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Trump Budget Cuts Would hit Texas Education Service Programs Hard

President Trump’s proposed budget would cut about $14 million from Texas programs designed to provide tutoring, mentorship and counseling for low-income students.

Mary Ellen Isaacs looks at the Trump Administration’s proposed budget and sees no federally-funded tutors for the 2,000 Austin students who pass through the Literacy First program for extra reading help each year.

Isaacs, the director of the program, placed about 106 AmeriCorps volunteers to tutor in low-income Austin schools this year, and received about $12,900 per full-time volunteer. Next year, she might not see any of that money.

The Trump Administration Thursday released its proposed federal budget, which would eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that deploys volunteers across the country to staff service programs in underserved communities.

Among the major programs the Corporation for National and Community Service runs is AmeriCorps, which funds more than 80,000 volunteers nationwide every year.

The funding cuts might not slash those programs entirely in Texas, but advocates say it will make it more difficult to provide their tutoring, mentorship and other education services for Texas students.

“There are options,” Isaacs said. But without the money to support volunteers, “all of the programs would need to rethink and tweak how the program is delivered. We’d be hard pressed to serve the same number of kids, at least immediately.”

Texas received $14 million in federal AmeriCorps grants in 2016-17, which funds 2,414 AmeriCorps volunteers to work with 28 schools and non-profits at 500 sites. The organizations are required to raise their own share of money to support the program; in 2016-17 they raised about $31 million in local match funding.

Most of the money goes to education programs, said Elizabeth Darling, CEO of OneStar Foundation, which administers AmeriCorps in Texas.

“Overall, I feel that it would definitely reduce many of those programs,” she said. “It shouldn’t eliminate them because we’re never the sole funder.”

For Communities in Schools in Central Texas, that means less capacity to provide mentorship, community resources, and counseling services year round in six school districts.

The federal money gives students help “to get them across the finish line. Schools don’t have resources to work one-on-one, or small group,” said Suki Steinhauser, CEO of the organization.

Trump’s preliminary budget eliminates funding for 19 other agencies, and cuts funding from many departments, including the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department, Agriculture Department and Education Department.

“Consistent with the President’s approach to move the nation toward fiscal responsibility, the budget eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs and focuses funding to redefine the proper role of the federal government,” reads a document of budgetary priorities the White House said in a written statement released Thursday.

Author:  ALIYYA SWABY – The Texas Tribune

NM’s Udall Defends, Celebrates Free Press in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall took President Donald Trump to task on the U.S. Senate floor Wednesday over his treatment of reporters and news organizations.

Udall shared some of the history of journalism with fellow senators, and spoke about why a free press is crucial to a functioning democracy. His statement came during Sunshine Week, an annual observance of America’s open government and free press.

Stewart Mizell III is an executive with USA Today and president of the American Society of News Editors, the group that founded Sunshine Week.

“It’s a week-long celebration of a true right that Americans have to get access to meetings, to records, to data – at every level of government,” Mizell said of the event.

He said his group is happy that Sen. Udall decided to add his voice to, “thousands of Americans who believe that open government is their right.”

In his presentation, Sen. Udall warned that a government that shrouds itself in secrecy can become an oligarchy.

Mizell explained that the purpose of Sunshine Week is to recognize the role and importance of the news media in getting information to the public about the workings of government. This year’s theme is, “It’s Your Right to Know.”

“It’s a critical element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances,” Mizell said. “You don’t have an opportunity to know what to petition unless you understand what government is doing, and exercise your right as a citizen to find out.”

He said the point of Sunshine Week is also to reinforce the need for a well-informed population, and that’s what prompted the American Society of News Editors to establish Sunshine Week in 2005.

Author: Brett McPherson, Public News Service – NM

Cornyn Op-Ed: Don’t End NAFTA. Fix It.

When looking for a model economy, Washington would be wise to look no further than Texas. The “great American jobs machine,” as we’re affectionately known, has been the economic engine that pulled our country out of the recent recession, singlehandedly adding more than one million jobs to the American economy. In fact, if Texas were its own country, we would be the 10th largest economy in the world.

Now, with pro-growth Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, leaders are beginning to consider proposals to lift our economy out of a sluggish recovery. But as we work together to jumpstart our factories and farms across the country, let’s keep in mind what my state has gotten right.

Trade has been a cornerstone of the Texas economy, with no partner more important than Mexico.

As our largest export market, Mexico has an extraordinary economic relationship with Texas. Trade with our southern neighbor supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in my state and provides more goods at a better price for Texas families. More than a third of all Texas merchandise is exported to Mexico – meaning our farmers, ranchers and small businesses have found no shortage of customers south of the border too.

This explosion in trade for our state has catapulted Texas to the top of exporting states in the country for more than a decade now. Thanks to trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), goods and services flow more freely among the three North American countries, growing jobs across Texas and stretching paychecks further. This isn’t just true for Texas. A majority of exports coming from Michigan and Ohio, for example, are bound for our NAFTA partners too.

Trade in Texas – specifically along our Southern border with Mexico – doesn’t just work in theory. It’s the reality on the ground too. Last week I led a congressional delegation to the border to see this economy in action. We visited the Pharr International Bridge in the Rio Grande Valley – a bridge that facilitates about $30 billion in trade a year. We also visited Laredo, a port that handles about a third of all international trade in Texas, with 14,000 trucks passing through daily. In other words, the Texas border serves as a major gateway for agriculture and manufactured goods trade. It moves more freight along its 1,200-plus miles of southern border than any other border state. And this trade in turn fuels economic growth and vitality across the region and the entire country.

But like anything that’s dated, there’s room for NAFTA to be improved. It’s now more than 20 years old. Texas and the United States as a whole would benefit from a revised agreement that makes trade freer and fairer. By fixing NAFTA, we can address modern-day challenges and preserve and protect America’s unrivaled stability and prosperity into the next century.

Consider the nation’s energy landscape. It has changed dramatically since the trade deal was hammered out in the 1990s. With the recent lifting of the U.S. crude oil export ban and Mexico’s energy reforms, a renegotiated deal should account for regulatory cooperation and capacity-building provisions that promote investment and the free flow of American energy, particularly a streamlined approval process for LNG exports. There’s room to bring the services trade into the 21st century, strengthen intellectual property rights and eliminate non-science barriers to trade, too.

As the administration and Congress look to improve existing trade deals, such as NAFTA, we would also be wise to focus on strengthening the Southern border. The president has made no secret of rightly prioritizing our country’s safety. Securing the border is an essential part of that equation.

But as we do, we must be quick to engage community leaders and business-owners along the border. Yes, they want security and protection. But they also know that key to the success of Texas and the nation has been the cultivation of an environment that can manage the demands of high-volume trade. That means keeping legitimate trade and travel flowing, while simultaneously screening criminal elements and contraband to keep them out. In other words, the border ecosystem demands a careful balance.

It’s our job to consider how to gain complete control of the border, while equipping our Customs and Border Patrol agents with the resources they need to keep our economy up and running. That way, everyone can benefit from access to markets on the other side.

Texas – where taxes are low, regulations are sensible and trade is encouraged – has proven time and again that we’re a blueprint for growing the national economy. In my state, border security, trade and the economy are intimately connected. So as Congress considers whether to revisit agreements like NAFTA and how to best secure the border, we must take great care to advocate for smart policies that drive growth here at home and enhance our partnerships abroad.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.  This column originally appeared in Politico Magazine and is reposted with permission.

Recent Raids Drive Immigrant Families to Passport Scramble

Fearing deportation, immigrant families are crowding passport lines across the state as undocumented parents seek U.S. passports for their American children.

Carlos Bernal and his wife woke up their children, gathered their documents and drove to the Travis County passport office before dawn Monday. They were first in line at 5 a.m., three hours before the office opened.

“We’re here to get our kids passports, in case they kick us out,” Bernal said in his native Spanish.

His children, ages 14, 13 and 6, are U.S. citizens. He and his wife are not. Because of recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, he said, they have to be ready to pack up and leave the country for Mexico.

A recent flurry of ICE apprehensions around the country has sent undocumented immigrants from various countries running to passport offices and their native countries’ consulates for documentation they pray they won’t need.

At the Salvadoran consulate in Dallas, Consul General Jose Mario Mejía Barrera said his office has seen a 25 percent increase in passport applications and child registries in the past month. Mejía Barrera’s consulate serves around 150,000 Salvadorans who live in North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“There’s uncertainty and worry among the community. People are realizing they have to file the right paperwork,” Mejía Barrera said. “Children who are born here, with Salvadoran moms or dads, are being registered so they have dual citizenship. Couples are registering their marriages so that they’re valid in El Salvador.”

At the Mexican consulate in Austin, Consul General Carlos Gonzalez Gutiérrez said his office has seen an uptick in the number of applications for passports and birth certificates since the November presidential election. Last month’s ICE activity in Austin scared immigrants more, he said, because non-criminal immigrants were detained — a change from Obama-era policies.

On Friday, Gonzalez Gutiérrez’s consulate will hold its first-ever custody session to help undocumented Mexicans understand how guardianship works in case they have to leave their children with a documented family member or friend. Gonzalez Gutiérrez said immigrants also ask the consulate about property rights, wondering if the U.S. government can confiscate their homes.

“Their questions show the state of anxiety that the community is in,” said Gonzalez Gutiérrez, whose office oversees nearly 450,000 people of Mexican origin in Central Texas. “Up until a few months ago, these questions were unimaginable.”

Two weeks ago, ICE arrested dozens of undocumented immigrants across the nation in what they said was a routine action. But the immigrant community was already on edge because of rising anti-immigrant rhetoric during the presidential campaign, and the ICE actions sent many undocumented families into a panic.

Families wait in line outside Travis County's passport office. Undocumented parents fearing deportation visited the office to get passports for their American children.  | Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera
Families wait in line outside Travis County’s passport office. Undocumented parents fearing deportation visited the office to get passports for their American children. | Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Behind the Bernals at the Austin passport office, the majority of the line was made up of immigrant families clutching their children’s birth certificates; they waited several hours before being allowed inside the passport center.

For some families, this was the first of two passport lines they had to navigate to ensure their children are correctly documented.

Romina, a Mexican woman who has lived in Austin for 10 years, said she was going to get Mexican passports for her U.S.-born children after they secured their American passports. This is part of her emergency plan, she said, in case she or her husband are deported. Because she’s an undocumented immigrant, she asked to be identified only by her first name.

“Yes, there are some bad immigrants,” she said, “but there are so many more good immigrants who pay taxes. I pay taxes.”

Nancy Howell, manager of Travis County’s passport program, said her office normally serves slightly more than 100 applicants a day. In the past couple of weeks, however, they’ve been serving more than 200, with most lining up outside early in the morning. Most days, she said, her office has to tell some families to come back the next day when the office closes.

On average, she said, it takes between 15 and 30 minutes to serve each family. The office has five to six staffers, but only two are fluent Spanish speakers. Howell said it is the customer’s responsibility to bring a translator.

“We could probably do more if we had more clerks,” she said.

Outside, Anallely Aviles observed her kids, 6 and 4, running around, weary from waiting. Young children are as scared as the adults about the increased deportations, she said.

“They know already because they hear it from us or they hear it in school,” she said in Spanish. “If ICE comes to the door, they know they don’t have to open it and should go hide in the room and try to make no noise.”

Read more

  • A week after immigration agents launched surprise raids in Austin and surrounding areas, hundreds marched downtown in protest, saying fear has engulfed the Central Texas immigrant community.
  • Undocumented immigrant Miguel Angel Torres was on his way to deliver Valentine’s Day chocolates to his daughter last week near Austin. In what his family calls a case of mistaken identity, Torres was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Author:  MARIANA ALFARO – The Texas Tribune

O’Rourke on Cruz challenge in 2018: “I really want to do this”

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, is sailing toward a 2018 Senate campaign, an uphill battle that would pit the little-known congressman against one of the state’s most prominent Republicans in the unpredictable era of President Donald Trump.

“I really want to do this,” O’Rourke said in an interview Saturday in which he also promised to run a positive campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — no matter how much animus the incumbent inspires among Texas Democrats.

“Being against Ted Cruz is not a strategy,” O’Rourke said. “It might motivate some folks and might make the election of a Democrat for the first time in 30 years more likely, but it in itself is not a strategy, and so I’m really putting my time and my efforts and my thinking into what makes Texas a better place and what makes the lives of the people who live in this state better, and so I’m just going to stay focused on that.”

O’Rourke has said for weeks that he is likely to take on Cruz but has not set a timeline for an official announcement. He said Saturday he wants to make sure he is mindful of his current constituents and that “I’m thoughtful in how I make this decision and keep El Paso, my family, foremost in mind.”

“I don’t want to run unless we’re going to win, and I’m confident we can,” O’Rourke said. “I just want to make sure the way we do this, we set ourselves up for victory.”

O’Rourke’s case for the Senate seat is two-pronged. He said he believes it is more important than ever for the Senate to serve as a check on the president, and he also believes he brings a unique perspective to the immigration debate as a Democrat from El Paso — “the Ellis Island of the western hemisphere.”

O’Rourke may have Democratic company in his campaign to unseat Cruz. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio is also weighing a bid and plans to announce his decision in early April, a timeline that O’Rourke said has no bearing on his own.

“I have the greatest respect for him, consider him a good friend and have told him I think he’d make an outstanding candidate and a terrific senator for the state of Texas, but his decision-making process is outside of my control, so I can only focus on what I can do,” O’Rourke said.

If it came to it, O’Rourke said he would be open to a contested primary against Castro, again noting that is beyond his control.

If O’Rourke runs for Senate, fundraising would likely be one of his biggest challenges. While he was the underdog in his 2012 Senate campaign, Cruz has since built a national fundraising network, partly through his 2016 presidential bid.

O’Rourke has already made clear he plans not to accept PAC money in a potential Senate campaign. Asked Saturday if that would apply to money from national Democratic groups who may want to help him out, O’Rourke held firm that he “won’t take money from political action committees — and that’s across the spectrum.”

“I think folks just need to know that, clean and simple,” O’Rourke said. “When you start picking and choosing then, you know, it becomes a slippery slope and you just start doing what everyone else is doing, what everyone is so sick of and what has made Washington so dysfunctional and corporate.”

O’Rourke was visiting Austin on Saturday to speak at a rally at the Texas Capitol against some of Trump’s early actions as president, including his proposed border wall. Castro was also scheduled to address the rally. O’Rourke told the crowd that it is a “time for us take back our communities, our state, the United States Senate and the United States of America.”

Castro also spoke at the rally, invoking Cruz twice as he denounced Trump’s policies. “I hope today that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz can hear us from Washington, D.C,” Castro said shortly after taking the stage to loud cheers.

Working the crowd afterward, Castro encountered some supporters who encouraged him to run for Senate — including a man who said he had never donated the maximum amount to a campaign before but said he would do so for Castro.

Speaking with the Tribune after the rally, Castro said he is looking to announce his 2018 decision “by the end of April” and took a pass on responding to recent jabs from Cruz. The incumbent had suggested in a radio interview that Castro would be “retired from public service” if he got into the 2018 race.

“Everything that’s going on now is bigger than Ted Cruz,” Castro said, “and it’s bigger than me, honestly.”

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Immigrants Do Not Increase Crime, Research Shows

DENVER – As President Donald Trump continues to make good on promises to deport undocumented immigrants – with some seeking protection in sanctuary churches – a new study shows U.S. cities with large immigrant populations experience lower rates of crime.

Contrary to the president’s statements, four decades of evidence shows no link between immigration and increased crime, according to Robert Adelman, the study’s lead author at the State University of New York.

“For crimes like murder, robbery, burglary and larceny – as immigration increases, crime decreases on average in American metropolitan areas,” he points out. “We found no effect of immigration on aggravated assault.”

Researchers studied census and FBI crime data in 200 metropolitan areas from 1970 to 2010.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly maintained immigrants increased crime. Since taking office, he has signed executive orders restricting entry into the U.S., prioritizing deportation, authorizing construction of a wall on the Mexico border, and withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities.

Adelman says facts are critical in the current political environment, and points to research showing foreign-born individuals are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

In his view, the benefits brought by immigrant populations to U.S. cities outweigh any perceived risks.

“When we think about the benefits of immigration, you can think of economic revitalization, population growth, contributing to lower rates of vacant and abandoned buildings, cultural enrichment and – with our findings, in many cases – lower levels of crime,” Adelman stresses.

Adelman adds he hopes the research will help policymakers make decisions based on scientific evidence, not ideologies and claims that demonize particular segments of the U.S. population without facts to back them up.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service – CO

Trump Administration Directs Border Patrol, ICE to Expand Deportations

The Trump administration on Tuesday moved one step closer to implementing the president’s plans to aggressively rid the country of undocumented immigrants and expand local police-based enforcement of border security operations.

In a fact sheet outlining the efforts, the Department of Homeland Security said that though their top priority is finding and removing undocumented immigrants with criminal histories, millions more may also be subject to immediate removal.

“With extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” the fact sheet explains. “The guidance makes clear, however, that ICE should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crimes, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offense.”

The memo did not include instructions to halt the 2012 executive action called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which has allowed about 750,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to live and work in the country legally.

The guidelines also state that the Department of Homeland Security has authority to expedite the removal of undocumented immigrants who have been in the country illegally for at least two years, a departure from the Obama administration’s approach of concentrating mainly on newly arriving immigrants.

“To date, expedited removal has been exercised only for aliens encountered within 100 air miles of the border and 14 days of entry, and aliens who arrived in the United States by sea other than at a port of entry,” the agency states.

The action also seeks to expand a police-based immigration enforcement program known as 287(g), which allows local and state officers to perform immigration duties if they undergo the requisite training. The program fell out of favor under the Obama administration after Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in 2012 that it wouldn’t renew contracts that were in place at the time.

“Empowering state and local law enforcement agencies to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law is critical to an effective enforcement strategy, and CBP and ICE will work with interested and eligible jurisdictions,” the memo reads.

Expansion of the 287(g) program will be concentrated on the “border regions,” according to the memo. It’s still unclear what the sweeping measures mean for state-based immigration efforts in Texas. The Legislature is currently debating a bill to outlaw “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Texas, the term commonly assigned to local entities that don’t enforce immigration laws or hand over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

Since the November election, lawmakers have expressed hope that the Trump administration would make good on Trump’s promises to secure the border but have continued plans to focus on the issue in Austin while Washington was fine-tuning its efforts.

Immigrant rights groups immediately blasted the news Tuesday as a mass-deportation campaign that goes against stated promises to only concentrate on criminal aliens.

“Now they are openly admitting that they ‘will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,’”  said Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigrant rights group, in an statement. “These memos amount to an instruction manual for the coast-to-coast, fast-track deportation of everyone in the United States without papers, no matter how long they’ve been here, how strong their family ties, and how much they contribute.”

The memo also calls for immediately hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, asks Homeland Security to identify all sources of federal aid to Mexico over the last five years and calls for the agency to identify and allocate all sources of available funding for the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of a border wall. Under the new guidelines, all undocumented people approved for deportation will be returned to the country from which they entered illegally instead of where they originally came from. That means Mexico will see an influx of immigrants from Central America and elsewhere who used the country as an entry point into the United States.

On Monday, ProPublica, citing former Mexican and American officials, reported on how that policy shift could create new security issues for the region “as authorities in each country push unwanted migrants back and forth.”

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

UT/TT Poll: A new President, Popular with Texas Republicans

Texas Republicans have rallied strongly around President Donald Trump in the first weeks of his administration. Texas Democrats had just as strong a reaction — in the other direction.

In his second month in office, President Donald Trump is getting overwhelmingly good grades on his job performance from the state’s Republicans, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Trump is popular enough to cast positive light on Russian President Vladimir Putin, a world figure who turns out to be markedly more unpopular with Texas Democrats than with Texas Republicans.

Overall, 46 percent of Texans approve of the job Trump been doing and 44 percent disapprove. But Republicans are crazy about him: 81 percent approve of Trump’s work so far, and only 10 percent disapprove. Moreover, 60 percent of Republicans said they “strongly” approve; another 21 percent approve “somewhat” of the president.

Emily Albracht | The Texas Tribune
Emily Albracht | The Texas Tribune

“He looks good,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. “Republicans as a group were tentative in their embrace of Donald Trump during the election campaign. They are hugging him now. His favorability rating among Texas Republicans increased 21 points between October and February.”

Likewise, 81 percent of Texas Republicans have a favorable opinion of Trump, while 12 percent have an unfavorable impression of the president.

As you might expect, Texas Democrats fiercely disagree in what amounts to an almost equal but opposite reaction to the Republicans: 83 percent of Texas Democrats disapprove of the job Trump has done as president, 76 percent of them “strongly.” And 85 percent of Democrats said they have an unfavorable opinion of the new chief executive.

“If you’re a Republican, even if you don’t like the guy, well, there’s the Supreme Court and the repudiation of a bunch of smug ideologues [on the left]; this isn’t the worst thing in the world,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor at UT-Austin. “The reaction of the left — the resistance — probably reinforces that.”

Independents were split almost evenly on both questions in the poll, with 39 percent approving and 36 disapproving of the job Trump is doing; 42 percent saying they have a favorable impression of the president, while 45 percent have an unfavorable one.

Overall, 45 percent of Texans have a favorable impression of Trump and 46 percent have an unfavorable one.

TT-RossChart-poll.004
Emily Albracht | The Texas Tribune

Putin seems to be benefiting from Trump’s attention and from the American president’s popularity.

“On the surface, the topline number looks like you would expect: Vladimir Putin is not a popular figure with Texans,” Henson said. “But the details testify to the powerful influence of presidential signaling on his partisans. The president of Russia’s negatives are 28 points higher among Democrats than they are among Republicans, full stop.”

Overall, Putin is clearly unpopular, but while only 10 percent of Texans have a favorable impression of the Russian president and 62 percent have an unfavorable view of him, the disdain is much stronger among Democrats than Republicans. While 79 percent of Democrats have unfavorable opinions of Putin, 51 percent of Republicans do — a 28-percentage-point difference of opinion. Few Texans have favorable opinions of Putin — 7 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of Republicans — but while 7 percent of Democrats had neutral view of the Russian, more than a quarter of Republicans said they had neither positive nor negative opinions of him.

“It’s not like they’re loving Putin,” Shaw said. “You’re basically getting 50 percent of Republicans saying, ‘No, the guy is a thug.’ Which means 50 percent are saying he’s not a thug.

“This speaks to the Trump halo effect,” he added. “Putin seems to prefer Trump, and I prefer Trump, therefore Putin can’t be all bad. But the notion that there’s an openness to cozy up to Russia, I don’t think so.”

Emily Albracht | The Texas Tribune
Emily Albracht | The Texas Tribune

Texans’ views of Vice President Mike Pence more or less mirror their opinions of Trump: 42 percent view him favorably, 40 percent unfavorably. Among Republicans, 79 percent have favorable views of Pence. Among Democrats, 74 percent have unfavorable views of him. Independents were more negative than positive about the Veep: 29 percent have favorable views, while 44 percent said their opinions were negative.

About half of the respondents said Donald Trump does not have the temperament to be president and do not think he is honest and trustworthy. That’s an improvement over what they said in the October 2016 UT/TT Poll, when only a third of Texans said he was honest, trustworthy and had the temperament to be the country’s top elected official.

“I don’t think that people’s impression of Donald Trump has changed all that much,” Henson said. “But these numbers are a testament to the role of the president as a figurehead and the power of partisanship.”

Emily Albracht | The Texas Tribune
Emily Albracht | The Texas Tribune

Again, the Republicans and Democrats among the respondents acted as political reciprocals: 68 percent of Republicans think Trump’s got the temperament for the job and 84 percent of Democrats think he does not. Among Republicans, 70 percent said Trump is honest and trustworthy; only 6 percent of Democrats agree.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

This is one of several stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Also today: Texans on the economy and the direction of the country and state. Coming Tuesday: Texans’ views on immigration, cultural issues and health care.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here

REFERENCE MATERIAL

Author:  ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Critics: Arrest of Alleged Abuse Victim in El Paso Could Deter Immigrants from Reporting Crimes

Experts fear the undocumented community will be more reluctant to report crimes after immigration agents detained an alleged domestic abuse victim as she left an El Paso courthouse.

After an alleged domestic abuse victim’s arrest by immigration agents in El Paso gained national attention, advocates and attorneys said the case could set a dangerous precedent for immigrants who might decide against reporting crimes if faced with the possibility of deportation.

On Feb. 9, an undocumented, transgender woman was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials shortly after receiving protection from an alleged abuser in an El Paso courthouse. The woman, initially referred to only by her initials but later identified in an ICE statement as 33-year-old Irvin Gonzalez, was taken to a detention center.

Experts nationwide said the case set a dangerous precedent and might deter undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes to authorities. However, ICE authorities revealed Thursday that the woman is a previously deported felon with six deportations and at least eight convictions for crimes including false imprisonment, domestic violence and assault.

During a press call Thursday, El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza confirmed that the woman had a criminal history but said his main concern in this case was not the victim’s status but the access federal law enforcement agents had to the courthouse. He said a domestic violence victim’s legal status should not matter when they’re reporting a crime or offering testimony.

“[Federal agents] came into the courthouse, and I think that sends a horrible message to victims of domestic violence on whether or not they’re actually going to have the ability to seek justice in our courthouse,” Esparza said. “We will work this out with federal authorities. They can do what they have to do, but not in the courthouse.”

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said Gonzalez had filed three police reports against her alleged attacker, who reportedly had kicked her, punched her and chased her with a knife. Gonzalez was being escorted out of the courthouse by an El Paso attorney when ICE agents stopped her and arrested her, Bernal said, adding that at least one ICE agent sat through Gonzalez’s court hearing before detaining her.

“In all our years, none of us can recall an incident where immigration authorities made their presence known inside a courtroom in this courthouse, and especially not in a courtroom that is reserved for victims of domestic violence,” Bernal said.

The El Paso Times had initially reported that ICE officers located the woman after receiving a tip, presumably from her alleged abuser. Bernal told reporters that she can’t verify that claim, but she said the only two people informed of Gonzalez’s court hearing were Gonzalez and her alleged abuser.

ICE Central Region communications director Carl Rusnok said in a statement that Gonzalez had been arrested after agents received a tip from another law enforcement agency “indicating that a previously deported felon had illegally re-entered the United States.”

If ICE did receive a tip from her alleged attacker, her arrest would violate certain provisions in the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that protects undocumented women when reporting perpetrators, said Denise Gilman, director of the University of Texas’ Immigration Clinic.

“Congress has said that victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes should be able to come forward and seek assistance and not fear that doing so will put them in danger,” Gilman said.

Gilman said she has seen instances in which individuals sought out assistance as a result of domestic violence and ended up tangled in immigration proceedings. These cases, she said, “absolutely have an impact” on the immigrant community, in terms of their willingness to report domestic violence or other crimes.

“I do expect this to have a very negative impact on women’s safety and on public safety,” she said. “If victims of crime aren’t willing to come forward, that really endangers the whole community.”

According to immigrant rights organization We Belong Together, immigrant women are three to six times more likely to experience domestic abuse than U.S.-born women. Lora Petty, a representative of Texas immigrant rights group American Gateways, said this is because abusers use deportation threats as fear tactics against their victims.

State lawmakers have already responded to the incident, including El Paso Sen. José Rodríguez, who in a statement said this case will prevent people from reporting crimes to law enforcement officers for fear of facing deportation.

The case also attracted the attention of national public figures, including Chelsea Clinton, who called the arrest “horrifying.”

Read more about recent ICE detentions here: 

  • Immigration officials arrested an El Paso woman who alleged she was a victim of domestic abuse. The tip that got her arrested may have come from her alleged abuser.
  • Undocumented immigrant Miguel Angel Torres was on his way to deliver Valentine’s Day chocolates to his daughter last week near Austin. Now, in what his family calls a case of mistaken identity, Torres is in an immigration lock-up near San Antonio.

Author:  MARIANA ALFARO – The Texas Tribune

National LGBTQ Organizations Denounce Arrest of Transgender Survivor of Domestic Violence by ICE El Paso

On Thursday, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and Transgender Law Center denounced the arrest by immigration authorities of an undocumented transgender woman who is a survivor of domestic violence, and call for her immediate release.

She was detained last week in an El Paso courthouse immediately after she was granted a protective order against her abusive partner.

NCAVP’s data shows that transgender women experience high rates of domestic violence and often experience discrimination and violence when attempting to access services. Additionally, transgender women in immigration detention often experience sexual violence, maltreatment, and other forms of violence.

Because of these realities, this arrest and detainment is an utterly deplorable and harmful response to her request for help.

This January, Transgender Law Center launched an emergency response project, the Trans Immigrant Defense Effort (TIDE), devoted to expanding legal support for transgender immigrants in the face of new attacks.

“Our government’s actions send the message to transgender people that we are disposable and do not deserve dignity or safety,” said Isa Noyola, Director of Programs at Transgender Law Center. “The community already has limited access to resources when we face violent attacks, particularly by intimate partners. At a time when we grieve murder after murder of transgender women of color, it is unconscionable that a transgender woman would be detained and punished for seeking safety for herself. The community, now more than ever, needs to organize to protect our most vulnerable, in particular transgender immigrant women who are surrounded by violence on a daily basis.”

“Arresting survivors when they are accessing domestic violence protections will only continue to discourage survivors from reaching out for support, especially if they are undocumented,” said Emily Waters, Senior Manager of National Research and Policy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “All survivors, including undocumented transgender survivors, deserve to be able access safe and affirming resources without the additional fear of reprisal by abusive partners and criminalization by state authorities.”

Violation of Protections for Undocumented Survivors

According to the County Attorney, Jo Anne Bernal, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers received a tip that the woman who was detained would be in the courthouse that day. Bernal also stated that she was arrested while still in the courthouse.

Bernal suspects that the tip came from Gonzalez’s abusive partner. Both of these actions by ICE violate the confidentiality protections laid out in the Violence Against Women Act of 2005. VAWA provides explicit confidentiality protections for undocumented survivors, including preventing immigration officers from using information provided by abusive partners and preventing officers from making arrests in courthouses if the survivor is there in connection with a protection order case.

“The actions taken by ICE officials to detain a transgender immigrant while she was at the courthouse getting a restraining order against her abuser, based on a “tip” to ICE possibly from her abuser, are not only outrageous, they violate the law,” said Terra Russell Slavin, Esq., Deputy Director of Policy & Community Building at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

“The Violence Against Women Act contains specific prohibitions on these type of immigration enforcement actions. The LGBT community, its advocates, and domestic violence activists throughout the country will work tirelessly to ensure that immigrant survivors of domestic violence are able to take legal actions to protect themselves from their abusers. We call on our representatives to immediately investigate the actions of ICE officials in this case and to do everything in their power to ensure this travesty doesn’t happen again.”

VAWA protections are vital for the safety of undocumented survivors of domestic violence. Many undocumented survivors face the threat of deportation when accessing protections that are available to all survivors of domestic violence and this threat is often leveraged by abusive partners.

Domestic Violence and LGBTQ Communities

 According to the most recently released report by NCAVP, of the 13 documented intimate partner violence related homicides of LGBTQ people in 2015, 46% were transgender women, all of whom were transgender women of color.

 From 2014 to 2015, there was an increase in the percentage of LGBTQ undocumented survivors reporting to NCAVP from 4% to 9%.

 Many LGBTQ survivors experience violence and discrimination when accessing intimate partner violence resources. Of those seeking shelter in 2015, 44% were denied with the most common reason being gender identity. Nearly one in three survivors who interacted by police were arrested.

To read NCAVP’s toolkit for the LGBTQ and HIV Affected Intimate Partner Violence, click HERE.

State Senator Rodríguez: ICE Action against Domestic Violence Victim ‘Shameful’

Austin – Senator José Rodríguez released the following statement in regards to the recent actions taken by ICE following a domestic violence case in El Paso.

This shameful episode shows what results from an anti-immigrant atmosphere created by irresponsible rhetoric from the president on down to state leaders, combined with an immigration enforcement system now focused on rounding up all undocumented people.  Under no circumstance should a person trying to escape an abuser have to fear that if she tries to get help, then the abuser can call ICE.  What an awful choice to make: stay with someone who hurts you or get a protective order and run the risk that ICE agents will grab you while you’re in court. 

This will certainly prevent people from reporting any crimes or abuse to law enforcement, the courts, or nonprofits, making all of us unsafe.  This is also inextricably linked to anti-sanctuary cities policies state leaders are pursuing. There will be many more victims like the woman at our courthouse if SB 4 or similar legislation becomes law.

The fact that this woman is transgender only further highlights the diversity of vulnerable people who will be swept up in these raids.  Transgender women of color are disproportionally more likely to die violent deaths. This further illustrates the ongoing attack on many different communities, and the need for us to unite in the face of laws that single out specific groups for discrimination.

In Texas we’ve already seen at least one deportation attributed to a case of mistaken identity.  In Seattle, we have at least one person who was living in this country with authorization through DACA nonetheless captured in an ICE raid.  How long before we have U.S. citizens wrongly detained under this deeply flawed enforcement effort?

If Texas Passes anti-“sanctuary” bill, El Paso County Could Face Lawsuits

If the Texas Legislature passes a bill to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” in Texas, El Paso County could face a legal quagmire.

That’s because the terms of a 2006 legal settlement expressly forbid the county’s sheriff deputies from doing what Senate Bill 4 demands: enforcing federal immigration laws.

The legislation state lawmakers are considering would punish local governments if their county sheriffs fail to honor “detainers” — requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to hand over immigrants in custody. SB 4 would also punish those government entities that enact policies preventing local law enforcement from asking people for their immigration status.

While some Texas sheriffs anticipate getting sued for refusing to honor detainers, that’s not El Paso County’s issue. (El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said his department honors ICE detainers and doesn’t plan to stop.)

After a local resident sued the county several years ago, accusing sheriffs’ deputies of conducting immigration checks at roadside checkpoints, the parties reached an agreement: The sheriff’s office had to “memorialize in writing its policies that prohibits Sheriffs Department Deputies from enforcing civil immigration law.”

Jed Untereker, assistant El Paso county attorney, said he’s already “received notification that we are going to get sued if we comply with [SB 4].”

SB 4 doesn’t require sheriff’s deputies or local police to ask for a person’s immigration status. But it does prohibit department heads or elected officials from preventing them from doing so. Wiles said any of his roughly 250 deputies could decide they want to be de-facto immigration agents, taking them “out of the field doing that instead of the work we want them to do.”

“The public expects us to guide and limit the discretion that they have because of the power and authority that law enforcement has to take away people’s freedom,” he said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has assured El Paso County that any local lawsuits over the settlement agreement won’t be successful. In a letter to lawmakers earlier this month, he wrote that the settlement didn’t qualify as an actual court order.

“Parties cannot agree between themselves to trump state law,” he wrote.

Untereker said he wasn’t swayed.

“We disagree with that opinion,” he said. “A signed settlement agreement is a signed settlement agreement. We can argue as to exactly how much weight it has, but we’re going to be in violation of that” if the county is forced to follow SB 4.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate, has made its way to the Texas House for consideration. It remains unclear how much House lawmakers like the current version. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, who has authored a companion version of the bill, said on Tuesday that he’s been in recent discussions with attorneys and law enforcement authorities to address some concerns with the legislation. He didn’t specify what those issues were.

Read more about “sanctuary cities” legislation: 

  • After Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton insisted in a letter last week that Texas’ anti-“sanctuary cities” bill would survive a legal challenge, immigration attorneys are trying to convince members of the Legislature that he’s wrong.
  • After hearing more than 16 hours of testimony, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 along party lines to advance a bill that would punish local government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws.
REFERENCE MATERIAL

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Texans in Congress raise Questions about Russia, Trump Administration

WASHINGTON — After months of a slow simmer, Washington roiled Tuesday over the circumstances surrounding President Donald Trump’s administration and Russian leaders.

For months, Democrats had seethed with allegations that first Trump’s campaign, then his transition team and now his administration had inappropriate ties with Russian leaders. Trump and his allies have pushed back, saying such allegations are unfounded.

But late Monday’s resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn prompted even some congressional Republicans — including the most powerful Texan on Capitol Hill — to raise questions.

Flynn stepped down from a position he had held for fewer than four weeks after a series of reports said that he conferred with the Russian ambassador to the United States about Obama administration sanctions for Russia during the Trump transition period. He left his position when it became clear he had misled top Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, on the matter, according to White House officials.

“We got to a point, not based on a legal issue but based on a trust issue, where the level of trust between the president and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. “The president was very concerned that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”

While Democrats have howled about alleged Russian interference into American political life, there were signs that, at the very least, Flynn’s actions rattled congressional Republicans — including U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.

Cornyn said on Tuesday that the Senate should investigate Flynn, according to CNN. But he stopped short of calling on the retired lieutenant general to testify in hearings.

“I think it’s symbolic of somebody with a distinguished military career making a bad mistake,” Cornyn said.

It was not merely because of Cornyn’s rank as the Senate’s No. 2 Republican that his comments sent waves throughout the halls of the U.S. Capitol: He is a newly installed member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the congressional clearing house of the Russian controversy.

Another member of the Texas delegation, U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, tweetedovernight: “Glad Michael Flynn is gone from White House. We need more sanctions on Russia, not fewer!”

On Tuesday morning, Flores explained to National Public Radio he thought Flynn’s actions were “inappropriate.”

“We’ve got to give some deference to the administration because they’re in the early stages of setting up all of their teams and their staffs and so forth,” he said. “And so you can’t expect them to be able turn on a dime. … One of the challenges they have is that they’ve got the lowest number of Senate confirmations since George Washington, I believe. So we can’t expect them to do everything as well as they do, let’s say, two months from now.”

When asked whether this episode raised “more concern … about this administration’s connections to Russia,” Flores responded, “No, it hasn’t.”

But Republicans — from Texas and beyond — were largely quiet on the controversy. The unstated anxiety on Capitol Hill on any policy matter, let alone one as charged as this one, is that congressional Republicans fear Trump could politically vaporize careers with a single tweet.

Democratic anger with the administration is nothing new. Earlier this year, intelligence agencies briefed House members about the Russian hack of the Democratic party apparatus. Democrats emerged from the meeting, privately telegraphing rage and fear.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, the lone Texas Democrat serving on either chamber’s intelligence committee, spent the start of his third term beating the drum on Russia. In reaction to the Flynn resignation, Castro released a Tuesday morning statement.

“Investigations must take place to determine how severely this administration has compromised our nation’s security,” he said. “Congress and the American people deserve to know the full extent of Russia’s ties with the White House and involvement in the 2016 election.”

In early January, Castro emerged from an intelligence committee briefing and made one of the sharpest comments on the Democratic hack: “There’s also concern about finding out, making a determination, whether any American or Americans cooperated with [Romanian hacker] Guccifer or the Russian intelligence agencies in this endeavor.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, cheekily criticized Trump on Tuesday from his perch on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Democrats spent the past several days dogging that committee’s chairman, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, to use the power of that gavel to force Trump to release his tax returns.

“Especially with General Flynn’s resignation after his entanglement with the Russians, the American people have reason to question whether, on this Valentine’s Day, more than ‘From Russia with Love’ is at stake here,” Doggett said in a statement. “There is no issue this committee could consider that is more important than assuring the confidence of the American people in our democracy – that our system of checks and balances truly works.”

Read more:

  • U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela says he will back U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, should the San Antonio Democrat challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.
  • U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the top House Republican on homeland security issues, strongly criticized the Trump administration for the chaotic rollout last month of a travel ban of mostly Muslim countries.

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

Immigrants Picked Up, but No Massive Raids, Authorities Say

U.S. and Mexican authorities are pushing back against reports of widespread raids that have sown panic in immigrant communities. But the “targeted operation” launched in recent days by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appears to be the largest of its kind since President Donald Trump took office.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune on Saturday, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the consul general of Mexico in Austin, shot down social media reports suggesting that ICE had set up traffic checkpoints or was rounding up immigrants indiscriminately. ICE called the reports of massive round-ups “false, dangerous and irresponsible,” the New York Times reported.

In Austin, a liberal enclave with a brand new “sanctuary” policy at the local jail, Gonzalez Gutierrez said the raid was the most extensive he’d seen since he arrived in the Texas capital almost two years ago. He said some of those apprehended by ICE were not the original targets of the U.S. operation. All told there were 44 Mexican nationals apprehended in the Austin area on Thursday and Friday, he said. Typically the agency picks up a handful per day. It’s not clear how many immigrants from other countries may have been picked up in the operation.

Gonzales Gutierrez said ICE officials informed the consulate that they “are looking for specific persons that… have to be detained because they have failed to honor a deportation order or because they have a DWI-related warrant or because of domestic violence. It’s a wide range of issues.”

In some cases, he said some of the Mexican nationals who were with the targeted immigrants also got detained; he said that has happened in past operations.

“Whenever they find their target, for example in their vehicles, if in that same vehicle there [are] more people who are undocumented or who they presume are undocumented, then they detain everybody,” he said. “And so there [are] a few of our nationals that were caught up because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

While Gonzalez Gutierrez expressed concern about the specter of a large operation targeting immigrants, he said it’s important to let people know that is not what’s happening now.

“This is not the widespread massive raids that are sometimes described in social media,” he said. “We have found no evidence of those workplace raids, or school raids, [or] massive raids outside of hospitals that people were talking about in social media.”

Central Texas was prominently featured in several national news stories with unconfirmed reports of immigrant raids, vehicle checkpoints and random ID checks.

And in the last two days, immigrant lawyers and advocacy groups have sounded alarms in multiple cities over what they called unusual enforcement activity by ICE. In Los Angeles, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: “URGENT: ICE conducted multiple raids of homes across the city.” Protests erupted soon after.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said at a news conference in California Friday night that the reports were flat wrong, according to local media reports.

“They’re not rounding anyone up,” Kelly said. “The people that ICE apprehend are people who are illegal, and then some.”

According to an ICE statement released to the news media in California, at least 160 people were apprehended over five days in the region as part of a routine “enforcement surge” targeting undocumented immigrants wanted by the agency. Of those, 150 had criminal records and five had removal orders, according to the reports.

KABC-TV in Los Angeles reported that 95 percent of the people detained in Southern California by ICE were men. Included were an MS-13 gang member from El Salvador, a Brazilian national wanted for cocaine trafficking and an Australian convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child, the station said.

Texas Tribune reporter Cassandra Pollock contributed to this story.

Author:  JAY ROOT – The Texas Tribune

Reports of Immigration Raids Whip across Texas, but Details are Sparse

Immigrant communities in Texas and nationwide are swirling with reports of large-scale immigration enforcement by federal agents, but so far details are scant and ICE says its activities are routine.

Reports of immigration raids swept across Texas and the rest of the nation Friday, sparking protests and press conferences. But in Austin and elsewhere, it was difficult to find hard evidence of actual raids, and federal officials insisted their agents were simply conducting routine enforcement.

Immigrant lawyers and advocacy groups have sounded alarms in multiple cities over what they called unusual enforcement activity by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: “URGENT: ICE conducted multiple raids of homes across the city.” Protests erupted soon after.

The Washington Post reported sweeping immigration raids in at least six states, including Texas. Quoting immigration activists, the Post reported raids in Austin, Dallas and Pflugerville, and said there were also reports of an ICE checkpoint in Austin that targeted immigrants for random ID checks. But it provided few details about specific cases.

Details have also been scant in Austin, where a pair of arrests following traffic stops by ICE agents led to a downtown protest and a press conference denouncing ICE activities. The Mexican Consulate told the Austin American-Statesman that ICE detained 44 Mexican immigrants Thursday and Friday — compared to four or five a day typically — but it didn’t indicate the circumstances surrounding the detentions.

Following reports that an immigration officer suffered minor injuries after arresting an undocumented immigrant in North Austin, Austin City Council members Greg Casar and Delia Garza spoke to reporters outside the Little Walnut Creek public library, joined by representatives of the Worker’s Defense Project, Education Austin, and the Texas chapter of the AFL-CIO.

“This is something very different than what we’ve seen before,” Casar said. “[Donald] Trump and allies will do everything they can to divide Americans and demonize communities. It’s clear people like Trump try to get political gain by creating fear and hostility — these ICE actions magnify that fear.”

In a statement on Facebook Friday morning, Casar said his office had confirmed “a large amount of [ICE] actions in Austin in the last 24 hours.”

Casar said he’s received several calls from constituents expressing fear about the situation, but he couldn’t offer details on ICE actions beyond a Friday arrest in North Austin. Austin police told the Austin American-Statesman that an ICE agent made a traffic stop and was trying to arrest a person in the vehicle when the suspect’s family members tried to intervene.

“We don’t understand it,” Garza said, “but the ripple effect is… it’s invited fear in the community.”

The other reported arrest happened in East Austin, where a Honduran woman called an immigrant support group to report that ICE agents had pulled over and detained her husband on Thursday; a protest followed at a downtown federal building, the Statesman reported.

ICE spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda told the Tribune that the agency doesn’t conduct random sweeps and its enforcement actions are based on investigative leads. “By removing from the streets criminal aliens and other threats to the public, ICE helps improve public safety,” Pruneda said.

San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro said Friday that ICE had confirmed to him that the agency was conducting a “targeted operation” in parts of Texas. 

“I have been informed by ICE that the agency’s San Antonio field office has launched a targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check,” Castro said in a written statement. “I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state. I will continue to monitor this situation.”

State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, said it was “outrageous” that two elected officials in Austin publicly backed undocumented immigrants over law enforcement.

“Not only does questioning law enforcement put our communities at risk,” Buckingham said in a written statement, “it paints a bull’s-eye on the backs of the brave men and women sworn to protect us under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Tensions in Texas immigrant communities have risen since Trump became president — after campaigning on promises to build a border wall and deport undocumented immigrants en masse — and the state Legislature began debating bills to ban so-called “sanctuary cities.” Earlier this week, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 4 that would penalize local governments that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials to enforce immigration laws.

Separately, newly-elected Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez launched a policy last month to reduce the county’s cooperation with federal immigration officials, and Gov. Greg Abbott soon after carried out his threat to strip $1.5 million in criminal justice grants from Travis County.

Author:  CASSANDRA POLLOCK – The Texas Tribune

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