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Hurd Introduces 21st Century SMART Wall Legislation

Thursday, U.S. Representative Will Hurd (R-TX) introduced the Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology (SMART) Act with Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX), David G. Valadao (R-CA), Steve Knight (R-CA), Steve Pearce (R-NM), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Keith Rothfus (R-PA) to ensure that the United States implements the most effective and fiscally-responsible strategy to achieve operational control of our southern border.

“Violent drug cartels are using more modern technology to breach our border than what we are using to secure it. We can’t double down on a Third Century approach to solve 21st Century problems if we want a viable long-term solution,” said Hurd, who represents over 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other Member of Congress.

“We need a Smart Wall that uses high-tech resources like sensors, radar, LIDAR, fiber optics, drones and cameras to detect and then track incursions across our border so we can deploy efficiently our most important resource, the men and women of Border Patrol to perform the most difficult task — interdiction. With a Smart Wall, we can have a more secure border at a fraction of the cost – that can be implemented and fully operational within a year. It’s time to harness American innovation on this most important National Security challenge and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this a reality.”

Under the SMART ACT, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be mandated to deploy the most practical and effective border security technologies available to achieve situational awareness and operational control of our border.

The Secretary would also be required to submit a comprehensive border security strategy to Congress that lists all known physical barriers, technologies, tools, and other devices that can be utilized along the southern border, including a detailed accounting of the aforementioned measures selected for each linear mile of the border and a cost justification for each such measure.

Additionally, the SMART Act authorizes $110 million to increase coordination and collaboration between Customs and Border Patrol and State, county, tribal, and other governmental law enforcement entities that support border security operations.

Lastly, in response to the dire need to upgrade communication technology along the border, the bill creates a two-year grant program to improve emergency communications in the southern border region, including multi-band radios and upgrades from outdated or poorly functioning communication networks.

The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), the exclusive representative of approximately 18,000 Border Patrol Agents supports the SMART Act. President of NBPC Brandon Judd stated, “To secure the border and keep America, we need technology, infrastructure, and manpower.” He added, “The Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology Act will help our agents counter the sophisticated international drug cartels that poison our communities with meth, heroin, and other dangerous drugs. We thank Representative Hurd for his leadership on this issue and encourage Congress to pass this important piece legislation without delay.”

“This bill provides a pragmatic approach to secure our borders,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28). “It calls on DHS to deploy the most effective security technology – such as sensors, aerostats, and cameras – and rather than building walls to meet campaign promises, it takes a measured approach by directing DHS, in conjunction with state and local agencies, to conduct a comprehensive study and analysis of the different tools and solutions available to provide security on our borders. I live on the border and know personally the needs of our U.S. Border Patrol and our Homeland Security agents. A giant wall is nothing more than a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. Further, this bill calls on DHS to take a greater role in controlling the invasive Carrizo cane along our river which presents a huge security risk for our border agents, as well as presenting grave environmental impacts. I thank my colleagues for working with me on these issues.”

“Enhanced border security is an issue fundamental to our national security. We need to know who, and what, is coming across our border. Improving border security is vital to preventing drugs, diseased crops, and weapons from being smuggled into the United States illegally. It is also essential in keeping known criminals and suspected terrorists from entering the United States. The SMART Act will ensure we utilize the most innovated technology to secure and protect our nation,” said Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21).

Amistad Not Impacted by Trump Decision to End ACA Enrollment Assistance in 18 U.S. Cities

Amistad’s Consumer Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Services (CHIMES) will not be impacted by a Trump Administration decision to end health insurance enrollment assistance under provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2013 in 18 U.S. cities including El Paso.

“We will continue to provide the same enrollment services that we’ve been providing since the health care law was implemented in 2013,” said Marisol Vela, Amistad’s CHIMES Lead Navigator. “Persons who wish to access health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace may continue to count on us to provide enrollment help for the foreseeable future,” she said.

Under its contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Amistad will continue to provide enrollment assistance, public outreach and education services through 2018 to 23 counties in Far West Texas including El Paso County.

The termination of assistance services applies to assister programs administered by private companies including Cognosante, LLC and CRSA, Inc.

Amistad, a non-profit social services and transportation agency, is a Navigator Program that is not included in the Trump Administration’s move to terminate enrollment assistance services across the U.S.

Open enrollment for 2018 coverage will commence on November 1, 2017 and conclude on December 15, 2017.

For information, consumers may contact Amistad at 915-298-7307.

AUDIO: Dreamers Grateful Efforts to Repeal In-State Tuition Benefit Never Materialized

Houston is the only place Samuel Cervantes considers home. His parents brought him to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, at the age of five.

As an undocumented immigrant, Cervantes, a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin, said he never thought college was in his future until he learned of the in-state tuition benefit afforded students like himself.

“It quelled a lot of fears that I had because for a good percentage of my time in high school, I felt that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college because I wasn’t documented, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to afford it,” Cervantes said.

The 2001 state law allows noncitizens, including some undocumented immigrants, to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges if they can prove they’ve been Texas residents for at least three years and graduated from a Texas high school or received a GED. They must also sign an affidavit promising to pursue a path to permanent legal status if one becomes available.

Every session, a handful of Republican lawmakers attempt to rescind the long-standing offer. This year, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland filed House Bill 393, which would have eliminated the program by spelling out in statute that a person “not authorized” to be in the country can’t be considered a Texas resident.

The Bedford Republican told The Texas Tribune in January that he considers the benefit a lure for undocumented immigrants and that his constituents “want the magnets turned off.”

Asked why the legislation never even got so much as a committee hearing, Stickland blamed House leadership, including Speaker Joe Straus.

One big immigration measure did pass and become law: Senate Bill 4 is the controversial anti-“sanctuary cities” bill, which includes a provision allowing law enforcement to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest. The law is tied up in the courts, but just the prospect of it leaves undocumented students like Cervantes fearful.

In the meantime, the proud Longhorn says he’ll try to focus on his studies. He said he’ll fight the next round of bills he expects lawmakers to file in subsequent sessions so his younger sister can also take advantage of in-state tuition.

“Undocumented students will go on to have the ability to contribute to the Texas economy by utilizing their college degrees, and I think that having a more educated population benefits the Texas society as a whole,” Cervantes said.

Live chat: Talk to our reporters about bills that didn’t make it out of the regular session — and what’s ahead in the special — Friday, July 14 at noon. Ask a question

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Will Texas legislators repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants? One Republican lawmaker is determined to make it happen. [link]

Author:  ALANA ROCHA – The Texas Tribune

U.S. Rep. McCaul Urges Trump to Call out Putin on Election Meddling

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, publicly pressed President Donald Trump Friday morning to forcefully call out Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country’s meddling with the 2016 U.S. elections.

Trump met with Putin on Friday as part of a major conference of the world’s economic powers in Hamburg, Germany.

“It’s not on their agenda, but I do think the president should bring this up,” McCaul, an Austin Republican, said on MSNBC. “It’s the elephant in the room, and it’s an important issue to the American people, and it’s important for the American president to raise it with him to let him know that we know it happened, and we’re not going to stand for that, and there will be consequences.”

McCaul, who was a top adviser to Trump during the presidential race and was a contender to lead Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, made his remarks in a series of Friday morning cable news interviews.

McCaul on Friday left no room for debate on whether Russians were at fault.

“The intelligence reports I’ve received and briefings — very clear and convincing evidence it was a nation-state, attack by Russia,” McCaul said on MSNBC. “I don’t think you can really dispute that. … Everybody who’s had the briefing has [been] consistent in saying that.”

Trump has drawn criticism from members of both parties for his comments on Russia going back to his time as a candidate. He created controversy anew back home when he cast doubt on Thursday in Poland over who committed the cyberattacks and the U.S intelligence community’s capacity for accuracy.

“I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries,” Trump said. “I see nothing wrong with that statement … Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.”

When asked on CNN why the president continues to raise doubts, McCaul suggested Trump continues to be concerned about whether the outcome of the 2016 election is viewed as legitimate.

“I think he, perhaps, thinks it undermines the credibility of his election, possibly,” McCaul said of Trump.

McCaul also said that ahead of last year’s election, he urged former President Obama to more forcefully criticize Putin on the cyberattacks.

McCaul is among those in the House pushing to strengthen sanctions against Russia. Such a measure passed the Senate in June by a near-unanimous vote. The push has stalled out in the House — and has met resistance from within the Texas delegation — but McCaul said he hopes to pick the issue up in the coming weeks.

McCaul said on Fox News that any sanctions measure passed should avoid “unintended consequences” to American businesses. When asked about a statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office that tied the House GOP’s slow walk on sanctions to “complicity in the Trump White House’s weakness toward Trump,” McCaul responded by urging House Democrats to stop “playing politics”

“I think we’re going to get there,” he said. “It’s too important of an issue.”

Trump did end up raising the issue in his meeting with Putin Friday, but did not emphasize any potential consequences, according to news reports. The American and Russian accounts of the meetings diverged, with the Russians suggesting Trump accepted Putin’s denial of the attack.

“There was not a lot of relitigating of the past,” recounted U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the meeting, to the New York Times.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texas Republicans would lose seven committee chairmanships if their party loses control of the U.S. House. [link]
  • Most voters in Texas are wary of President Donald Trump — but Republican voters remain strongly supportive of him, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. [link]

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

Bishop Seitz: I Can Hear Jesus’ Indignant Response to AGs who Want to Deport ‘Dreamers’

Not many things made Jesus angry. He was the picture of patience and forgiveness even in the face of many serious human faults. But one thing often caused Jesus to fly off the handle — legalistic leaders.

While Jesus’ life and ministry may have taken place 2,000 years ago, now in my home state of Texas, legalists are placing the letter of the law ahead of the well-being and dignity of children and families.

On June 29, attorneys general from 10 states including Ken Paxton of Texas threatened in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to sue the Trump administration if it does not eliminate Obama-era protections that shield “Dreamers,” or undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

The letter called on the administration to stop accepting new or renewing existing applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Obama created during his first term.

If these upholders of the law have their wish, Dreamers will no longer be protected from deportation.

The scribes and the Pharisees of his time drove Jesus to distraction. As he put it, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes … and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. These you should have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). And as he told his disciples, “but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice” (Matthew 23:3).

Are the roles of the scribes and Pharisees being played out again today? Paxton and the nine other attorneys general argue that it’s not enough to exercise our country’s legal prerogatives regarding immigration with the adults who have sought refuge within our borders. Must we go even further and also lay the heavy burden of the law on the children they brought with them? Will we wrench Dreamers from their schools, communities and the only homes they have ever known? Will we send them away because they are not “legal”?

Around 220,000 young people in Texas will be out of school and out of productive work: a classic formula to create the desperation that makes drug dealing and other crime appear to be the only option.

The leaders of Jesus’ day thought by fulfilling the minutiae of the law they could be righteous before God and, more importantly for them, appear righteous before human beings. Jesus answered that they should have practiced a higher law, that of justice and mercy and faithfulness. They should have imitated God’s compassion toward those forced by life’s circumstances to carry heavy loads. They should not have added to those loads with self-righteous insistence on the smaller points of the law.

When I hear this legalistic insistence upon every letter of our broken immigration law being carried out to this cruel degree, I can hear Jesus’ indignant response: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.

Author Mark J. Seitz is bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese El Paso  | Article via Religion News Service 

Doña Ana County Formally Submits Letter Supporting Organ Mountains National Monument

Doña Ana County has formally submitted Resolution 2017-61 supporting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“My colleagues and I listened to hours of emotional and impassioned input before reaching our decision,” said Doña Ana County Commission Chairwoman Isabella Solis. “Reaching the decision was both challenging and informative. We ask Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Trump to support the commission’s decision to keep the Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks National Monument protected as it is today.”

“Our communities have worked for decades to protect nationally significant resources on federal lands in our area, while continuing our multiple use tradition on those lands.  The Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks National Monument designation does that, and has greatly benefited the residents of Doña Ana County,” Garrett said

In addition to supporting the monument, the resolution also opposes “any reduction, rescission, or attempt to harm the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument” and supports the continued protection under law of valid existing rights including private property rights within the monument.

The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 on June 27 to support the resolution, which was drafted by District 1 Commissioner Billy G. Garrett. District 3 Commissioner Benjamin L. Rawson cast the lone dissenting vote.

The Department of Interior is taking public comments until July 10 as part of President Trump’s review of 27 national monuments.

Russia, Health Care, Debt Ceiling on Summer Agenda for Texans in Congress

WASHINGTON — After a sour spring, Congress is prepping for the summertime blues.

With the August recess just a few weeks away, there is one question on everyone’s mind on Capitol Hill: Can Republicans move any major legislation this summer? Or if not that, can they even move basic, must-pass bills to keep the government functioning normally?

That the answers to those questions are not clear shows how things have changed for the Republican-controlled Congress since the high hopes of January.

Internal GOP divisions and general chaos coming from the White House have translated to meager legislative accomplishments so far.

Republicans are increasingly backing off timelines to wrap up any of the items high on their agenda by August.

A rolling stream of evidence about the 2016 Russian cyberattacks and connections to allies of President Donald Trump continues to undermine public relations efforts to focus on other issues. So much so, that Republicans who used to roll their eyes at Democratic concerns are now beginning to wonder what the future holds on the Russian front.

Why does any of this matter, given that we are barely six months into the new administration? Because sooner rather than later, the pressure of the 2018 midterms is likely to further paralyze Congress.

And then there is the unknown: Members are increasingly bracing for more curve balls coming from an unpredictable White House.

Nonetheless, five issues remain the most likely to dominate Congress’ summer. Texans are well-positioned to potentially play key roles in all of them:

Russia Investigations

While members spent the week back home, Congressional subpoenas were flying around Washington. Upcoming hearings are likely to only increase attention on the investigations. And it all starts Thursday with former FBI Director James Comey set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The notion that a fired FBI director is postured to reveal possibly incriminating evidence against a sitting president of the United States has members of both parties stunned and concerned.

There are likely to be plenty of other hearings on both sides of the U.S. Capitol, even as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his own Justice Department investigation.

Texans to watch: Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, all serve on their respective chambers’ intelligence committees and will participate in hearings. But no one will be closer to the storm than U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway of Midland, who is the Republican leader of the House-side investigation.

Raising the debt ceiling

Ever since Republicans took control of the U.S. House in 2011, the concept of increasing the government’s ability to borrow money has become a game of chicken between the two parties. Most economists say a default would be economically catastrophic, but such brinksmanship can translate into the opposition exacting major demands.

Congress was bracing for a fall fight. But some Trump administration officials suggest the need to raise the limit could come sooner and are urging Congress to address the issue before they let out for the August recess.

Texans to watch: House Freedom Caucus members like Republican U.S. Reps Louie Gohmert of Tyler and Randy Weber of Friendswood, combined with Texas Democrats who tend to fall in line behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, will undoubtedly squeeze the House Republican leadership from opposite directions amid debt limit negotiations.

Health care overhaul

Cornyn predicted Republicans will pass a repeal and replace of former President Obama’s 2010 health law by the August recess. Few others on Capitol Hill are that optimistic.

The House passed a bill in early March that has drawn strong opposition from the Senate, which is expected to craft its own version of the legislation.

Previous efforts to pass an overhaul unleashed tumult within the House GOP and ate up most of the winter and spring.

Republicans are worried about more town hall backlash over the August recess over health care. Such scenes dogged Democrats in the summer of 2009 amid their push for a health care overhaul during Obama’s first term.

Texans to watch: Both Cornyn and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz are participating in a Senate working group to hash out health care policy. Cornyn, as the Senate majority whip, will be the lead vote-counter on any legislation; and Cruz is influential among House conservatives. Additionally, U.S. Reps. Kevin Brady of the Woodlands and Michael Burgess of Lewisville, have committee assignments that make them key players on this issue. Freedom Caucus members like Gohmert and Weber could be pivotal votes if the House and Senate ever aim to reconcile different versions of a bill. If that came to pass, Hurd, who is expected to face a tough re-election race in 2018, will also be one to watch amid the vote-counting efforts of GOP House leaders.

Tax code overhaul

Rewriting the tax code is so difficult that it is typically addressed only once in a generation. Hopes were high at the dawn of the Trump administration. But a tax code overhaul was tied to the success of passing of a health care overhaul — which hasn’t happened yet.

Initially, the hope was to move tax legislation by the August recess. House leaders have scaled back those ambitions and are now hoping it will pass by the end of the calendar year.

Texans to watch: Brady, the U.S. House Ways and Means chairman, can be spotted regularly racing through the capitol to meetings and television interviews to champion this cause.

Financial Regulation Overhaul

There is, possibly, no bill House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarlinghas worked harder to move than an overhaul of Dodd-Frank, a Democratic-led legislation to rewrite Wall Street regulations in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

He’ll likely have some success in the next week, as the U.S. House is expected to vote on a Hensarling-crafted bill.

But like so many other conservative dreams, this one could wind up choked in the U.S. Senate. Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky downplayed expectations the legislation would make it through his chamber, although he said he supported the concept. Several GOP congressional sources agreed with this assessment.

Texans to watch: Hensarling.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

O’Rourke: President Trump’s Withdrawal from Paris Agreement ‘One of the Worst Executive Actions to Date”

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; below is a statement posted to Facebook by El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, regarding his feelings on the President’s decision.

Today, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change—one of his worst executive actions to date. In 2015, the U.S. agreed to modestly curb greenhouse gas emissions and provide funding to help developing countries adopt renewable energy at a faster rate.

The U.S. pulling out of the agreement signals to the rest of the world that we don’t intend to reach our emissions targets and that we will not be making those contributions.

The practical effects of leaving the agreement are dire. The primary goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep worldwide average temperatures from rising more than 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the pre-industrial era. Right now, we’re already almost halfway there and we’ve seen storms that have destroyed billions worth of property, shrinking ice caps, and droughts that have resulted in political instability and even wars.

Most importantly for El Paso and the state of Texas, it’s estimated that by 2050, the number of extremely hot days in Texas (temperatures exceeding 95 degrees) will double, resulting in an estimated 4,500 additional heat-related deaths. Additionally, it’s estimated that there will be a $650 million per year increase in storm-related losses along the Texas coast.

By taking the U.S. out of this agreement, all of these problems stand an increased chance of getting worse.

Just as important, President Trump is sending a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is no longer interested in being a world leader. Any progress we make economically, diplomatically, and militarily all depends on our credibility as a nation. By pulling out of the agreement, we are signaling to traditional and potential partners that they cannot depend on Americans to stick with them during difficult times.

Leaving the agreement also means we’re going to let others lead on what the world’s renewable energy future will be. Doing so puts our domestic wind turbine and solar panel manufacturers and other renewable energy providers at a disadvantage relative to countries that are participating in the Paris Agreement. This is a mistake at a time when our state is home to nearly a quarter of the country’s wind power jobs. Texas is a leader in renewable energy production, and El Paso is poised to play an important role. Diminishing the U.S. role will have direct effects on our local economy.

Removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement makes us one of only three countries, along with Syria and Nicaragua, to not join—even North Korea is part of the agreement. Historically, the U.S. has put more carbon into the atmosphere than any other country, so we must be a leader in curbing worldwide emissions.

I’m hopeful that the rest of the world continues to make progress on this front, and that we can revisit and rejoin the effort once we have a Congress and a President willing to lead because we have much to gain, and even more to lose.

Video: Cornyn – President’s Budget Prioritizes National Security, Fiscal Discipline

Tuesday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed President Trump’s proposed budget.  Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below:

“I think it’s worth pointing out several aspects of the President’s budget that are encouraging and a welcome change from the previous Administration. For one, it balances in ten years.”

“What a welcome relief from a White House budget anchored around overspending and growing the size of government, which we’ve seen for the last eight years. The other thing that the President’s budget does is it reverses the defense sequester. This is the artificial cap we put on defense spending.”

“One thing that President Trump has done, which I find a welcome sign, is that he wants to properly resource our military, so we can better defend against increasing threats around the world.”

“The President’s budget reflects a better understanding of the threat environment ahead, and for that I am grateful.”

2,000 Stories from Survivors of Rape, Abuse Displayed at US-Mexico Border

US and Mexican anti-violence advocates rallied at the border on Saturday against US immigration policies that create high rates of violence against undocumented immigrants.

On Trump’ 100th day in office, 2,000 stories from survivors of rape and abuse from the Monument Quilt spanned the US-Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, TX.  Blocks of red fabric created 7-story tall letters to spell “NOT ALONE” and “NO ESTÁS SOLX”.

“Xenophobia closes the possibility for people to talk about their trauma. As immigrants, we are invisible,” said Lorena Kourousias, Director of Life Enrichment Services at VIP Mujeres. “We are not the worst people like Trump says, we come here to escape violence and /or poverty, and we face violence in coming here. We are trying to improve our lives. The Monument Quilt offers the possibility to see the real face of immigration and to change the narrative.”

According to International Amnesty Mexico 70% of undocumented immigrant women experience sexual assault while migrating to the United States. Immigrant women are three to six times more likely to experience domestic violence than U.S.-born women, according to immigrant rights group We Belong Together.

The Monument Quilt Project was organized by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, La Casa Mandarina and Violence Intervention Program, Inc (VIP Mujeres), in partnership with UTEP- Women and Gender Studies Program, Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, Mujeres en Movimiento, Make the Road NY, Feminismo Consciente and Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ).

Photos courtesy The Monument Quilt Project

HOPE Statement: SB4 Threatens Border Communities

Today’s actions by the Texas House of Representatives to advance SB4 have injected renewed fear into local Texas communities and should serve as a wakeup call for all Americans. SB4 represents an extreme example of “Show Me Your Papers” legislation that targets migrants, families and local communities by deputizing local law enforcement to feed an immoral deportation and immigrant detention machine.

SB4 will not make Texas or the border safer. Playing politics and coercing local police to serve as immigration enforcement officers is a direct threat to the community-based policing efforts that are vital to public safety in Texas neighborhoods. Trust between local law enforcement officers and the community is critical.

unnamed (51)When the community can count on law enforcement without the fear of being detained, deported and separated from families, we are all safer. We need to support local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to ensure community safety and protect us all from violence and danger, regardless of immigration status.

We cannot allow today’s actions to tempt us to despair and inaction. In the face efforts to divide us, we must work for a greater solidarity capable of building bridges and overcoming fear.

In the face of actions to criminalize migrants and militarize our communities, we must work for a revolution of tenderness and a country where the human dignity of all, documented and undocumented, is respected and promoted.

***

Hope Border Institute (HBI) is an independent grassroots community organization working in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez-Las Cruces region, that seeks to bring the perspective of Catholic social teaching to bear on the social realities unique to our region. Through a robust program of research, reflection, leadership development, advocacy and action, HBI develops and aligns the border’s community leaders engaged in the work of justice from across the Mexico-US border to deepen solidarity across borders and transform our region.

Trump Agrees Not to Terminate NAFTA

WASHINGTON — After a trial balloon went over poorly with Congress, President Donald Trump told foreign leaders Wednesday night that he wouldn’t end the North American Free Trade Agreement just yet.

Late Wednesday night, the White House released a statement backing off of the notion after the president spoke with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

“President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” the statement said.

Texans in Congress had reacted with concern on Wednesday after reports surfaced that Trump was considering taking the first steps of possibly unwinding the agreement. Trump administration officials were reportedly considering issuing an executive order to signal the United States’ intent to withdraw from the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, according to several news organizations.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, represents a district that shares the border with Mexico and was the most overtly unhappy member of the Texas delegation.

“He can do the same thing with his NAFTA order that he can do with his wall,” Vela said, alluding to a previous missive to Trump encouraging the future president to “take your border wall and shove it up your ass.”

“Killing NAFTA is going to kill the Texas economy,” he added. “It would be devastating.”

The highest-ranking Texas Republican in Congress, U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, encouraged caution.

“I think we’d better be careful about unintended consequences,” said Cornyn, according to Politico.

Interviews with Capitol Hill staffers Wednesday afternoon showed Democrats are increasingly frustrated with how issues like NAFTA spring forward from the administration, even as Congress is attempting to address how to fund the government, resurrect a health care overhaul and rewrite the tax code.

Texas Republicans, who tend to support free trade, were similarly uncomfortable, but it it could prove unlikely that the rank-and-file House member who believes in free trade would oppose one of Trump’s signature campaign policies. Back in August, a number of Texas GOP members defended the trade agreement in statements to the Texas Tribune.

As reports surfaced about the possible executive order, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz‘s office pointed to comments the Texas Republican has previously made saying there is “no doubt that Texas benefits enormously from international trade,” including with Canada and Mexico. Cruz has expressed support for renegotiating NAFTA under Trump — he has said doing so is long overdue — but not abandoning it altogether.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

State Senator Jose Rodríguez’s Issues Statement on SB 4

Austin – Senator José Rodríguez, Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, released the following statement regarding SB 4, which coerces local police to carry out federal immigration law:

SB 4 is an attack on Hispanics and the immigrant community. In a sad irony, a bill purportedly about public safety and the rule of law makes us less safe and erodes confidence in the justice system by disregarding constitutional due process protections and separation of powers.

Some facts about SB 4:

It was made clear when the bill passed the Senate, and again made clear in debate today in the House, that there are significant legal issues with SB 4.

  • El Paso County is under a settlement entered in federal court in 2006 that prohibits the county from enforcing civil immigration law. The settlement resulted from traffic checkpoints set up by the El Paso Sheriff’s Department in which it was alleged deputies conducted unlawful searches, seizures and detentions. Should SB 4 become law in its current form, it’s virtually certain to result in a costly lawsuit for El Paso County, which must choose between a federal settlement agreement and compliance with this new state law.
  • Texas cannot eliminate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure:

o   An ICE request to county jails to detain a person must be based on probable cause that the person is violating immigration law.

o   But these detainers are not issued by an independent judge who reviews them for probable cause. They are issued by immigration officers.

o   Federal courts in other jurisdictions have already held that a county’s compliance with voluntary immigration detainers violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

  • SB4 coerces local governments:

o   Creates a separate criminal offense under state law for failure to comply with the bill, making local officials personally liable for performance of each and every law officer working in their jurisdiction.

o   Subjects local entities to Attorney General lawsuits originating from public complaints that may have no merit, eroding community relations and creating unnecessary expense.

o   Singles out the enforcement authority of University Campus police to target students that may be DREAMers or DACA recipients.

Border Wall Plans Spur Effort to help Texas Landowners with Eminent Domain

As the Trump administration sets its sights on building a barrier on the country’s southern border, a group of Texas attorneys aims to help border residents ensure they are properly compensated for whatever land the government seizes.

A group of Texas attorneys launched a campaign Wednesday to help ensure that property owners on the state’s southern border are properly compensated should the Trump administration seize their lands for a border wall.

The Texas Civil Rights Project says it will focus its efforts on lower-income residents who don’t have the skills or knowledge needed to fight through the complicated eminent domain process that’s looming as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security moves ahead with plans for the wall’s construction.

“Under the rules governing federal condemnation actions, a landowner who disagrees with the amount offered by the government has the right to request a jury trial,” Efrén Olivares, the Civil Rights Project’s racial and economic justice director, said in a prepared statement. “Our team at the Texas Civil Rights Project is ready to represent landowners, as well as train and deploy legal volunteers to ensure that all landowners have the representation and respect they deserve.”

In his Jan. 25 executive order on border security and immigration, President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to begin planning a physical barrier on the country’s border with Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has since conceded that a coast-to-coast barrier isn’t likely to happen and that efforts would instead focus on a combination of technology and a physical wall. But a draft Homeland Security Department memo leaked last week stated that the Texas’ Rio Grande Valley area would probably be home to nearly three dozen miles of new construction once the building phase begins.

Facing off with the federal government won’t be a new challenge for the area. In 2006, the federal Secure Fence Act mandated that the government build about 700 miles of a steel barrier on the border. In response, hundreds of lawsuits were filed as Rio Grande Valley property owners sought proper compensation for pieces of land that varied in size from less than once acre to several hundred, according to documents provided by the Texas Civil Rights Project. Several dozen of those suits remain pending. The plaintiffs include private landowners, estate managers and local irrigation districts.

Read related Tribune coverage: 

  • The Trump administration may not be able to move mountains — literally — in its quest to build a coast-to-coast wall along the nation’s southern border. But that doesn’t mean the White House won’t review some longstanding treaties that have stymied past administrations.
  • At the U.S.-Mexico border, scientists say existing fencing is hurting endangered wildlife and warn that a continuous wall could devastate many species.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Rep Hurd Issues Statement on Military Strikes in Syria

In response to Thursday night’s strikes against an air base in Syria, U.S Representative Will Hurd issued the following statement:

“Bashar al-Assad showed a disregard for human life and longstanding norms against chemical weapons with his barbaric attack this week. Last night’s strikes were a limited, proportional, and retaliatory response directly to these actions.

I support the President for taking strong, decisive action, and I commend our troops for their professionalism in carrying out these strikes. The United States sent a signal to the world that the we will no longer stand idly by as Assad carries out atrocities against the Syrian people.

I continue to believe that a peaceful, prosperous Syria can only exist with a stable government in place which does not include Bashar al-Assad.

We must continue to work with our allies, partners, and the international community to achieve this goal.”

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