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Texas Civil Rights Review: Civil Rights in Texas--General

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Border Crackdown in Texas Profits Private Prisons
Posted by editor on Monday, July 19 @ 10:58:58 EDT (1527 reads)
Civil Rights in Texas--General

Criminal prosecutions against border crossers in South Texas have come back up to historic highs, resulting in boom-time funding for private prisons say two recent reports from watchdog groups.

Grassroots Leadership has issued a "green paper" of the report "Operation Streamline: Drowning Justice and Draining Dollars along the Rio Grande." Operation Streamline is a controversial policy that mandates the criminal prosecution of border-crossers in certain areas. Before Streamline, immigration was usually enforced in the civil immigration system. The report analyzes the impact of Streamline on two border districts in Texas.

"Operation Streamline has clogged federal criminal courts with prosecutions of border-crossers," said report co-author Tara Buentello. "Our report shows that Operation Streamline has had little deterrent effect on migration while it has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars."

Key findings include that federal districts along the Texas-Mexico border have spent more than $1.2 billion in government dollars on the criminal detention and incarceration of border-crossers since the onset of Operation Streamline in 2005. More than 135,000 migrants have been criminally prosecuted in these two border districts since 2005 under two sections of the federal code that make unauthorized entry and re-entry a crime. The vast majority of these detention costs have been funneled into for-profit private prisons contracted by U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Bureau of Prisons.

"The human costs of Operation Streamline fall squarely on immigrant families," said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. "Meanwhile, private prison corporations like Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group are quietly profiting from this broken system." The new green paper follows Grassroots Leadership's 2006 report, "Ground Zero: The Laredo Super-Jail and the No Action Alternative" that demonstrated that federal detention expansion along the Texas-Mexico border is driven almost exclusively from increased prosecution and detention of border-crossers. The new report shows a staggering 2,722 percent increase in prosecutions for entry, and a 267 percent increase in prosecutions for re-entry, compared to corresponding data for 2002.

"The criminalization of immigration did not begin Arizona's SB1070," said Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership's Texas Campaigns Coordinator and a report co-author. "Operation Streamline has subjected undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border to unprecedented rates of prosecution and detention. It has also overburdened the federal judiciary. It's time to end this Bush-era policy."

The "green paper" is intended to stimulate debate and launch a dialogue on Operation Streamline. Grassroots Leadership is also launching a blog to accompany the report at Grassroots Leadership. A final white paper will be released as more data is collected.

Meanwhile, according to the most recent figures released by the Department of Justice, in recent months U.S. federal criminal immigration prosecutions by the two largest investigative agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have increased to levels seen during the last months of the Bush administration says the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University.

"The total of 14,912 prosecutions referred in March and April 2010 by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the highest two-month total since September and October of 2008, when the combined figure briefly spiked to 16,127," says a TRAC summary by co-directors David Burnham and Susan B. Long. "The 4,145 prosecutions referred by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the same two months is the highest recorded since the creation of the agency in 2005."

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South Texas Civil Rights Project Fights “Wage Theft”
Posted by editor on Monday, June 28 @ 22:37:00 EDT (1839 reads)
Civil Rights in Texas--General

By Nick Braune

Each year billions of dollars are ripped off from workers, through all sorts of little scams. It is very common apparently, when workers leave a job, for their employers to “forget” to pay for the last week or so of work. And employers scam billions of dollars annually by underpaying overtime hours. Whether lots of money is involved or not so much, it is still a fairness issue, and wage theft hurts the wage-earners, their dependents and the community. Checking online, I found several organizations fighting against wage theft nationally; it is a huge problem.

One new attorney working on this issue is in the Rio Grande Valley. I met him at the groundbreaking for the new South Texas Civil Rights Project (STCRP) office planned in Alamo. (Their current offices are getting too crowded at Cesar Chavez Road and Business 83.) The lawyer is Elliott Tucker, and he recently joined STCRP after graduating from Georgetown University and spending a year or so with another non-profit organization. I asked for an interview.

Braune: When I spoke to you at the groundbreaking, I was interested in your project and have since looked online and found that this is not a small issue at all. Could you please tell the readers a bit about what you are doing.

Tucker: I am the employment justice attorney for the South Texas Civil Rights Project, where my job is to find both legal and non-legal solutions to the rampant problem of wage theft in the Valley. In Hidalgo County and Cameron County, we offer monthly legal clinics for victims of wage theft. At these clinics we give a brief presentation on labor law, conduct a legal intake, and then provide legal orientation to the appropriate non-profit or government agency.

I am working closely with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, LUPE, and the Start Center. For instance, in close coordination with LUPE, I have developed a Justice of the Peace workshop which empowers workers to file their own small claims lawsuits. The goal of this project is to both empower workers through civic participation and also ensure that all victims of wage theft have legal redress.

Braune: What are the most common offenses you are expecting to find?

Tucker: Two patterns are perhaps the most common. Simply stringing along the workers, telling them it will be another week or so before they will be paid…

Braune: …a little later and a little later….

Tucker: Yes, and the second most common one is just as simple, paying the workers less than minimum wage.

Greed and ignorance are the driving force behind wage thefts. The range of excuses for non-payment runs the gamut from “But I didn’t get paid either” to “You didn’t do a good job.” However, under federal and state law, an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay. No excuses.

More disturbingly, in the Valley confused individuals feel that just because a worker does not have a social security number, they can pay that worker whatever they want. Oftentimes these individuals feel they are doing the worker a favor and get offended when the reality of the law comes barking. However, state and national law set the wage rate for all human beings, regardless of immigration status.

Another common problem is willful ignorance. Many reputable businesses hire an under-capitalized subcontractor to do the recruiting, supervision, and (scant) payment of workers who have questionable immigration status. It’s an assumed win-win for the business because they get labor on the cheap and they think they can plead ignorance. However, state and national law was drafted with this trick in mind, and workers can often demand wages from both entities as “joint employers.”

Braune: Do undocumented workers hesitate to come forward with complaints?

Tucker: Yes, but they should have far less fear. Although some build up unnecessary worries in their minds, there are a good number of protections in place if they do come forward.

Braune: What further developments do you envision? -- Lawsuits? New state laws?

Tucker: My first goal is to educate low wage workers in the Valley about their rights, so all workers know the basic minimum wage and, if violated, know they have legal recourse regardless of their immigration status. Education is the key. However, education cannot open the eyes of the willfully blind, so I do anticipate lawsuits being necessary in the cases of extreme and systemic abuse.

As far as new state laws go, given the current political climate in Texas, I am not optimistic about new laws to address wage theft. Unless there is a fundamental shift in the political winds in Austin, I view my project as focusing primarily on education and litigation, not pushing legislative reform.

[This article also appeared June 23, 2010 in the Mid-Valley Town Crier]

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New Orleans Groups Demand Federal Programs for Housing, Jobs, and Gulf Disaster
Posted by editor on Sunday, June 27 @ 21:15:24 EDT (1679 reads)
Civil Rights in Texas--General

New Orleans, La. C3/Hands Off Iberville and other New Orleans Community groups will hold a press conference on June 29 at 5:30 PM in front of the Housing Authority of New Orleans headquarters to demand the federal government create a massive federal public works program to address the current housing, jobs, and Gulf oil spill crises. We will then attend HANO’s public hearing on their 2010-2011 annual plan and deliver this message to the federal-government controlled agency.

Instead of cutbacks planned by HANO, and other city, state, and federal agencies and officials across the country, we need an expansion of government services to meet unmet and pressing human needs. This initiative can be financed by immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and closing foreign military bases, ending and forcing repayment of bank and other corporate bailouts, and taxing the wealthy.

New Orleans remains devastated 5 years after Hurricane Katrina. Affordable housing remains scarce, with the city having the nation’s highest percentage of renters--41%--paying at last half their wages in rent and utilities. Homelessness has quadrupled, per capita, since Katrina, while over 34,000 families are on waiting lists for public housing and section 8 vouchers--and thousands more would sign up if HANO reopened the waiting lists! Charity hospital, the major provider of health care pre-Katrina, remains closed--not because of a “natural” disaster, but rather due to the very human, and intentional actions taken by Governors Blanco, and now Jindal, to kill public health care.

New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast are now being hit with the oil drilling disaster that is putting thousands more of people out of work and destroying communities and the environment. These city and regional disasters are on top of the worst economic depression since the 1930s facing the entire country, with over 20% of the workforce either unemployed or underemployed.

How are governments from the national to local level responding to these multiple crises? With more cuts to social services, further privatizations, while the wars and bailouts of the wealthy, and their corporations, continue. HANO’s proposed cutbacks for fiscal year 2010-2011 are representative of the austerity measures being taken by Republicans and Democratic Party-controlled legislatures, administrations, and agencies across the country. HANO executive director David Gilmore, who has played a major role in public housing demolition and privatization across the country over the last generation, is continuing that legacy in New Orleans. The 2010-2011 agency plan he crafted, in collaboration with the Obama administration, includes:

  • Demolition of all 127 apartments at the Florida development, and no plans to rebuild. Before its redevelopment, pre-Katrina, Florida had 734 units (see p. 33, HANO Annual Plan, 2010-11)
  • Demolition of approximately 500 scattered site apartments (of a total of over 700), with no plans to rebuild. HANO is working with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to decide their “best use”--i.e. handing over highly valued real estate parcels to developers (see pp. 34-43; 63, Attachment K, p,.10; HANO Annual Plan, 2010-11 ).
  • Privatization and demolition at Iberville. HANO plans to apply for a HOPE VI grant to “redevelop” the Iberville project into a “mixed income” development. As happened at St. Thomas, “redevelopment” and “mixed income” are code words for drastically reducing the current stock of approximately 850 public housing apartments, resulting in further displacement, hardship, and reduction in affordable housing (see p. 30, HANO Annual Plan 2010-11 )

Is there an alternative to the austerity and further misery planned by HANO and other levels of government? Do we have to sit idly by while BP destroys the Gulf and the government subordinates itself to these corporate criminals, relegated to providing security and public relations services? The success of US’s public works program shows there is an alternative: 75 years ago the Civil Works Administration, in four and a half months built or repaired 33,850 public building, carried out 3,220 flood control projects, built from scratch 1,000 airports and 3,700 playgrounds. Within the first week of its operation, it employed 1.1 million workers and employment peaked at 4.2 million. The total cost of the project was $30 billion in 2006 dollars.

In 6 years the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built 116,000 bridges, 5,600 new schools, 30,000 new public buildings, financed thousands of public murals, put on thousands of plays and concerts, paid for local histories and employed nearly eight million people –in a country with less than half our present population.

We can, and must, do it again.

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Protesters Plan to Bring Demands to Gulf Disaster Command Center
Posted by editor on Sunday, June 20 @ 22:49:00 EDT (1290 reads)
Civil Rights in Texas--General

Protest the crimes of British Petroleum and the painfully slow and woefully inadequate response by both BP and the US Government

From the People's Gulf Emergency Summit Saturday in New Orleans, we found out that the Deepwater Horizon Unified Response Command Center has moved to New Orleans, near the infamous Superdome where many poor and black people were forced to evacuate to after Hurricane Katrina.

We will be delivering provisional demands. Come out to show your opposition to the destruction of the Gulf.

When: Monday, June 21
Time: Noon to two
Where: 1250 Poydras St (Eni Petroleum)
Bring: your signs, bullhorns, and energy.
(There may be opportunity for Civil Resistance)

for more information: 504 644 7214 gulfemergencysummit (at) gmail. Thanks to Cindy Sheehan for design.

1) Stop oil drilling in the gulf, full compensation, retraining and new employment, including public works, for all affected

2) The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop and clean up the spill, prevent oil from hitting shore, protect wildlife, treat injured wildlife, and repair all devastation. Full support, including by compensation, must be given to peoples’ efforts on all these fronts and to save the Gulf.

3) No punishment to those taking independent initiative; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer; those responsible for this crime against the environment and the people should be prosecuted.

4) Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Release scientific and technical data to the public; no more lying and covering up. Immediately end use of dispersants; full, open scientific evaluation of nature and impact of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research.

5) Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

6) Provide necessary medical services to those suffering health effects of the spill. Protect the health of and provide necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies about the effects of the oil disaster.

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Fighting with the Brown Pelicans to Survive
Posted by editor on Sunday, June 20 @ 12:48:29 EDT (2035 reads)
Civil Rights in Texas--General

By David Swanson

Way back in January, the ocean was still ocean, oil still oil, and combining the two had not yet occurred to us. The Conch Republic, the Florida Keys, was -- in retrospect -- a secure and pristine paradise.

The danger was of sunburn, not of crude oil on your skin or toxic chemicals in the air you breathed.

While I was there with my family, we enjoyed the sand, sun, and sea. But we wanted to see more pelicans. We wanted to see lots of pelicans.

So we went to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center.

Well, it turns out that pelicans know what time it is. And if someone hands out buckets of fish on the shore at the same time every day, any pelican in the greater metropolitan area is going to be there right on time.

And that's what they do there on Tavernier Key. They know the pelicans. They tag them. They doctor injured ones. And, if they want to check on how they're doing, all it takes is several buckets of fish and predictable timing.

The pelicans didn't have everything perfect, even pre-oil. The effects on the weather of our burning of oil we're hitting the pelicans hard before the oil itself hit the water. These birds require a finely calibrated climate. They migrate from the U.S. gulf coast to the Keys with the seasons. And they need fish, fresh, healthy fish, and lots of it.

When the weather goes freaky with unusually cold or hot or dry periods, and when fish die, the pelicans are in danger too. We just didn't know how good they had it before BP-USA dipped them and their world in oil.

At lunchtime, hundreds of pelicans show up with one thing on their minds.

Pelicans Before the BP Oil Disaster

If you watch CNN you'll see heartwarming stories of how purchasing the proper brand of dishwashing soap at your local supermarket will contribute to the work of washing the pelicans off before dipping them back in the oil to die. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is horseshit.

The ocean is filling up with oil, which kills the fish, which kills the pelicans, and which -- with a few more steps -- kills all of us. The pelicans are canaries in this coalmine, and they are expiring.

There will be no more human enjoyment of the pelicans if this continues, and no more pelican enjoyment of anything at all. They will be gone, along with the world they lived in.

This does not strike me as yet another ho-hum project for the president to create a commission on or the oil baron primarily responsible to be annoyed by when he's not yachting in another ocean. This is the worst damage we have yet imposed on the earth, an ongoing explosion of black liquid death pumping into paradise, and we're taking it all pretty coolly.

Oh, but what can we do?

What would the pelicans do? When they want something, they don't hesitate. If you don't toss them the fish fast enough, they grab your legs. If that doesn't work, they try to knock the bucket over. These are birds on a mission to survive. We're on a mission to nap.

What should we be doing? Not yachting. Not golfing. Not deferring as people to our government or as Congress to a president or as that president to the criminals responsible.

There should be an all-out night-and-day effort to stop this oil gusher. The national guard should be brought home to guard the nation. The trillions of dollars being put into wars for oil should be reinvested (ending the wars) into a war against the oil we do not want and cannot survive, and into an all-out crusade to create a renewable energy economy.

The oil should be claimed by our nation, and our nation should seize the assets of the company responsible.

The state of Delaware should decharter the US branch of BP.

BP and the government regulators who did not regulate it should be prosecuted.

The military and the rest of the government should end all contracts with BP.

All offshore drilling should be banned.

All restrictions on journalists in the Gulf of Mexico should be lifted.

Corporations should be denied their dangerous status of possessing the privileges of people with none of the responsibilities.

If anyone should be given the protections afforded flesh and blood people, it is the pelicans.

* * * * * *

David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town.

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(Read More... | Score: 0)

TX Death Penalty Abolition

Executed Persons

Execution Schedule

Kids Against the Death Penalty (KADP)

KPFT Execution Watch

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP)

Texas Execution Information Center

Texas Moratorium Network

Texas Students Against the Death Penalty (TSADP)

Free Ramsey
Ramsey Muniz
Ramsey Muniz

Ramiro R. Muñiz – 40288-115
FCC Beaumont – Medium
P.O. Box 26040
Beaumont, TX 77720

Address updated Christmas Day, 2009

Migrant Mass Graves, Holtville, CA
Freshly covered graves of migrants at Holtville, CA

Jay's Photo Album

Jay's Video Clip

Bring the Toys!

Jaime Martinez calls for toys at the Hutto First Anniversary Vigil
(Walt Harrison / Winston Smith Media)

First Anniversary Vigil

Dec. 16, 2007

American Heroes
Faten and Maryam Ibrahim

Faten and Maryam Ibrahim

Old Articles
Friday, June 18
· New Orleans Gulf Emergency Summit, June 19
Wednesday, June 16
· Archiving the Gulf Death Watch: The Early Weeks
Wednesday, June 02
· Oil Enzyme Research Ignored by BP-led Authorities in Gulf of Mexico
Tuesday, June 01
· ICE Discloses Sexual Abuse at Hutto Immigrant Prison
· Dunkirk at the Gulf Coast: Reader Response
Monday, May 31
· Skimmers and Booms: Keywords for Victory on the Gulf Coast
Sunday, May 30
· Memorial Day 2010: Who Will Defend the Gulf Coast?
Friday, May 28
· Grief and the Power of Media in the Gulf Coast
Thursday, April 29
· 'No one is thinking about the children' - A Mormon Republican Appeal
· Mormons for Racial Profiling?
Tuesday, April 13
· Rio Grande Activists Call for Moratorium on Clayton Williams, Jr. Water Plan
Tuesday, April 06
· Ongoing Opposition to Homeland Security’s Border Wall in the Rio Grande Valley
Monday, March 29
· Protest Against Raymondville Tent City Targets Georgetown Office
Wednesday, March 24
· Archive: Thinking about the Texas State Board of Ed
Monday, March 22
· Viewing Health Care Reform through Charley's Pride
Friday, March 19
· Univ. of Texas and Austin Urban Communities Gerrymandered off Board of Ed
Thursday, March 18
· Facing 'Fracking' Questions, White Calls for 'Common Ground' Leadership
· Replacing Jefferson with Calvin, Aquinas, and Blackstone?
· Archiving the Texas School Debate
Monday, March 15
· In the News: Harlingen Municipal Jail Lacks Clear Oversight
Thursday, March 11
· Murder Suicide and the English Language
Saturday, March 06
· Victor Carrillo's Letter to Supporters: ''I Refuse to Walk Away in Shame''
Saturday, February 20
· Link to Rodney Reed Opinion
· Ibrahim Family Fights Deportation
· Archive: Suleiman Twins, Bring them Home
Wednesday, February 10
· Undisclosed Company Wants to Build Women-Children Detention at Las Cruces
Sunday, February 07
· More Organizing in the Rio Grande Valley against Capital Punishment
Monday, January 18
· Methodist Group and Others Protest at Raymondville
Tuesday, December 29
· Support Texas Peacemakers: Call off the Egyptian Police
Friday, December 04
· Grassroots Leadership Calls for Scrutiny of Pecos Prison

Older Articles

Revolution of Conscience

'Are there no prisons?'
Razorwire and Chain Link

Hutto Jail for Children, Women, and Profit
(Taylor, TX)
Photo by Jay Johnson-Castro

Jay's Vigil VI Video

Christmas Eve Vigil
View Video

Vigil Album
View Photo Album

Vigil III
Jan. 25, 2007
Neighbors Say Never

Neighbors Say Never
(Photo by Jay J. Johnson-Castro)

First Vigil
Dec. 16, 2006
Luissana Santibanez and TUFF
Video Part I

Video Part II

Hutto Vigil X

visuals by Plano progressives

Video by Rolf Ernst

Hutto Vigil X, June 23, 2007

June 23, 2007
(Photo by Walt Harrison)

Also: See Slide Show from the Prisons for Profit Blog

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