Nico Lahood

Nico LaHood: New Directions As Bexar County DA

Anyone in Texas can tell you that 2014 was not a friendly year for Democrats at the ballot box.  None of the party’s much hyped statewide candidates were able to stem the Republican tide.

Competitive countywide races didn’t do much better, but there were a few notable exceptions.  Perhaps none more interesting than the ouster of 3-term Republican incumbent Susan Reed in Bexar County to a rather unconventional Democratic candidate… Nico LaHood.

For one thing, LaHood offers a unique perspective for the Bexar County criminal justice landscape.  As a young man, he was arrested on drug charges and put through the very same system that he now navigates to represent clients.  This experience has the potential to inform a very novel approach for his constituents. He has spoken consistently on the need to reduce the county’s harsh drug conviction and prosecution practices, favoring more efficient use of county taxpayer dollars.

The prominent defense attorney served as both a Magistrate Judge and Special Prosecutor for five Texas counties. During the campaign, he received high-profile endorsements from actress Eva Longoria, Spurs player Tim Duncan and other notable San Antonians.  But the star power was just one ingredient in his success.  LaHood also took advantage of the incumbent’s refusal to debate him in several television appearances.  Right before election day, he even did an interview using a staged empty chair to represent Reed’s frequent absences.  Reed actually won the Early Vote, but LaHood’s voters (unlike Democrats elsewhere) showed in full force for Election Day.

A father, fitness fanatic, and devout person of faith, the citizens of Bexar county can be assured of new directions with Nico LaHood.  For Texas Democrats, a new star just might be born.

Nico Lahood Shirtless

(photo credit:  Michael Giordano)

 

Obama Immigration Action

Finally: President Obama Issues Substantive Immigration Action

If you are a Texan, chances are good that you have met someone who is, knows or is directly related to an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.  16.6 million families in the United States are of  “mixed status” — households where American Citizens and undocumented persons live under the same roof.  As such, President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions, announced tonight, will have a massive effect on the Lone Star State.

On this historic night, here are the basics, directly from a White House Press coordination..

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will help secure the border, hold nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants accountable, and ensure that everyone plays by the same rules.  Acting within his legal authority, the President is taking an important step to fix our broken immigration system.
These executive actions crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

These are common sense steps, but only Congress can finish the job. As the President acts, he’ll continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill—like the one passed by the Senate more than a year ago—that can replace these actions and fix the whole system.
Three critical elements of the President’s executive actions are:
Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration at the Border:  The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.  Continuing the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer, the President’s actions will also centralize border security command-and-control to continue to crack down on illegal immigration.

Deporting Felons, Not Families: The President’s actions focus on the deportation of people who threaten national security and public safety. He has directed immigration enforcement to place anyone suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers at the top of the deportation priority list.
 Accountability – Criminal Background Checks and Taxes:  The President is also acting to hold accountable those undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents.  By registering and passing criminal and national security background checks, millions of undocumented immigrants will start paying their fair share of taxes and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time.

As listed above, these executive actions are not the commands of a king, or the harsh over-extensions of a power-hungry dictator.  They are common-sense reforms that honor the law of the United States, while recognizing the reality of those living within our borders.  Your neighbors, your classmates, your friends and your community members are the ones that will directly affected.

But even if you are not someone related to an undocumented person, the President’s actions help you as well.  Here’s why…

A known community is a safer community.  People that live in fear of deportation also live in fear of the law, and of public actions in general.  Imagine that you are someone who is mugged, and the only witness is an undocumented person.  Would they be willing to go with you to the police station to identify your attacker?  Or someone in a traffic accident… what’s the likelihood that the person who hit you is going to drive off and never be seen again?  These are real issues that everyone in today’s society deals with.  Our law enforcement will now be able to do their jobs better because more people in our communities can be true eyes and ears for bad actors.

A known community is a more prosperous community.  Bringing people out of the shadows decimate the black markets they are forced to rely upon for goods and services.  Their money, and their tax dollars enters the books, and provides more direct contributions to our schools, cities and states.  Legal working abilities also decimate the severe wage theft that many undocumented persons experience, but are too afraid to discuss.

There will be much more to assess in the coming days.  But for tonight, millions of people across this country can rest easier and get ready for a new chapter in their lives.

The venerable Dos Centavos has more.

 

 

BGTX

Battleground Texas Holds Election Debrief in Houston

There’s no way around it.  This month’s election results were tough for Democrats across the country.  But given how much hype was heaped on this year’s races in Texas, and how much attention was generated by candidates like Wendy Davis, the typical drubbing had an especially difficult sting in the Lone Star State.  So many people registered, yet so few of them voted.  So many block walks and phone calls for such disappointing results.

It was this painful reality which set the mood for this week’s special meeting in Houston.  On a very cold evening, volunteers from Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Montgomery and Fort Bend Counties gathered at a Union Hall southeast of downtown to find out what happened, and what lies ahead for Battleground Texas.

Attendees were greeted by BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown and several top-level staff members from the organization.  Brown started the meeting with a sincere thank you to all for the hard work, and acknowledged that the results clearly didn’t go the way they intended.

Then there were presentations from team members Victoria Zyp and Ramsey Reid which discussed preliminary post-mortem data from the election.  They shared some of the figures which they considered to be successes from 2014.  Chief among them were the impressive volunteer base that BGTX was able to form, and the number of new voters that were registered.

“Of the new voters that were registered in Texas this cycle, 67 percent of them had never registered  before.  We had huge success in registering voters under the age of 24.”  said Campaigns Director Ramsey Reid.  During their presentations, we mostly learned about the organization’s bright spots.

BGTX post mortem2

 

Volunteers gather in Houston to hear from BGTX staff members

 

 

BGTX post mortem

 

 

BGTX Field Director Victoria Zyp shares post-election information.

 

But the tough work… figuring out what went wrong, was seemingly left to attendees to decipher.  To no surprise, they had a lot of input.

“The biggest issues originated from the top down, not at the volunteer level.  Why didn’t you all partner with the county parties and local organizations to see what works in Texas?” said one man from west Houston.

Another volunteer from Central Houston noticed inconsistencies with BGTX’s internal data.

“From the GOTV training, I was led to believe that we would be contacting more of the infrequent voters… that was supposed to be our ‘GOTV universe’.  So why is it when I look at the list, I see names of people who vote in every election, including my own, and even elected officials?  They are not infrequent voters.”  said the volunteer and Montrose resident.

To their credit, BGTX staff members were there, and they did listen. They reiterated that this was just the first step in a full post-mortem analysis, and that information from the debrief would be sent out to all in attendance.  They also sought suggestions for upcoming events in 2015 and how they could get involved.

The statewide debriefs are an important first step.  It was important that Jenn Brown and other senior leadership be in attendance to hear directly from Texans on how to proceed for into the next election cycle, because that is the only way this organization can truly improve.  Let’s sincerely hope that as the higher-ups are reaching out to their own group, they are also working to strengthen relationships with the Texas Democratic Party, county Parties and existing local groups.  As learned from this cycle, a coordinated effort is what is needed above all else.

Volunteers came to the debrief seeking answers, and although they didn’t get as many as they would have liked, they at least received a firm commitment that BGTX is ready to listen, willing to learn and able to move forward.  From the meeting, volunteers are still left with some questions, but should have much hope for the future of Battleground Texas.

Texas healthcare

Growing Support For Texas Medicaid Expansion?

Politicians tend to say a lot of things when on the campaign trail.  They make a barrage of promises to different audiences, trying to court voters at every turn.  The 2014 election was certainly no exception for Greg Abbott, who handily defeated Democratic challenger Wendy Davis just weeks ago.

But sometimes what is not said is just as important in politics.  After a resounding victory, Governor-Elect Abbott, who vowed on the campaign trail to never seek any form of healthcare expansion under the Affordable Care Act, has remained surprisingly silent on the issue as he prepares to lead the state.

Meanwhile the chorus of state leaders supporting a Texas solution to healthcare expansion continues to grow louder by the day, even among persons Abbott has hand-picked for the state’s top administrative offices.  Here’s more from the Texas Tribune

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott’s pick for Texas secretary of state voted for a local resolution last year endorsing the expansion of Medicaid — a central tenet of the federal Affordable Care Act that Abbott fiercely campaigned against.

In a phone interview, Carlos Cascos, a Republican judge from Cameron County, said that as secretary of state he was “not just going to go along to get along” with Abbott, and that on health care issues there would be “policy disagreement” among Republican officials.

Last year, when Cameron County officials endorsed expanding Medicaid, Cascos told NPR, “It’s contrary to what the leadership in Austin is recommending, but we thought it was important enough to take a position.”

On Thursday, Cascos qualified his support for extending Medicaid coverage to more than 1 million low-income Texans, saying, “At the time, I was looking at it from a local perspective in terms of the uninsured we have here in the [Rio Grande] Valley.”

Abbott’s very selection of Cascos seems to suggest that the opinions of RGV Republican leaders are important.  The Secretary Of State Designate’s opinons come on the heals support from another influential group, this time appointed by Governor Rick Perry.  Again, more from the Trib

A board of medical professionals appointed by Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that the state should provide health coverage to low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act — a move the Republican-led Legislature has opposed.

The 15-member Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency recommended that the state’s health commissioner be authorized to negotiate a Texas-specific agreement with the federal government to expand health coverage to the poor, “using available federal funds.”

“We’re trying to look at actions whereby more Texans can be covered,” said board chairman Steve Berkowitz, the president and founder 0f SMB Health Consulting. “We’re trying to take the politics out of it.”

As if advocates for Texas citizens themselves were not enough, don’t forget that Texas hospitals, tired of losing billions of dollars to uncompensated care costs, are also facing some tough choices if the state continues to ignore the situation.  This is exactly why the Texas Hospital Association also renewed its call for the legislature to find a Texas solution that helps them, and those seeking medical care.

For Abbott to remain silent when so many groups are speaking out is telling.  Is he listening to the bi-partisan coalition to help Texas families?  Will he change his position on the issue and allow our Texas tax dollars to come back where they belong?  Even if Abbott were to come out in support, what are the chances of finding support withing the legislature, or of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick even bringing such an issue to the Senate floor?

The answers to all will be revealed soon, but for now, the best thing Texans can do is keep talking.  At least then, there is a small chance that our voices will be heard as well.

 

(photo credit:  Travel Trip Journey)

Texas for marriage

New Campaign For Marriage Equality Targets Texas

Over the last couple of years, marriage equality has spread across the United States like wildfire.  At present, it is the law of the land in 33 states and the District of Columbia.  A clear majority of United States citizens now live in states where same-sex couples can legally marry.

But not Texas.  Not yet.

With a sweeping record of victories under their belt, one national equality organization has now set its sights on Texas to try and advance the cause.  Here’s more about the Texas for Marriage campaign from Lone Star Q

The national group Freedom to Marry plans to spend $200,000 on the campaign launched Tuesday, in advance of oral arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January in a federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ same-sex marriage bans.

The campaign will be led by Ward Curtin, three-time deputy campaign manager to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.

“Nearly every state and federal court from last year on, more than 50 – with judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents and governors – has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and moving the country forward,” Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said. “Texas families should not be left behind. Government has no business interfering in important freedoms like who Texans marry, and no business putting obstacles in the path of families and employers trying to do the right thing. Our new campaign will show that Texans are ready for the freedom to marry, and so is America.”

In addition to a website unveiled Tuesday, TxForMarriage.org, the campaign will feature statewide TV ads, townhall meetings and a Republican-led effort by young conservatives.

“Gay marriage was barely a blip on the radar this past election cycle in Texas, as it was in the rest of the country,” McKinnon said. “That’s because discrimination doesn’t sell like it used to — and because Texans from all walks of life, from big cities to small towns, believe strongly in freedom and family. Supporting gay couples marrying is squarely in line with these Texas values.”

The group’s coordinated approach combines the personal stories of LGBT Texans with a strong case for why marriage equality makes sense for state business leaders.  All valid reasons that will hopefully strengthen the state’s growing coalition in support of equal marriage rights.

This is a strong start, but as Texas for Marriage moves forward, let’s hope that they do not leave out other important voices in this argument… the religious community itself.  Perhaps it is likely that the group wants to maintain a direct posture that steers clear of religion in all of its forms.  A large part of existing arguments for marriage equality stem from the view that it is strictly a secular institution from the government’s standpoint, and therefore leaves religious entities to make their own decisions about how to view same-sex marriage.

But it’s still important to recognize that many religious entities do support marriage equality, and as such, those voices continue to be noticeably absent from the conversation in Texas.   Dynamic congregations across the state are now supporting equality, some at similar rates to society at large.  Even if the push for marriage is mostly about government recognition, the religious community can still be of great use to change hearts, minds and overall public opinion.

At any rate, let’s hope the new push merits some results.

Old Red Dallas

Texoblogosphere: Week of November 17th

The Texas Progressive Alliance continues to look forward as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at some pro- and anti-equality bills that were pre-filed for the 2015 Legislature.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and for Daily Kos notes that although the Republican voter suppression efforts had its intended effect of keeping so many of us away from the polls, Texas Democrats share some of the blame for voter apathy. Voter Suppression did the Trick in Texas.

Evidence from around the country emerged in the wake of the 2014 election drubbing that change is going to have to come to the Democratic Party from both within and without. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs understood early on that if they cannot regain relevance in midterm elections, then we are all destined to ride the partisan see-saw every two years… and let gridlock reign.

Social Media has been great at blowing up narratives generated from republican think tanks and published in mainstream newspapers, magazines and TV Shows. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to help: No, the new set of Republicans in Congress aren’t less crazy and more pragmatic than Todd Akin or Sharron Angle.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. One more time on some post-election commentary, Williamson Democrats, Battleground Texas, And The Way Forward.

Neil at All People Have Value said that there is not very much to say. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texas Leftist offers an insider’s view of Battleground Texas… What went right, what went wrong and how the organization moves forward from here. Square one?? Get to know Texas, and don’t mess with what already works.

Easter Lemming, in one of his rare and even popular posts outside of Facebook, covers a Republican blogger who shows how the Republican victories of 2014 set them up for defeat in 2016. There is a Democratic state firewall that would be almost impossible for Republicans to breach to get the presidency and the only question is how many seats will the GOP lose in the Senate and House. Easter Lemming now mainly posts on his Easter Lemming News Facebook page.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Concerned Citizens scouts out the San Antonio Mayoral race.

Lone Star Q has a surprising report about Westboro Baptist’s involvement in the recent Houston anti-gay protests.

Nonsequiteuse examines the cult of Mommy and the cult of the fetus.

Unfair Park wants to know why Ted Cruz wants to slow down their Netxflix streaming.

Texas Watch is hiring.

Juanita relates the worst Veterans’ Day story ever.

Scott Braddock documents a teabagger slap fight in North Texas.

Fred Lewis sums up the evidence that wasn’t presented at the San Jacinto waste pits trial.

 

(Photo of the Old Red Museum, the former Dallas County Courthouse in Dallas, Texas.  Credit:  Masonry Systems)

Diane Guerrero

Actress Diane Guerrero Tells Her Story: “My Parents Were Deported”

To most Americans, Immigration reform is just a debate topic.  We hear about it all the time, from the comforts of our home television set, computer or tablet.  On a days we’re feeling bold, we may trade barbs back and forth between friends.  It’s just another issue to enliven the conversation… talk a little bit about tax rates, street repair, the undocumented.

But to those that are directly affected, immigration reform is all too real.  Families across this country are living in a constant state of fear that life as they know it could change drastically at the next door knock.

Over the weekend, one American actress decided to share her story of those fears realized with the whole world.  Here is an excerpt from Diane Guerrero’s powerful piece in the Los Angeles Times

In “Orange Is the New Black,” I play Maritza Ramos, a tough Latina from the ‘hood. In “Jane the Virgin,” I play Lina, Jane’s best friend and a funny know-it-all who is quick to offer advice.

I love both parts, but they’re fiction. My real story is this: I am the citizen daughter of immigrant parents who were deported when I was 14. My older brother was also deported.

My parents came here from Colombia during a time of great instability there. Escaping a dire economic situation at home, they moved to New Jersey, where they had friends and family, seeking a better life, and then moved to Boston after I was born.

Throughout my childhood I watched my parents try to become legal but to no avail. They lost their money to people they believed to be attorneys, but who ultimately never helped. That meant my childhood was haunted by the fear that they would be deported. If I didn’t see anyone when I walked in the door after school, I panicked.

And then one day, my fears were realized. I came home from school to an empty house. Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn’t there. Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers, and just like that, my stable family life was over.

Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me. No one checked to see if I had a place to live or food to eat, and at 14, I found myself basically on my own.

As the only U.S. Citizen in her immediate family, Ms. Guerrero suddenly found herself an orphan.  As she shares in this heartbreaking interview on CNN’s New Day, her parents and brother are still in Colombia, and she had to depend on friends and neighbors through high school and college just to make it.

Guerrero also spoke to why her family came to the United States in the first place. They were fleeing an unstable situation in their home country, and tried to do things the legal way first…

What people don’t realize… it is so difficult for people to come here, get their papers and become documented.  My parents tried forever, and the system didn’t offer relief for them.

Under current law and an immense backlog, legal immigration to the United States can take as long as 24 years to be fully realized… literally an entire generation of one’s life.  For all of the people arguing for folks to “go to the back of the line”, they’re not talking waiting for a new toy at CostCo.  Would any American citizen be willing to wait that long to do… well, anything??

As the country waits to hear President Obama’s plans for sweeping Executive Actions that would set to prioritize how deportations are to be handled, let’s get yet another thing clear. Comprehensive Immigration Reform or not, we MUST have a plan for prioritization.  We all know that it is impossible to deport every single undocumented person at once.  We also know that the vast majority of these persons pose no threat to the communities that they are already living and working in.  The country’s law enforcement agencies continue to waste valuable time and money pursuing people that are doing nothing wrong, while the real criminals are left to do as they please.

For the sake our citizens and their loved ones, it’s time to act on these misguided deportation policies.  The health and safety of real families shouldn’t be up for debate.

 

A Voice for the Rest of Texas