- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Houston Chronicle. June 25, 2018.

In President Trump’s mind, there are only two approaches to policing the border - neither of them good.

“If you’re really, really pathetically weak, the country is going to be overrun with millions of people,” Trump asserted in a meeting before signing an executive order to stop family separations. “And if you’re strong, then you don’t have any heart. That’s a tough dilemma.”

Actually, it’s not a dilemma; it’s a false dichotomy - the kind of oversimplification the president masterfully employs to stoke fear and flatten complex, multilayered issues into misleading mantras as thick as cue cards.

Border enforcement is a serious issue that deserves careful study and problem-solving by people who actually want to solve problems. And of course, in Washington, crafting the right policy often isn’t key to electoral success. Republican primaries are won by screaming about “invasion!,” and Democrats can get their base motivated by keeping the fight alive.

But here in the real world, it’s time to take a deep breath and consider the facts. Despite what Trump may think, there are common-sense solutions somewhere between “open borders” and the Berlin Wall. It starts with providing enough judges and other resources to enforce current law as intended.

Despite what you may have heard, the United States is not being invaded by amassing hordes of foreigners who threaten our very way of life.

Apprehensions for illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border are the lowest since the 1970s. Meanwhile, we admit fewer legal immigrants each year than Canada or European nations as a percent of population. In fact, more people today are moving to Mexico from the United States than the other way around.

The real challenge at our border has to do with a surge of migrants fleeing violence and chaos in Central America and earnestly pleading for asylum in the United States.

It is a challenge our nation should be well-equipped to handle if we had any real interest: This year, we’re on path to welcome the fewest number of refugees to our borders since the modern resettlement program began in 1980.

Don’t be fooled: There’s room in the inn.

The problem is that we don’t have an organized, efficient system for admitting people and adjudicating their asylum claims. So folks end up behind bars under suspicion of a misdemeanor crime. Children - who must be kept in the least restrictive facilities - get separated from their parents. The line in our immigration courts grows longer.

A question of policy becomes a partisan fight.

Between the cable news clips and shouts of protesters, however, you can hear a serious conversation happening in Washington. A Republican bill making its way through the Senate, the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act, implements some targeted ideas intended to speed up the asylum process - notably, expanding the number of immigration judges and their support staff.

This is the sort of common-sense solution you hear pitched from all across the political spectrum - except, of course, from the president. Last week, Trump explicitly rejected efforts to hire more immigration judges and called congressional efforts to pass a bill, “a waste of time.”

If the Republicans who control Congress, like Texas’ own U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, want to pass a legislative fix, they’ll need to mute the president’s Twitter feed, tune out Freedom Caucus extremists who love to cry amnesty, and work with Democrats.

Yes, Mr. President, there’s an alternative to ham-fisted toughness. It’s called smart. Instead of building more detention facilities to house families, Congress should prioritize alternatives, such as providing attorneys and case managers and relying on ankle monitors. By the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s own numbers, 99.8 percent of participants in these alternative programs have shown up to their court hearings since November 2014.

These alternatives keep families together, spare children psychological trauma and reflect our nation’s constitutional promise of due process. They also save taxpayer dollars. Detaining a child in a temporary tent city costs $775 per night. At best, detaining an adult costs more than $100 per day. Alternatives to detention cost less than $20 per day.

Congress knows these policies can work. And if they don’t implement them, we’ve seen the results: Families will be held in 21st century internment camps. Kids will be forced to take psychotropic drugs. Sex criminals will be hired to oversee the most vulnerable among us.

Congress has the ability to deal with the current scenario of Central Americans seeking asylum at our border. It doesn’t have to be a crisis. The answer doesn’t have to be pathetic or heartless. It just has to be smart.


The Dallas Morning News. June 25, 2018.

Anyone who has ever been around an urban school district knows that, even on the best days, two steps forward on one front can be quickly eclipsed by three steps back elsewhere. That’s simply the reality of the work the Dallas Independent School District faces as it continues to try to turn around the district and close achievement gaps.

But the challenges that still face DISD shouldn’t obscure recent examples of solid progress.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa recently announced that the district expects to see another dramatic decrease in the number of “improvement required” schools - from 13 this past year to three. Just five years ago, 43 DISD schools were on the state’s failing list.

In a district in which 90 percent of students are poor and carry many challenges with them into the classroom each day, the reduction of failing schools is nothing short of astounding.

The school-by-school improvements are evidence that hard-fought reforms - namely the Accelerating Campus Excellence plan, which teams the best teachers with students who need them most - are paying off in a big way.

The progress on improvement required campuses follows recent good news about across-the-board growth in STAAR testing.

But continuing the effective initiatives that produces these results takes money, and state lawmakers have been slow to send financial help. To make matters worse, DISD will become a “recapture” district for the first time this school year and have to send millions back to the state.

All of that is why we support a tax ratification election, or TRE, to allow voters to decide if they want to pitch in more dollars to help the district. Trustees have twice rejected the TRE, which requires a supermajority of the board.

That brings us to another reason for our increased optimism around DISD: the refreshing election of new board member Justin Henry. He supports the TRE and is likely to clear a logjam on the school board to finally get it on the ballot in November. If approved by voters, it would raise the district’s tax rate by 13 cents and bring in an additional $116 million.

There’s much riding on voter approval. Trustees just approved a $1.862 billion budget that includes $32.3 million in teacher and support staff raises - increases that are contingent on the TRE’s passage.

It was a bold move by Hinojosa to gamble that not only will trustees agree to call the election but that voters will approve it.

While we appreciate Hinojosa’s attempt to build pressure for the tax ratification election, he and his staff better have a workable Plan B in the event the TRE doesn’t become a reality. Sadly, that’ll likely mean deeper cuts in programs.

DISD has taken many steps forward this year. It’s now up to trustees - and, most likely, voters - to guard against falling back.


Fort Worth Star-Telegram. June 25, 2018.

We all get sick occasionally, right? And if we hold down jobs, that sometimes means taking a day or two off work. If we get really sick, or have a profoundly ill family member, that may mean taking off more than a few days.

Some of us are fortunate enough to work for companies that still pay us while we’re nursing a fever or a family member. It’s a benefit the businesses factor into their costs, and employees often weigh when deciding whether to accept a job offer.

We wish every private company offered paid sick leave. We think that kind of a policy leads to a more productive workplace by generating loyalty among employees and making a business more competitive when it tries to attract top workers.

We don’t, however, think city officials should require businesses in their community to provide paid sick days. That benefit should be a matter negotiated between employees and employers.

In Fort Worth and much of North Texas, where unemployment has dropped to 3.4 percent, employers would be well-advised to add sick leave to their compensation packages or face difficulty in attracting talent. But it should be the employer’s decision.

We’re addressing this issue because support for mandatory sick leave is gaining steam in a number of Texas cities.

In February, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance requiring that companies with 15 or more employees allow workers to accrue up to eight days of sick leave. Workers will earn one hour off for every 30 hours worked. Companies with fewer employees will be required to provide less sick leave.

Monday, the state’s largest business group, the Texas Association of Business, was among plaintiffs arguing in an Austin court that the city’s ordinance is illegal.

Potential battles are also brewing in San Antonio and Dallas where citizen groups are collecting signatures to place mandatory paid sick leave measures on their November ballots.

We are not aware of similar efforts in Arlington, Fort Worth or other Tarrant communities, but we caution officials and citizens here to consider the consequences if they decide to move forward.

At least seven states and 28 cities or local jurisdictions have adopted sick-leave laws, but in some cases businesses have responded by cutting employee costs in other ways.

A group that tracks entry-level employment says that after San Francisco passed a sick leave law in 2004, “nearly 30 percent of the lowest-paid employees in the city reported layoffs or reduced hours at their place of work.”

Federal law currently guarantees some basic rights including minimum wage; requirements for health and safety standards in a workplace; and family leave of up to 12 weeks a year to deal with family illness, pregnancy or care of a child.

Heaven knows, living on minimum wage alone is next to impossible. Proponents of mandatory sick pay also rightly point out that while a business must provide family leave it doesn’t have to compensate workers while they’re away.

But we believe our economy should dictate additional mandates.

Yes, businesses as well as their employees benefit with reasonable paid sick leave. We just don’t think it’s up to our city governments to require it.


Corpus Christi Caller-Times. June 25, 2018.

This phrase - “the good faith of the Legislature must be presumed” - sounds like a punch line. But it’s not funny. As of Monday, it’s the law of the land.

It is a key statement by Justice Samuel Alito in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion upholding all but one of Texas’ egregiously gerrymandered congressional and state legislative districts. Among the upheld districts are our Congressional District 27 and the Texas House districts represented by Reps. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and Abel Herrero, D-Robstown.

The court, ruling 5-4, rejected a lower court’s finding that some of the districts were drawn deliberately to discriminate against Hispanics and blacks. The burden of proof was on the challengers, Alito wrote, and they didn’t come through.

The working theory, bought by the court majority, is that the hyper-Republican Legislature’s intent in drawing the districts was to help Republicans, not to hurt Hispanics and blacks. Being intentionally political is allowed; being intentionally discriminatory is not.

And it just so happens that, in Texas, Hispanics and blacks tend to vote Democratic. The discriminatory effect of Texas gerrymandering, therefore, is plain for all to see. Nevertheless, five of the nine justices - the five who were Republican nominees - didn’t see intent to discriminate.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, author of the dissenting opinion, saw “undeniable proof of intentional discrimination.” She is the court’s only Hispanic and therefore is more likely to know intentional discrimination against Hispanics when she sees it. Also she looked past the end of her nose. Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s only black justice, is also its farthest-right member. No matter what his personal experience with discrimination may be, his vote with the 5-4 majority was predictable.

Let’s consider a few things about this Texas Legislature in whom the Supreme Court says good faith must be presumed:

- It has spent $1.6 billion in the past two sessions to flood the overwhelmingly Hispanic border region, where crime is low, with extra Department of Public Safety troopers. Try to picture our Legislature doing the same if non-Hispanic white Canadians were on the other side of that border.

- It enacted an unconstitutionally strict voter ID law that has been shown to have a disproportionately negative effect on low-income Hispanic and black voters.

- If state Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, is re-elected in November in his Democrat-competitive district, he will be the Texas House’s only Hispanic Republican. There are no Hispanic Republicans in the Texas Senate. In a state that is nearly 40 percent Hispanic according to year-old U.S. Census projections, that speaks volumes about how welcome Hispanics feel in the Republican Party.

In the short term, this ruling means that Corpus Christi remains the extreme south end of a district drawn to make a Republican victory as near a certainty as possible. It’s a huge advantage for the Republican nominee in November, Michael Cloud of Victoria, who also is a candidate in Saturday’s special election for the remainder of the term vacated by the resignation of Blake Farenthold.

It means that if Cloud wins, Corpus Christi being represented by a Victoria resident might not be the short-term thing it was assumed to be. The district might not change as much with the next statewide redistricting in 2021 as was expected.

Each day something happens to remind us how much elections matter. Monday’s ruling was a bigger-than-usual reminder. The court has effectively diminished the voting strength of Hispanics and blacks in Texas. The way for them to make up the difference is to take turnout more seriously.


The Brownsville Herald. June 26, 2018.

The Rio Grande Valley has endured its share of storms and flooding. But they’re not the kind of thing to which we’ll ever grow accustomed.

Likewise, we’ll never cease being amazed at, and grateful for, the work of first responders and emergency personnel who dove into the fray, often putting themselves at risk, in order to reduce the burden that others had to bear.

It began with planners and forecasters who monitored the weather and began issuing alerts as soon as flooding became imminent. Police, fire and utility crews among others headed out into the downpour to set out roadblocks and look for stranded vehicles.

Schools and government offices scrambled to determine if they needed to close early, open late or cancel summer classes, food programs and services altogether so people could stay home.

The Texas Department of Transportation was out in force to report flooded and closed roads and to relay that information to news agencies, public offices and other sources of information. Police and other responders reported rescuing more than 100 stranded motorists.

Of course, flooding wasn’t limited to roadways. Border Patrol officers, state troopers and others reported encounters with people walking or huddled throughout the area; some might have been migrants, some might have been flooded out of their homes. All were taken to safety and were treated equally, reports indicate.

At least one of the emergency shelters the Federal Emergency Management Agency has placed throughout the region was put to use, justifying the foresight and resources that brought the shelters here.

Utility workers fanned out to address power outages as conditions allowed, even as the rains continued. AEP Texas reported some 13,000 outages early Wednesday, and restored power to most that same day. Other electricity providers were equally diligent to restore services to affected areas.

One dark note was in Brownsville, where the city announced midday Wednesday that it would not take any calls for information from the media or the public. Crises are when people need information most so that they can plan their responses, such as deciding whether and when to leave their homes. It’s unfortunate that the Valley’s largest city chose to deny the public any relevant information that might have helped them. This contrasts with other city and county public information offices, local colleges and schools and others, that issued frequent updates and advisories regarding road and office closures and other pertinent information.

Also noteworthy are the emergency dispatchers across the region. Emergency 9-1-1 lines were overwhelmed at times, with calls exceeding the system’s capacity. Still, dispatchers worked hard to assist callers and send help as quickly as possible.

Many people who had trouble calling 9-1-1 took to social media outlets to request and offer help and information.

They and other Valley residents deserve special kudos for showing resilience and resourcefulness throughout the storms; in many cases they’re still helping their neighbors deal with the aftermath.

Storms like those the Valley endured last week will become commonplace. But the uncommon willingness and ability to help others we saw from local residents, officials and emergency responders gives us confidence that they will be ready to respond to the next challenge we face.

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