know if people who support these policies have the same sense of anxiety that the policies won’t pass. There’s probably a sense of confidence that the governor is on their side and they don’t need to go out and advocate for this as much as the people who might be considered to be illegal, just by looking at them, whether they are or not.

When thinking about picking a fight with Travis County, he didn’t pick a fight with (former Austin, now Houston Police Chief) Art Acevedo. Art Acevedo had been public throughout about this decision to embrace people and not hand people over to ICE just because they don’t know what their immigration status is, but Abbott picked a fight with Sally Hernandez, who on the first day is, `I’m going to stop the policy of the previous sheriff because I don’t think it’s very helpful to the people who live here.’

It would be really bad to go up against Art Acevedo who looks like a cop’s cop.

Travis County doesn’t work by Charles Perry, Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s rules, and that’s OK, that’s why Lubbock doesn’t work by the same rules. It’s what county jurisdictions are for.

There’s also something else. I miss when Gov. Abbott got up every morning and sued the federal government and ignored the state of Texas, and I think he’s also looking for a role in Texas. I mean punishing campuses for not breaking the law and sharing  the immigration status of their students with police authorities. That doesn’t  sound like Gov. Abbott.

Abbott is the same guy who has made a play for Hispanic votes, noting at every turn that his wife, Cecilia, is the state’s first Latina First Lady.

JMG: Abbott said, `I converted to Catholicism to be part of my wife’s family. I have a big family, Texas is a big family, we’re all in it together,’ and then there’s this.

It’s definitely, `Stay in line, Sally. Stay in line, Austin.’

And it’s also, what are you going to do to Austin? Void the whole city council? Jail Greg Casar for working with (many undocumented) construction workers before he became a city council person, put Kathy Tovo in detention for being a Ph.D. in American Studies, Sarah Eckhardt for putting on a pink hat when she is adjudicating?

How unTexas-like are we supposed to be? You know, let people hang loose and wave their Confederate flags or whatever flag flies. It’s the same difference. It’s not the way people think Texas should be. Get this government off my back so I can do what I want.

I also see people are responded to the bullying of Travis County and the rest of the Texas jurisdictions and Gov. Abbott’s tone and I think a lot of people think the current M.O. is bullying and people want to stand up, `We’re not bullies, and that’s why we’re here.”

From a comment on Gov. Abbott’s Facebook page:

Russell Riggan There was a time in this great State, when we wanted the Federal Government out of our business…Now we are begging for their approval.

Why not fight sanctuary cities in the state and local level, and go back to telling the Federal Government to go screw itself?

 

 

Mckiernan-Gonzalez testified at the hearing. This is from his prepared remarks.

As a voter: I voted for Sheriff Sally Hernandez in 2016. I heard her debate these very same questions with Joe Martinez. In November 2016, the voters of Travis County spoke, and they spoke decisively in her favor. Governor Greg Abbott objected to her nuanced position regarding the ways she intends to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to the ways she plans to serve and protect ALL the residents of Travis County.

This gubernatorial disagreement with Sheriff Hernandez and the voters of Travis County has gone too far. It seems that Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Senator Perry have gone too far in their vendetta against a duly elected Latina police officer. Their anger has turned into SB4: a bill that will endanger and imperil the relationship of immigrant communities, whether legal, international students, mixed status families, and those in liminal legal status to police authority. SB4 may ban a whole class of residents from interacting with public institutions, a decision that will ultimately imperil all of us.

My mother – who asked me to state that she is immensely grateful for her education and her employment (and her citizenship) – brought me up to fear the police, that only harm and pain can come from interactions with police authority. Since moving to Austin, and interacting with one-time sheriff Art Acevedo, and seeing the kinds of warm and fraternal relationship the police have wanted to establish with the Latino community here, I have seen police become advocates for people in my neighborhood. However, SB4 magnifies the threat police can pose, allowing them to turn anything – from a busted blinker to a possible trespassing charge – into the occasion for an ICE investigation.

This simply magnifies the threat; it makes me think that the bill wants to turn Texas police back to the kinds of police my mother experienced under the Rojas Pinilla dictatorship in Colombia. And the bill founders want to do this over and against the wishes of established police departments across the great state of Texas.

I was not at the hearing.

You can watch all 16 hours on a Senate video.

I watched a bit here and there. There are a lot of moving, tearful moments.

Here is Jalyn Castro, an 11-year-old, fifth grader from Arlington. (Jalyn is the name she is identified by on the witness list, but I think she calls herself Janet when she introduces herself)

 

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I am here to tell you, the people that make the laws, that SB 4 will hurt my family and I personally. I am really scared that one day I will get home and my parents may not be there. I fear that I will have no one to take care of me or my puppy.

I personally will be very depressed if SB 4 passes and separates me from my family.

My parents work hard all day to get me whatever I need in life. For example, my dad has a job from 8 to 5 and he always finds extra jobs, coming home late at night. I’ve seen him come home dusty, dirty and tired and I never hear him complain. He does all this to make sure that everyone in our family gets what we need.

Without my family, I would have nobody to care for me. No one to help me with anything. And no one to love me.

Please do not separate my, nor anybody’s family, because we will all be depressed and sad if you take away our families. Thank you for listening.

 

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Here is Norma Herrera of Austin, in the center, representing herself and Youth Rise Texas Austin.

 

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Herrera said that ten years ago, before she a legal resident, she was stopped by police driving to a research methods class at UT-Pan American, for not having a front license plate, but luckily, the officer knew her. She now has both a bachelor’s and graduate degree, and has worked for both Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s office and he Legislative Budget Board.

I ask you  to abandon these efforts to make immigrants ever more disposable. If Texas wants to remain the fifth most productive economy per capita by gross domestic product, you cannot do that on your own

 

My brother is an elementary school math teacher, my sister is a food bank program manager, my cousin is a neonatal ICU nurse, my dad  has labored in Texas oil fields for 30 years, my mom works as a health care attendant to the elderly in South Texas, and we are all public servants.

I ask you to vote no.

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“It’s really hard,” she said as she finished and was being told her time was up. “Which side are you on?”

 

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This is Maria Robles of Arlington, Texas, a very active member of her community and mother to four children who are U.S. citizens. She ended her testimony by standing, putting her hand on her heart and delivering an annotated version of the Pledge of Allegiance.

As I look around at what’s happening in our nation and our state I can’t help but wonder, `Wow, what happened to our pledge of allegiance? What does it really stand for?”These are the thoughts that come to mind as  I recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

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I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United State of America, the only flag I know and love. And to the Republic for which it stands – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In my world as an undocumented person, the American dream is to feel like I belong and I am not persecuted. One nation, under God – we are all created equal in the eyes of God, how can we then treat each other as less than human beings – indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

As I see the Senate bill move forward, the fear paralyzes me, paralyzes my family. I ask you to see me, to see us, the wife, the mother, the sister, the daughter that wants to belong again and have justice for all, not just some. Thank you.

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And this is Ben Weatherman of Austin, who took a more confrontational approach.

My name is Ben Weatherman. I am the co-founder and chief technical officer of a software development  company right here in beautiful Austin, Texas, along with my three immigrant co-founders and we employ nearly 20 people here in Austin

I am here to encourage and implore you to vote against this bill and what my granny would call a load of horse shit.

If you think for a minute that the reason we are concerned for safety here in Austin is undocumented immigrant, you are a fool, a moron and a loser

SAD.

 

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I wish Sen. Perry was here … I wish he was here because he was shoveling horse shit all morning and now these  people only get two minutes and they don’t even get to get clapped at after they make an amazing speech

 

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And here is Sandra Vitone from Hyde Park in Austin.

 

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She cited the governor’s State of the State Address last Tuesday in which, to great applause in the House chamber, he said,  We should demand that the federal government do two things. One: Fulfill important—but limited—responsibilities as written in the Constitution. And two: On everything else, leave us alone, and let Texans govern Texas.

“Let Texans be Texans,” Vitone said, urging a “no” vote on SB 4. “Do not let the federal government threaten us.”

In 2011, ending sanctuary cities was an emergency items for Gov. Rick Perry, but it never made it to his deak.

In July 2015, I wrote

One of the underpinnings of Rick Perry’s long-shot bid for president is that his 14 years of governing a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico gives him unique authority on immigration issues.

Then, less than a month ago, real estate mogul Donald Trump entered the race with what seemed a few ill-chosen words on the subject and stormed to the front of the crowded GOP pack, his position strengthened by the tragic July 1 shooting death in San Francisco of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, allegedly by Francisco Sanchez, a five-time deportee from Mexico who eluded being deported a sixth time because he found himself in a “sanctuary city.”

The issue of sanctuary cities is a familiar one for Perry, who in 2011 pressed the issue for strategic advantage without ever prevailing, and on Thursday he unveiled a national plan to end sanctuary cities. It would deny federal monies to help pay for the incarceration of undocumented immigrants to sanctuary communities that refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On the issue of immigration, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, “Perry has always been very astute,” finding ways to “show that he’s tough” while making as few enemies as possible.

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If Perry is no stranger to the issue of sanctuary cities, Jones said there are subtleties to his handling of the issue that might not be readily apparent.

Perry made a ban on sanctuary cities one of his priority emergency items during the 2011 legislative session. When it didn’t pass during the regular session, he put it on the agenda for a special session, where it also died. This occurred, Jones said, despite the fact that Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, all 19 Republican senators and 101 Republican House members backed the legislation.

During the regular session, it fell victim to the Senate two-thirds rule, which requires two-thirds of senators to agree on whether to debate legislation. That gave Democrats an effective veto. In the special session, in which the two-thirds rule no longer applied, Jones said that Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, chairman of the State Affairs Committee, which had swiftly approved the bill during the regular session, sat on it until it was too late.

Jones believes the “failure” by Perry — abetted by other Republican leaders — to secure passage of sanctuary cities legislation was actually evidence of his deft touch on immigration issues. It enabled Perry to satisfy immigration hard-liners in Texas while keeping Texas from following what was then Arizona’s far more draconian lead. All the better for Perry, Jones said, was that he ultimately didn’t have to sign into law a measure that might have frayed relations with Hispanic voters and business interests that depend on undocumented workers.

There is little likelihood that Abbott’s emergency item to ban sanctuary cities will fail this time. Patrick has complete command of the Senate. The House is unlikely to resist the Senate and the governor on this. It will, at least in the short-term, most likely benefit both Abbott and Patrick politically.

But it is at least possible that the governor, or at any rate the Texas Republican Party, will come to rue the day they won what in the long-term could be a costly victory.

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