Category: Rights

Harris County Residents Wait Until 1:00AM to Cast Votes

Last night, voters across Texas showed up to cast their votes for the 2020 primary elections. Unfortunately voters at Texas Southern University were met with excessive wait times that kept residents there until 1:30 am. Thankfully, countless Harris County residents still persevered through six hour lines to vote, but we need to address why this happened and come to a solution that keeps polling places moving and voters voting. 

 

Harris County holds separate elections for Democratic and Republican primaries, which means voters are only allowed to use machines reserved for their own party, despite others potentially being open. This, combined with a number of voting machines failing due to 20-year old technology and an unexpectedly large Democratic turnout, contributed to the excessive wait times residents endured last night. 

 

County officials and polling locations must all work together to address these flaws so that everyone has a reasonable opportunity to vote. Standing in line at a polling location for over six hours is next to impossible for most residents and no one should be asked to do so to exercise a critical right. 

 

Hervis Rogers, the last voter at Texas Southern University’s polling location, had the following to say as he left… 

 

I wanted to get my vote in, voice my opinion… I wasn’t going to let anything stop me, so I waited it out.

 

Democracy lives and breathes with active participation in elections. It is imperative we do everything in our power to ensure all voices are represented and residents are given a fair chance to vote. 

 

Photo courtesy of Houston Public Media. 

LGBTQ Persecution in the Child Welfare System

This week the U.S. Supreme Court took on the case of whether taxpayer-funded agencies can use religion to discriminate. Two years ago, the city of Philadelphia rightfully decided to cut ties with Catholic Social Services (CSS) after a report detailed that they were openly prohibiting same-sex couples from fostering children. CSS and a number of foster parents sued the city, claiming it violated their first amendment rights to religious freedom. Now the case will be heard by the SCOTUS.

 

Texas has its own sordid history passing legislation that codifies discrimination in the child welfare arena under the guise of religious freedom. In 2017, Republican State Representative James Frank filed and ultimately passed HB 3859. HB 3859 allows faith-based organizations to deny foster children home placements and healthcare services and to refuse capable, deserving parents from fostering if they violate the organization’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Following a chorus of outcries from LBGTQ organizations and foster care system employees, House Democrats put up a strong fight on the floor in opposition to this bill. 

 

Texas has an infamously overcrowded and understaffed foster care system, a problem that is found across the country. Between 400,000 to 500,000 children live in foster care in the United States, many in derelict facilities. It is extremely difficult to find capable, loving, willing adults to foster each and every child in need. The thought of allowing state-affiliated agencies to prohibit loving foster parents from offering homes to children in desperate need of stability is tremendously upsetting. 

 

Religious organizations are not required to partner with the state. Therefore, to receive taxpayer funding, organizations should at the very least adhere to common-sense anti-discriminatory federal regulations.

 

Unfortunately, the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court may very well use their majority to defend regressive, discriminatory foster cases, claiming they are in fact “expanding religious freedoms.” Ruling in favor of CSS would loosen anti-discriminatory policies at the expense of real children in need of loving homes. 

 

We cannot afford to backslide from our already limited LGBTQ protections.

 

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

Hair Love Missing in Texas: TLBC Announces Plan to File CROWN Act

Discrimination remains an active and poisonous force throughout Texas. House Democrats have the responsibility to fight policies that oppress members of our community. It is our duty to create an equitable playing field, where all voices, religions, traditions, and races are represented and celebrated. 

 

DeAndre Arnold’s story spurred a long-ignored conversation in Texas. As a graduating high-school senior, Arnold was suspended for refusing to shave his dreadlocks and will not be allowed to walk at graduation. Now a national icon, Arnold’s is sadly not alone. In Pearland, a high school student had to choose between filling in his shaved hair with Sharpie or suspension. A 4-year old in Tatum was given instructions to cut off or braid his shoulder-length hair, otherwise he could wear a dress and be referred to as a girl. 

 

These school policies are blatantly discriminating against students of color, and the defenders of these hateful practices are falling back on the age old adage, “that’s how it’s always been done.” That is a pitifully lazy excuse that ignores the pain and legacy of hair discrimination. 

 

Last week, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TLBC) held a press conference to announce their plans to file the CROWN Act “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” in the 87th Legislative Session. Rep. Ron Reynolds (D- Missouri City) and Rep. Rhetta Bowers (D-Garland) will be jointly filing this legislation. The CROWN Act expands the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Education Code to include anti-discriminatory policies in the workplace, K-12 public schools, and charter schools. Three states have already adopted this policy change and it has been introduced in both federal chambers. Twenty-two additional states are now considering passage. 

 

“These conversations are just becoming public now… People in our community were having these conversations around the kitchen table or in beauty salons and barber shops.” – Rep. Rhetta Bowers (D-Garland) 

 

Texas House Democrats fully support TLBC’s plan to file protections against discriminatory measures in our schools. We urge schools to take a hard look at their own hair regulations. Are your policies protecting students or unjustly hurting them?

 

Photo courtesy of KUT.

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against ICE – Allegations of Human Rights Violations

State-level legislation provides our members with significant opportunity to change Texans’ lives for the better. At the same time, many issues that deeply affect our constituents are still in the hands of the federal government. However, this does not exempt State officials from continually advocating and supporting policies that defend human rights and protect our citizens — especially on issues like immigration. 

 

Last April, ICE conducted the largest workplace immigration raid since 2008 at CVE Technology Group based in Allen, TX. ICE agents rounded up nearly 300 workers after a yearlong investigation of CVE’s connection to staffing agencies famous for overlooking documentation status. Originally, the ACLU filed an open records request for the search warrants that led to the raid, but ICE rejected the request. 

 

On Wednesday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against ICE for violating the Freedom of Information Act when they refused to publicly release the search warrants or give a reasonable explanation as to why they were withholding these documents. 

 

According to testimonies from those subject to the raid, ICE transported CVE employees to a separate location and did not allow anyone to use cell phones or speak with one another. From these first hand accounts, it seems likely that both undocumented and legal residents might have had their rights violated and were coerced into revealing more private information than they would have had they been properly informed of their rights.  

 

“Some of the people who were arrested were on the path toward legal residency and had appointments at diplomatic offices to become documented workers.” – Dallas Morning News 

 

Eighty percent of those involved in the raid were women, many with families and children who will forever be traumatized by this event. The simple fact is that people, real individuals who are working to provide for their families and contribute to their community, are being hurt, not the companies responsible for hiring undocumented citizens. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 states companies may not “knowingly” hire unauthorized immigrants. This glaring loophole has made it possible for companies like CVE to willfully hide behind temporary staffing agencies while claiming ignorance. 

 

Immigration status cannot dictate whether or not our government decides to uphold universal human rights. Beyond the moral imperative to treat others with the same dignity and respect you would want for yourself, the Fourth Amendment protects not only U.S. citizens, but everyone in our country. 

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today we celebrate and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose remarkable life changed the trajectory of America for the better. Dr. King devoted his life’s work to taking on the evils of racism and poverty, challenging us to build a better country in which every American has an equal opportunity.  Today is a day to reflect on how far we have come – but also to remind ourselves how far we still have to go if we are to truly realize Dr. King’s dream.

 

Chairman Harold Dutton of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus shares this statement on the occasion of this national holiday:

 

“There is no question that our democracy is full of darkness and hate, but as we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let’s remember his words –“darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

 

To all who have participated in parades, community events or a day of service today to honor Dr. King, thank you.  Let’s honor Dr. King not just today, but every day, through our work to build a more perfect union.

The Family Separation Crisis — How to Help

The family separation crisis at our border continues. In the last two months, nearly  2,342 children have been separated from their families. A federal judge gave the Trump administration until Tuesday to reunite all children under age 5 with their parents, a deadline they are sure to miss.

 

None of this should have happened. President Trump’s zero tolerance policy, which Greg Abbott defended, created this crisis – and House Democrats are taking it head-on. HDC members marched for justice, worked with state agencies to get answers, and shared resources — any and all actions available to help separated families.

 

There are more ways we can all continue to help. Click here to view and download a list of resources to help children and families who are separated. 

 

If you know of organizations we should add to this list, let please let us know. Additionally, be sure to check with Chairman Rafael Anchia and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, who are coordinating member visits and organizing additional ways we can all help.

 

We encourage you to share this list with your own email lists and organizations, on your social channels, and any other way we can help spread this information.

On Gov. Abbott’s support for family separations

On Sunday’s Lone Star Politics, Governor Greg Abbott endorsed President Trump’s position on family separations, repeating the lies that the immoral and despicable Administration practice of separating children from their families requires a legislative solution.

 

Here’s exactly what Abbott said:

 

“And [Trump] was adamant. He said, Listen, if the Democrats would agree with him right now they could pass a law today that would end the ripping apart of these families and make the border secure, and so the President and Republicans have an offer on the table. All the Democrats have to do is to take it, and this could end today.”

 

Gov. Abbott has a long history of repeating the falsehoods of the extreme right, and his silence about any number of harmful Trump policies has been disappointing. But this is something else.

 

The Trump administration created this policy. The administration can end this policy. For the Trump Administration to take these children hostage as leverage for policy negotiations is absolutely, unquestionably wrong – and those who defend or endorse this policy are equally wrong.

 

The Caucus is proud of many House Democrats for speaking up, loudly and forcefully, for the end of this policy. This dark chapter in our nation’s history needs to end immediately.

Texas Rep. Helen Giddings Denounces Hate, Calls for Moment of Silence in House Chamber

In the House chamber Monday, Texas Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) called on the membership to stand with her as she denounced hatred, bigotry and terrorism in the wake of Saturday’s deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Members, this past weekend, we witnessed a white supremacist hate group infiltrate the town of Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches on Friday night, on Saturday they filled the streets with venom, with bigotry and with violence,” Giddings said, before mentioning the three lives lost Saturday in the protest.

To continue reading this story go to NBC Dallas/Fort Worth.

House Democrats, business groups push for repeal of ‘sanctuary cities’ ban

AUSTIN – Texas House Democrats on Tuesday vowed to use “every conceivable tool” at their disposal to fight discriminatory legislation during the special session, including the so-called bathroom bill and a ban on ‘sanctuary cities.’

Members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and other House Democrats wasted no time targeting the legislation.

To continue reading this story go to the El Paso Times.

Texas redistricting plans ‘lacked process’ and excluded minorities, Dallas lawmaker testifies FILED UNDER

SAN ANTONIO — A Dallas state representative said in federal court that there was a lack of a legislative process during the 2013 special session that redrew some of Texas’ electoral maps under court order.

“As a legislator, when we are trying to solve a problem … generally what we’ll do is bring in people who have a stake in the situation,” said Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas. “I don’t recall anything like that happening in 2013 with respect to redistricting.

To continue reading this story go to the Dallas Morning News.