The Dallas Morning News. July 27, 2015.
Vigilante gunmen have no place at military recruitment centers
There are minimal upsides and plenty of potentially disastrous downsides when uninvited and unwelcome citizens pose as security guards outside U.S. urban military facilities and recruitment centers. We all share a sense of outrage at the July 16 killing of five service members at a training center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but a vigilante-style response is not the answer.
U.S. military officials are discouraging armed civilians from standing in front of recruitment centers under the pretext of guarding the service members inside. The gunmen should stop frightening people, including potential recruits, and go home.
"While we greatly appreciate the support of the American public during this tragedy, we ask that citizens do not stand guard at our recruiting offices," Capt. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps public affairs officer, told The Associated Press. "Our continued public trust lies among our trained first responders for the safety of the communities where we live and work."
The Army has told recruitment centers to treat the presence of armed civilians as a security risk.
The harsh political views of some of these activists only add to the threat potential. Some refuse to identify themselves, including one gunman outside a recruitment center in Colorado who covered his face with a bandanna. Many are armored up, carrying multiple weapons and ammunition magazines. There is talk of domestic war.
Their online Web postings are equally troubling. Ignazio Falcone, who patrolled uninvited outside an Army recruiting center in Manchester, N.H., places the phrase "Let it rain" (bullets, we presume) on his vast inventory of weapons, which are depicted on his Instagram page.
One photo on Falcone's page depicts a mock New Hampshire "ISIS hunting permit," referring to the Islamic State terrorist group. Yet another shows what appears to be a T-shirt that says, "Shoot your local heroin dealer." There are photos of handguns, machine guns, smoke grenades and handcuffs. Rambo would be impressed.
Terry Jackson, who patrolled outside a recruitment center in Cleburne, posted a video on his Facebook page of a visibly angry man with military-style weaponry and equipment, announcing "a literal call to arms" in response to the July 16 shootings. The man in the video, Allen Lardieri, has posted other videos urging militia action to "take back our country."
Recall that, only a few months ago, radical gun rights activist Kory Watkins prompted a security scare at the state Capitol after making thinly veiled threats against legislators who opposed open-carry laws.
If these individuals feel such a strong call to service, they should enter the recruitment centers and sign up. Or they should apply for jobs with their local police and get a badge. But vigilante action is wrong-headed and represents a distorted interpretation of patriotism.
Houston Chronicle. July 27, 2015.
Sanctuary cities: Local cops don't have resources for immigration arrests.
The recent shooting death of a young woman on a San Francisco pier, allegedly at the hands of a Mexican immigrant who has had seven felony convictions since 1991 and has been deported five times, has reignited the controversy over so-called sanctuary cities.
In response to the murder, the U.S. House voted last week to punish cities that do not comply fully with federal immigration authorities by making them ineligible for various Justice Department law enforcement grants. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has introduced similar legislation he's calling "Kate's Law," in honor of the woman killed in San Francisco, Kate Steinle. And former Gov. Rick Perry, struggling to gain traction in the Republican presidential race, blasted San Francisco and other cities "run by left-wing governments" for defying immigration laws and failing to cooperate with federal authorities.
As usual when the sanctuary-city issue comes up, whether in Austin or D.C., politicians find a way to over-simplify, mask the complexities and trumpet false information.
And these days, of course, the irrepressible Donald Trump has reinforced the notion that the louder and more outrageous you are on immigration-related issues, the faster your numbers climb in the polls — among Republicans, that is.
So why shouldn't local police be enforcing the nation's immigration laws?
For one thing, they simply don't have the resources to serve as immigration officers while doing routine police work. As state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, noted in a Houston Chronicle op-ed not long ago, HPD was unable to follow up on nearly 20,000 criminal cases they had leads on due to a shortage of officers. For another, police officials know that a "show me your papers" policy leads to fear and distrust, and thus lack of cooperation, among immigrant communities.
Harassment and profiling are also likely if local police become immigration officers. So are lawsuits by citizens stopped because they look undocumented. Those people, even if they aren't citizens, just might be among the estimated 375,000 whose cases are being handled by the nation's overworked immigration judges. (There's a five-year backlog.)
It's important to note that Harris County and other jurisdictions around the country check the immigration status of those who end up in jail.
Law enforcement here and elsewhere regularly works with U.S. Department of Homeland Security to identify foreign-born criminals, to arrest them and to get them to DHS for eventual deportation. That's as it should be. Sheriff's deputies and police officers on the beat have neither the time nor, presumably, the inclination to harass the law-abiding in the immigrant community.
The Facts of Brazoria County. July 26, 2015.
Questions about woman's jail death legitimate, but separate
Friends and family members of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Chicago-area woman who died while in custody at the Waller County Jail, have legitimate questions that deserve an answer.
They want an explanation as to why Bland ended up in the jail after being pulled over by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper for not signaling a lane change. Video of the encounter indicates it was escalated as much by the trooper's conduct as anything Bland said or did, and DPS officials say the trooper failed to follow proper protocols.
Her friends and family also dispute that Bland was a candidate for suicide, which is the preliminary finding for her cause of death from an autopsy released last week. Loved ones argue Bland was excited about new opportunities she had at Prairie View A&M, from where she graduated, and would not have harmed herself.
The autopsy, however, discovered a series of cuts on Bland's body believed to have been self-inflicted several weeks ago, and Bland states in her own social media posts that she suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Investigators at the local level, as well as a cooperative effort between the FBI and Texas Rangers, will seek to get at the truth of what happened in Waller County and why Bland ended up in a morgue. We hope a fair, honest investigation puts to rest rumors, assumptions and armchair psychology that have infiltrated the case since the beginning.
We also hope the two main circumstances of the case — the traffic stop and Bland's death — are considered separately. Whether the trooper crossed the line in his handling of the traffic stop — and whether Bland actually kicked him, which led to her arrest — merits its own critique and response. The same is true of how Bland was able to hang herself with a plastic trash bag in her cell, as authorities say was the case.
While there is some connectivity between the incidents, a potentially rogue trooper and negligent jail staff, working for two different law enforcement agencies, are issues independent of each other. Lumping them together serves to muddy the efforts to get at the truth, and is a disservice to all involved.
The Monitor of McAllen. July 26, 2015.
Trump's trumped-up visit to the wrong border town
Donald Trump's visit to Laredo late last week was a Hollywood-style celebrity stunt clearly aimed at boosting popularity for his 2016 GOP presidential nomination bid — all at the expense of Hispanics and those of us who live on the border.
Trump's declaration that he was taking great risks to make such a dangerous trip last week further played into unfair and unsubstantiated stereotypes of our Southwest border.
Nevertheless, The Donald once again successfully drummed up drama for his campaign by telling a mob of reporters who greeted him at the Laredo International Airport that he was putting himself in "great danger" by coming to this border town, just across from the volatile Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo. But, he added: "I have to do it. I have to do it."
While we give Trump credit for coming to the border (something we've long advocated that President Barack Obama and his top leaders should do as they study immigration reform) we all know that he went to the wrong town.
The massive sudden influx of immigrants crossing illegally since early 2014 has occurred here, in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector, which includes McAllen, Mission, Pharr and Rio Grande City — not so much in Laredo. In fiscal year 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol reported a total of 33,008 apprehensions of family units and unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley sector; so far, in fiscal year 2015 through March, there have been 18,766 such apprehensions here. Likewise, in fiscal 2014, the Laredo sector only had 3,171 family and youth apprehensions, and has had 1,782 apprehensions in fiscal year 2015 through March — a mere fraction of what our region has experienced.
We wonder who gave Trump such bad location advice. Or did the billionaire and TV reality star purposely go there (for all of four hours) because he really feared for his life if he came here? Especially since there was much backlash after his recent statement that he thinks many Mexican immigrants who are in this country illegally to be "killers" and "rapists."
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, put it best in an op-ed when she wrote: "The divisive billionaire may be familiar with the border between New York and New Jersey, but these and other outrageous comments he's made — in addition to being horribly offensive — demonstrate his alarming lack of knowledge about the issues facing the Texas-Mexico border region today."
As for his statement last week that, if elected: "I'll take jobs back from China, I'll take jobs back from Japan. . The Hispanics are going to get those jobs, and they're going to love Trump." We're quite doubtful about his sincerity, especially given his lack of respect for Hispanics. And if he is really serious on this matter, then we call on him to produce specific examples on how he plans to accomplish this if president.
The bottom line is that Trump's actions have not been that of a true leader. His brief visit demonstrated what we already know about Trump: He is a great showman. But he is ignorant about border issues, immigration and Hispanics and he showed no inclination or interest in even trying to learn or understand. His words are caustic and hurtful, especially to Hispanics, and although this type of language garners him media attention and national hype, it is causing division within our country and it needs to stop.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram. July 28, 2015.
Applause for Wichita Falls
The people of Wichita Falls deserve a salute for their ingenuity and willingness to try something new in the face of the recent — but thankfully over — severe drought.
They were willing to drink what became known as "potty water." That was really a misnomer, but it was treated wastewater mixed half-and-half with fresh lake water, treated again and put into the drinking water system.
Now, thanks to heavy rains, lakes are full and the "potty water" experiment is over. Nobody in Wichita Falls seems to have suffered ill effects from the water they drank.
The city survived.
Long-lasting change has come. For one thing, Wichita Falls will continue to capture treated wastewater and will pump it directly into Lake Arrowhead for reuse in the normal drinking water chain.
And even though water is now plentiful, residents seem to have learned the value of conservation. They're using 16 million to 17 million gallons a day, down from 30 million to 35 million before the drought.
Nobody wants that kind of terrible drought to happen again, but everyone knows it's possible. People who handle it as well as Wichita Falls will be fine.