- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Dallas Morning News. Aug. 4, 2015.

Debate over the nation’s broken immigration system is certain to grow hotter as presidential campaign season approaches. So get ready for lots of inflammatory terminology like “anchor babies” to describe aspects of immigration policy that hard-liners find particularly odious.

Despite all the complaining, birthright citizenship is unlikely to change as a bedrock constitutional right in this country. The 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, states unequivocally: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

A child born on American soil is a U.S. citizen, regardless of the parent’s immigration status. In Texas, however, the Department of State Health Services appears to be creating bureaucratic roadblocks that violate some children’s constitutional rights.

The state now faces a lawsuit in federal court filed on behalf of 23 children who, according to their Mexican parents, are U.S.-born but have been denied the birth certificates they need to enroll in school, obtain Social Security numbers and exercise other rights as citizens.

One plaintiff parent, Maria Isabel Perales Serna, says she fled an abusive marriage in Mexico years ago. Her first U.S.-born child, now 14, received all of the necessary certification from the state. But when Perales sought the same documentation for her second child last November, the state imposed much stricter policies that effectively blocked the child from getting a birth certificate.

Perales presented both a matricula and Mexican passport when trying to obtain a birth certificate for her newborn, but the State Health Services office in McAllen said it would no longer accept either. Her passport had no visa.

Similar circumstances prevailed in the other 22 cases. At issue, according to state officials, is the validity of the identification process used by Mexican consulates to verify that the parents are who they say they are.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenges the lawsuit on largely technical grounds relating to state vs. federal jurisdiction, but he avoids addressing the substance of the plaintiffs’ complaint. It seems clear that officials are testing a backdoor way to enforce their preferred immigration policy and deny birthright citizenship by erecting insurmountable bureaucratic barriers.

If Texas doesn’t believe Mexico applies stringent enough background checks to verify the parents’ identities, then the state should specify where the weaknesses exist so Mexico can correct them. But to simply reverse longstanding birth-certificate policies and establish unilateral procedures aimed at a specific group of immigrants seems discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently affirmed this state’s longstanding friendship and business ties during a visit by Mexico’s foreign secretary. The state’s actions with these new policies are nothing less than a slap in the face.

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Houston Chronicle. Aug. 4, 2015.

There was no surprise in Ken Paxton indictment

There’s little surprise in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s felony indictments for securities fraud and failing to register with the state to sell securities. The longtime lawmaker’s legal troubles have been public knowledge for some time. During the 2014 election season, political watchers routinely warned voters about Paxton’s record of insider dealings and kickbacks. As we wrote during the primary runoff: “Voters shouldn’t want a lawyer-in-chief who will confront the wrong end of a grand jury on day one.”

It took a bit longer than one day, but here we are at the predictable inevitability of a broken political system.

Paxton’s campaign for attorney general was a parade of red flags. News poured from the woodwork about admissions to law-breaking, failures to fill out ethics disclosures, lawsuits about breach of fiduciary duty and instances of him investing with companies that suspiciously went on to land state contracts. There was even the odd story about him stealing another lawyer’s $1,000 pen.

This should have been enough to doom a man in a competitive primary race, but serious allegations seemed to matter less than an endorsement from now-U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

It didn’t have to be like this. Republican primary voters had a fine candidate in Paxton’s opponent, former state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas. A seasoned conservative, Branch could tout the endorsements of many legal advisers to then-Attorney General Greg Abbott and support from former President George W. Bush. While in the Legislature, Branch proved capable and pragmatic. “Conservatives have a responsibility to govern,” he told the Chronicle editorial board during his endorsement meeting.

Unfortunately, Republican primary voters saw little to like in Branch’s camaraderie with Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, a moderate Republican and tea party target. Democratic candidate Sam Houston didn’t fare much better in the general election.

Now we’re stuck with an attorney general who will be too busy tending to self-inflicted wounds to fulfill the business of his office. Government transparency, consumer protection and all manner of regular governing will have to take a back seat to Paxton’s personal legal woes.

This unforced error should remind Texans that they have a duty to vote in primaries not on the basis of their political allegiance, but with a strategic mindset aimed at blocking the worst that our state has to offer. Until Republican primary voters love Texas more than they hate Straus, we’ll be stuck with politicians who have more ambition than ethics.

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Waco Tribune-Herald. Aug. 4, 2015.

Many Texas Republican voters are complicit in attorney general scandal

Republican leaders and tea party disciples have been pretty quiet in the wake of State Attorney General Ken Paxton’s indictment on felony charges alleging securities fraud, so we’ll say it: If you voted straight-ticket Republican in the 2014 general election or you voted for Paxton because he had the blessing of the tea party and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in both the primary and general elections, you are partially responsible for this scandal.

Even before last year’s primary election matchup with eminently qualified attorney and Republican legislator Dan Branch, Paxton did not dispute Texas State Securities Board allegations that he earned what proved to be thousands of dollars by referring some of his private law clients to an investment advisory firm without making it clear he was making a commission off their investments. He insisted his failures were innocent mistakes, even though as a lawmaker in 2003 he voted to make such failures felonious. So much for the old ignorance-of-the-law theory.

Yet, despite all this, the tea party demonstrated its repeated failure to champion candidates of character and integrity and rallied around Paxton rather than Branch. Bolstered by an endorsement from Cruz, Paxton won the primary election runoff, then the general election against a qualified Democrat. His election as our state’s top law enforcement officer exposes the ugly hypocrisy of those Republicans who rail on about the illegalities of everyone from undocumented immigrants to President Obama, yet ignore pretty obvious sins in a party that should be trying to set a better example for the public than Democrats.

Paxton stands charged with encouraging investors to sink more than a half-million dollars into a technology company without informing them that he was getting a cut of their investments. He’s also accused of misrepresenting himself as an investor in the company, itself recently under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding stockholders.

Even Republican political consultant Bill Miller, speaking to The Dallas Morning News, has called the silence of Republican colleagues amid all of this “the loudest noise in the room.” And no one can blame Democrats for this being politically driven, given the fact the indictment was handed down in Collin County, which Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson calls “a red, red, red belt of Texas conservatism.” We might add the investigation was conducted by the Texas Rangers.

Die-hard Republicans should do some sincere soul-searching as Paxton - arrested, booked and released from Collin County Jail on Monday - undergoes prosecution. Of course, the chance exists that he might beat the charges. However, given the evidence so far, chances are the attorney general’s past as a lawmaker quick to jump into business deals will not serve him or Texas well, such as when advising county clerks that they can ignore the U.S. Supreme Court if their religious principles tell them to. Amazing.

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Longview News-Journal. Aug. 1, 2015

It’s time for some changes in DPS training, leadership

The tragic death of Sandra Bland - the young black woman who was found hanged in the Waller County Jail last month - involves much more than whether she took her own life or was murdered.

Unraveling that mystery is vital, of course, and we hope no investigative thread is left unexamined in making a fact-based determination.

It could be that we never will know. But even if that’s so, we know one thing with absolute certainty: Bland never should have been arrested in the first place.

From what we can tell, she probably never should have been stopped by Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian T. Encinia. He surely had no obvious reason for doing so. The “unsafe lane change” reason he gave is well-known inside and outside law enforcement as merely an excuse to stop a car an officer wants to stop.

Matters quickly went seriously wrong after Bland was pulled over. She was not the self-effacing driver troopers prefer to deal with. Instead, she argued with the officer and did not want to get out of her car when asked.

But it was Trooper Encinia’s attitude and actions that caused the problem. One cannot objectively view the video of the traffic stop and come to any other conclusion. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion, and it’s painful.

The video also points out two glaring possible problems: Either the psychological profile on Encinia did not adequately identify him as someone who never should have been hired as a law enforcement officer, or the DPS training regimen is so poor as to not prepare troopers to deal with such situations.

It’s highly likely both problems exist, as we have seen other lapses within the DPS over the past several years.

This should give every Texan reason to worry. It also raises questions about the agency’s leadership and our state’s oversight.

We always have looked to the DPS as the most professional regular police force in the state, with the Texas Rangers perhaps taking the top spot as a specialized force. The Rangers are chosen from the ranks of the DPS.

The DPS has more rigorous requirements than most regular police departments, has its own academy that prospective troopers must attend, and the pay is considerably higher than that at most police departments.

Those factors do not automatically lead to a more professional force, but if handled properly, they certainly should.

Instead, we have seen evidence of a poor training regimen within the organization.

News last week that Encinia was cited for “unprofessional conduct” while he was a probationary trooper reinforces those concerns. It all leads us to believe the program should be revamped. Any such changes should come from recommendations from outside the DPS. Those who believe the training is good enough as it exists never will see what needs to be done.

One other thing: No part of the Sandra Bland investigation should be done by the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are, after all, an arm of the DPS. This requires an outside force - the FBI comes to mind - to take complete control.

Bland and her relatives deserve that, as do the people of Texas. This tragedy never should have happened, and by all means, we should make sure it never happens again.

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. July 31, 2015.

Candidates should build their campaigns around substance

Republican presidential hopefuls have been saying and doing some strange things lately. It appears they’re trying to get attention that could boost their poll numbers, but such behavior is short-sighted.

First, they are reflecting poorly on the party with their collective bickering and shallow mouthing off.

Second, they should remember the words they throw around casually now could come back to haunt them later.

Here are some of the recent strange goings-on from candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president:

- Sen. Ted Cruz, in a speech from the Senate floor, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of lying. He was soundly and deservedly criticized by Republican colleagues, including fellow Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made a tasteless reference to the Holocaust when he said President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” After criticisms from Israelis and American Jews, Huckabee stood by the statement.

- Donald Trump reported the American dream is dead when he announced his candidacy and soon got into hot water with comments about illegal Mexican immigrants.

- Trump said Sen. John McCain wasn’t a war hero and that he liked people who weren’t captured. McCain was shot down over North Vietnam and spent more than five agonizing years as a prisoner of war. Trump didn’t serve in the military.

- In an exchange of immature behavior between South Carolina Gov. Lindsey Graham and Trump, Graham called Trump a jackass, and Trump called Graham an idiot and gave out Graham’s cellphone number on national television. Graham made a video of him destroying his cell phone, and he posted it on YouTube.

The Fox News Channel has scheduled debates involving the 16 declared Republican candidates on Thursday. A two-hour debate among the 10 candidates who polled highest in an average of five national polls will be in prime time. The candidates who don’t make the cut will have a one-hour debate beginning at 4 p.m.

The desire among candidates to get attention, boost their polling numbers and gain a better chance of getting into the debate could be encouraging some of the provocative remarks.

What the GOP doesn’t seem to be considering is Hillary Clinton, who is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee, is beatable.

Republicans have to learn how to run a long-range nationwide campaign in which they seek the common goal of winning the presidency.

Some Republican candidates are attempting to appear more conservative than they really are, and that can work against them later.

Mitt Romney did that while running against other Republicans in 2012, and Barack Obama used it against him when Romney changed to more moderate stances later.

At the moment, some of the GOP candidates appear to be quarrelling and disorganized children who are fighting for scraps of attention.

If the Republicans hope to win back the White House in 2016, they need a unified strategy that will put the party’s nominee in place to run hard next year. And they need to attempt to look like dignified leaders now.


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