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Appeals Court Allows More of Texas “Sanctuary Cities” Law to go Into Effect

A panel of three appellate judges ruled on Monday that parts of the state’s immigration enforcement legislation, Senate Bill 4, can go into effect while the case plays out on appeal.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia halted the part of the bill that requires jail officials to honor all detainers. He also blocked other sections that prohibit local entities from pursuing “a pattern or practice that ‘materially limits’ the enforcement of immigration laws” and another that prohibits “assisting or cooperating” with federal immigration officers as reasonable or necessary.

While a hearing on the state’s appeal of that ruling is scheduled for Nov. 6, a panel of U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled Monday that the detainer provision can stand for now. The panel ruled, however, that based on its interpretation of the law, the part that requires local jails to “comply with, honor and fulfill” detainers does not require detention based on every detainer issued.

“The ‘comply with, honor, and fulfill’ requirement does not require detention pursuant to every ICE detainer request,” the panel wrote. “Rather, the ‘comply with, honor, and fulfill’ provision mandates that local agencies cooperate according to existing ICE detainer practice and law.” The court also ruled that jails do not need to comply if a person under a detainer request provides proof of lawful presence.

The appellate court also ruled that local and college police officers with “authority that may impact immigration” cannot be prevented from assisting federal immigration officers. It said the state was likely to win those arguments during a subsequent hearing and argued the issue has already been settled in an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision, Arizona v. United States.

But the 5th Circuit also said that portions of the measure that prevent “materially limiting” cooperation with immigration officials were too vague. The court held that the word “limit” could be too broadly interpreted and left a decision on that up to the subsequent panel.

The court offered a mixed ruling on another controversial item in the bill, a section of the law that prevents local governments from “adopting, enforcing or endorsing” policies that specifically prohibit or limit enforcement of immigration laws. The judges kept that injunction in place, but said it only applies to the word “endorse.” The bill, as passed and signed, would have made elected and appointed officials subject to a fine, jail time and possible removal from office for violating all or parts of the legislation. Opponents keyed in on the “endorsement” provision as something that would open up most officials to possible fines and jail time.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the decision and said his office was confident the entire bill would subsequently be found constitutional.

“We are pleased today’s 5th Circuit ruling will allow Texas to strengthen public safety by implementing the key components of Senate Bill 4,” Paxton said in a statement. “Enforcing immigration law helps prevent dangerous criminals from being released into Texas communities.”

Democrats said the state was using delay tactics that would disenfranchise Texas’ minorities.

“Texans cannot wait nor afford another round of years-long litigation while this law tears families apart and sows distrust of and confusion among our law enforcement agencies,” said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. “If the court allows the state’s delay tactics to succeed, it will further normalize Texas Republicans’ dysfunctional one-party rule and condemn Texas Latinos to living under a cloud of uncertainty and fear.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Here’s everything you need to know about Senate Bill 4, a controversial immigration enforcement measure banning “sanctuary cities” across Texas. [Full story]

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Trump Ending Immigration Program that has Impacted more than 120,000 in Texas

The Trump Administration made it official Tuesday: It will end an Obama-era program that has granted relief from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that the administration will phase out the initiative — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program — over six months.

Started in 2012, the program has awarded more than 800,000 recipients — including more than 120,000 Texans — a renewable, two-year work permit and a reprieve from deportation proceedings. It applies to undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they were 16 years old and were 30 or younger as of June 2012.

During a conference call Tuesday morning with reporters, James McCament , the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said that any initial requests or requests for DACA renewals and accompanying work permits that had already been received before Tuesday would be “adjudicated on a case-by-case” basis.”

He added that any DACA recipient whose benefits will expire before March 5 will be allowed to apply for a renewal by Oct. 5.

In a statement released before Sessions’ announcement, Acting Department of Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke said the agency would no longer accept new applications and added the administration’s action was intended to prompt Congress to pass an immigration solution.

“With the measures the Department is putting in place today, no current beneficiaries will be impacted before March 5, 2018, nearly six months from now, so Congress can have time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions,” she said. “However, I want to be clear that no new initial requests or associated applications filed after today will be acted on.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated that he’s always believed the issue should be handled by Congress, not the president. Speaking with reporters in Austin, Abbott declined to offer any specific guidance for Congress now that lawmakers have six months to act.

“I expect Congress to address it,” Abbott said, calling it a “multifaceted challenge and issue” for legislators. “They want to tackle the issue. I think latitude needs to be given to Congress to tackle the issue.”

Asked how DACA recipients in Texas should prepare for the program’s end, Abbott said that’s up to the federal government.

Rumors had swirled since last month that President Donald Trump was leaning toward eliminating the program after he promised to do so while campaigning for president. His decision sparked immediate outrage from immigrants rights groups and their supporters.

“This spiteful executive action runs counter to what has made America and Texas great,” said Ann Beeson, the executive director of the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities. “While the Trump Administration will use the six month delay to point the finger at Congress, make no mistake that it is the President who is dashing the hopes and dreams of young people protected by the DACA program. Ending the DACA program is contrary to Texas values and bad for the Texas economy.”

This summer, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the U.S. Department of Justice to end the program, claiming it was an unlawful overreach by former President Barack Obama. Paxton and nine other state attorneys general wrote in a June 29 letter to Sessions that should the program stay intact, they would amend a 2014 lawsuit filed in Brownsville to include a challenge to DACA.

The 2014 lawsuit was filed in response to a separate Obama administration initiative, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, that would have expanded the eligible population of the DACA program and lengthened work permits to three years. That program was never implemented after the state of Texas sued the Obama Administration and successfully convinced a district judge and an appellate court that Obama overstepped his executive authority. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court split on the matter, upholding the appellate court’s decision.

In a statement Tuesday, Paxton applauded Trump’s announcement.

“As the Texas-led coalition explained in our June letter, the Obama-era program went far beyond the executive branch’s legitimate authority,” Paxton said. “Had former President Obama’s unilateral order on DACA been left intact, it would have set a dangerous precedent by giving the executive branch sweeping authority to bypass Congress and change immigration laws.”

The issue has prompted lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to file legislation to maintain the program in some form, including the bipartisan BRIDGE Act in the U.S. Senate that would extend protections for certain undocumented immigrants for three years. Economists have also cited DACA’s benefits to the economy as a reason it should remain intact. Even Trump has stated before that deciding to end the program would be “very, very hard.”

But immigration hardliners argue that despite the “deferred action” title, the program is nothing more than amnesty for people who have violated the country’s laws – no matter how old they were when they first entered the U.S.

Jackie Watson, an Austin-based immigration attorney who represented some of DACA’s earliest Texas-based applicants, said last month that attorneys are already discussing what, if any, legal action they could take should the program be axed — and whether rescinding it might “light a fire under Congress to make DACA a permanent statute.”

But she also said all of those options would be uphill battles. “It will be a total Hail Mary,” she said.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Protesters were arrested near the state Capitol on Wednesday in a demonstration designed to challenge the state’s position on an Obama-era immigration program and test Travis County’s immigration policy. [Full story]
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from nine other states on Thursday urged the Trump administration to end a program that’s allowed hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to work in the country without fear of being deported. [Full story]

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Judge Temporarily Blocks Immigration Enforcement Law

A federal district judge on Wednesday ruled against the state of Texas and halted major provisions of a controversial state-based immigration enforcement law just days before it was scheduled to go into effect.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction of Senate Bill 4, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s key legislative priorities that seeks to outlaw “sanctuary” entities, the common term for governments that don’t enforce federal immigration laws.

As passed, SB 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and seeks to punish local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation. Punishment could come in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.

Garcia halted the part of the bill that required jail officials to honor all detainers, and another that prohibits “a pattern or practice that ‘materially limits’ the enforcement of immigration laws.”

The detainer provision, he said, would violate the Fourth Amendment

Garcia did let stand one of the most controversial portions of the law — allowing police officers to question the immigration status of people they detain.

Because the inquiry into status isn’t a prolonged detention, he said, it wasn’t enjoined. But he explained that officers who make the inquiry are limited in what they can do with the information.

“If during a lawful detention or arrest an officer obtains information that a detained or arrested individual is undocumented he may not arrest the individual on this basis,” he said, adding that the officer is not required to ask the question. But he said if the officer feels like they should, they can only share the information.

“In sum, SB 4 gives local officers discretion to inquire and share information, but it does not provide them with discretion to act upon the information that they may obtain,” he wrote in a footnote to his 94-page ruling.

The bill was scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, but opponents of the legislation, including the cities of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Cenizo, as well as Maverick and El Paso counties and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argued the bill violates several provisions of the Constitution. Garcia’s decision means the bill is on hold until that issue is decided or until the preliminary injunction is appealed.

His decision is a temporary but significant blow to Abbott and other Republican backers of the bill who said it would help keep Texans safe from undocumented immigrants that have been arrested on criminal charges but released from custody by sheriffs or other elected officials who refuse to hold the alleged criminals for possible deportation.

Abbott on Wednesday night promised an immediate appeal.

“Today’s decision makes Texas’ communities less safe,” he said in a statement. “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities. U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side. This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton added: “Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”

In his ruling, Garcia also noted the injunction would serve the public and cited the overwhelming opposition to the bill during public testimony at the Capitol.

“The public interest in protecting constitutional rights, maintaining trust in local law enforcement and avoiding the heavy burdens that SB4 imposes on local entities will be served by enjoining these portions of SB4,” he said.

In another footnote, Garcia said that placing the law on hold would also benefit the state due to the sheer number of subsequent lawsuits that would likely follow if the legislation stood.

“If SB4 is implemented the state will begin spending public funds to enforce SB4 against local entities that will also spend public funds to defend themselves,” he said. “Both state and local entities will also need to expend public funds to defend against spin off litigation.”

Opponents of the law cheered the injunction.

“The court was right to strike down virtually all of this patently unconstitutional law. Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe,” said Terri Burke, the executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “That’s why police chiefs and mayors themselves were among its harshest critics — they recognized it would harm, not help, their communities.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the state of Texas’ lawsuit against Travis County and other defendants over the state’s new immigration enforcement law. [Full story]
  • Monday was the first day of what could be a lengthy legal battle over Senate Bill 4, which has been billed as the toughest state-based immigration bill in the country. [Full story]

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

State Senator Rodriguez Statement on Court Ruling that Blocks S.B. 4

Austin – Sen. José Rodríguez, Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, released the following statement regarding the preliminary injunction granted by the federal court in the Western District of Texas finding that provisions of S.B. 4 are preempted by federal law and unconstitutional:

Senate Bill 4, also referred to as the “show me your papers” bill, the racial profiling Bill, and the sanctuary cities bill, is a signal to law enforcement throughout Texas that it is okay to ignore the orders and policies of your local police chiefs and Sheriffs and profile folks by asking anyone they detain if they have immigration papers. 

This bill not only undermines public safety, it raises serious constitutional and legal questions that I and my colleagues brought up during the numerous debates leading to the enactment of S.B. 4. Thankfully, today a federal judge found that Texas violated the U.S. Constitution — the latest in a long line of legislation aimed at minorities — and enjoined all provisions of S.B. 4 from going into effect on Friday.

This is only the first step to stopping this harmful, immoral, and illegal legislation. Law enforcement, civil rights leaders, students, municipal and county leaders, and residents will continue the fight until all the harmful provisions are fully repealed.   

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.

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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.

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