Tag Archives: Los Angeles Times

Houston’s Diversity: America Discovering What Locals Already Know

If you live in or frequently visit the city of Houston, then the term “diversity” is surely nothing new.  A stop in virtually any of the city’s major stores, malls or public spaces will quickly reveal a racial/ ethnic mosaic.  Even when Houstonians are segmented in an area of town dominated by one persuasion, they are never too far from others.  This is just the lived experience of those in the city of Houston, Harris County or Fort Bend County.

But to others across the United States, Houston’s Diversity remains something of a secret.  Shrouded by poor representation by our state government, and a disengaged Texas electorate, it’s easy to see why the Houston story is so difficult to grasp for outsiders.  Luckily, jounalists like Brittny Mexia and Gary Coronado of the Los Angeles Times decided to give it a try…

Houston boomed through the mid-20th century, thanks to the oil bonanza, and most of those who came to get rich were white. Large numbers of Vietnamese refugees began arriving in the 1970s, and after an oil collapse in 1982, they were followed by an influx of Latinos driven by cheap housing and employment opportunities. Whites, meanwhile, started drifting out.

The multi-ethnic boom has occurred deep in the heart of a state that has often seemed to regard conservatism, and Texas identity, as an element of religion.

The state’s Republican leadership has helped lead the fight this year not only on sanctuary cities, but to defend President Trump’s order on border security and immigration enforcement. Texas went to court in 2015 to successfully block expanded deportation protections for young “Dreamers” and their parents who brought them here illegally.

Yet demographic experts say the Houston metro area, home to the third-largest population of undocumented immigrants in the country — behind New York and Los Angeles — is a roadmap to what U.S. cities will look like in the coming decades as whites learn to live as minorities in the American heartland.

Census projections have opened a window into the America of 2050, “and it’s Houston today,” said Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor at Rice University.

“This biracial Southern city dominated by white men throughout all of its history has become, by many measures, the single most ethnically diverse major metropolitan area in the country,” Klineberg said. “Who knew Houston would turn out to be at the forefront of what’s happening across all of America?”

If there’s anyone in the country that knew, it’s Dr. Klineberg, as his Houston Area Survey has meticulously tracked these changes for over 35 years.  The strength of Houston’s diversity has also produced real results in other areas.  As ranked by Expert Market, Houston is currently the Best City for Minority Entrepreneurs in the United States. The rapid ascent of educational institutions like the University of Houston and Texas Southern University has been fueled by the region’s minority population growth.

But the demographics are only a small part of the story.  Even as the area swells with new energy, those folks are not being accurately reflected in state and local government.  Though the 2016 elections saw an increase in overall voter participation and the minority vote, there’s little guarantee of those results being a trend. So even if Houston looks like a city of the future,  many more aspects of the area’s way of life are rooted firmly in the past. Until these minority communities discover the true political power which they hold, they will continue to be underserved, underrepresented and under-appreciated.

As more of America looks to places like Houston to chart a successful path forward, let’s hope they see not only an example of how a big diverse community can live together, but how everyone in those communities can have opportunities for success.


Perry Uses Border Surge As Political Pawn

What began as a mostly fringe narrative from the Right has finally slithered into all corners of American politics.  Yesterday in a show of ultimate egotism, Texas Governor Rick Perry decided to take that flawed narrative to new heights by sending 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.  Here’s the story from the Los Angeles Times

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced plans Monday to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the state’s border with Mexico, faulting federal officials for “empty promises” in dealing with an influx of Central American children and families.

“There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government’s failure to secure our border,” the Republican governor said during an Austin briefing with other state leaders.

Perry said the Guard will provide support over the next month to Operation Strong Safety, the state-funded border surge he declared last month. The state operation, which includes sending state troopers to the border to assist local law enforcement, costs $1.3 million a week; the combined operation will cost more than $17 million a month. It’s unclear how it will be funded, Perry said.

So if the reasoning behind Operation Strong Safety and the National Guard troops is to “assist local law enforcement”, it’s reasonable to think that demand for the militarization is coming from local law enforcement.  But that reasoning is completely false.  Local sheriffs, municipal police chiefs and other officials are actually asking for the exact opposite.  Need proof?  From Marfa Public Radio, reporter Travis Bubenik recently spoke with Jeff Davis County Sheriff and Chairman of the Border Sheriff’s Coalition Rick McIvor…

Governor Rick Perry has announced his plan to send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border in response to the recent influx of Central American migrants.

Perry says the troops are needed to protect against threats from Mexican cartels and other criminals, but the Chairman of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition says it’s an unnecessary move.

Jeff Davis County Sheriff Rick McIvor spoke with us about Perry’s plan.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to infiltrate the area with a lot of troops,” McIvor says. “I think you put a lot of fear into the people that live in the area.”

McIvor says the $12 million-a-month price tag for the deployment isn’t a wise use of money for dealing with a humanitarian crisis. That’s a sentiment echoed by border county officials who have already questioned the effectiveness of a Department of Public Safety (DPS) surge launched also by Perry last month.

Since then, tensions have risen between the DPS and border sheriffs, with local law enforcement saying they want a seat at the planning table for border surges, and a say in how the money is spent.

“It’s a negative impact and negative direction they’re taking by not talking to the individual who represents the people,” McIvor says.

On Monday, Perry dismissed claims that the immigration surge has not impacted crime along the border.

Officials in McAllen recently testified that they haven’t seen a rise in crime alongside the influx of unaccompanied minors and families. When questioned about those accounts, Perry said they “may not fulfill the full vision of what’s going on the border.”

So despite mounting evidence that there is no connection between these families fleeing persecution and any type of dangerous criminal activity, the Texas Governor has chosen to waste taxpayer dollars just to scare people.

Rick Perry is sending these troops to the Border for one reason… Rick Perry.  He is using the nation’s recent focus on South Texas as a foothold to resurrect his aspirations of running for President.  For someone so concerned with increases in crime across his state, he sure felt secure enough to parade his strong-arm stances across Iowa this weekend.  If you’re counting, this is the Texas Governor’s fourth visit to the Hawkeye state in 8 months.  Up north, Perry was quick to stoke the fires of fear with fabrications about terrorists, murderers and rapists pouring into the country.  And again, he does this in direct contradiction to his state’s local officials.

For other Texas politicians, the worst thing one can do now is to get lured into Perry’s web of fear-mongering.  Such is the case for State Senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who committed a monumental flip-flop on the issue, now calling for additional law enforcement to help “secure” the situation on the Rio Grande.

Even if Governor Perry is far too gone for reasonable solutions, Democrats have to hope and expect more from Davis.  Just a while ago, she called for President Obama to make a trip to the border and speak with people living through these issues on the ground.  It’s time for Davis to take her own advice and speak with the hard-working local enforcement in South Texas.  If done, she may discover them singing a very different tune from Perry’s war song.

Be sure to consult more smart analysis from Dos Centavos, Brains and Eggs, Texpatriate and Off the Kuff.