Tag Archives: Texas Law

In Texas, It’s a Felony to Harbor an Illegal Alien – But What Does that Mean?

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated a Texas law that makes it a felony punishable by up to 10 years to harbor illegal aliens.  The ruling lifted an injunction that had blocked the 2015 law from taking full effect, in a ruling praised by both the state and immigrant advocates.

The law makes it a felony to encourage unauthorized immigrants to enter or remain in the country by concealing, harboring or shielding that person from detection.  Two landlords had sued to prevent enforcement arguing that the law was overly broad and could apply to people who rent apartments and homes to undocumented immigrants.  Texas argued that the law was intended to apply only to alien smuggling and human trafficking operations.  But that wasn’t the way the law was written and  – given the near total control of the State by the Red Meat Wing of the Republican Party – it was an open question as to who could be prosecuted.

The Fifth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Jerry Smith, cleared the air by holding that the law as written does not apply to persons who provide shelter to or conduct business with illegal aliens.

“There is no reasonable interpretation by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes ‘harboring … that person from detection.'”

Thus, landlords and homeless shelters cannot be prosecuted.  Here, the Fifth Circuit saved the bacon of the pathetic excuse for an Attorney General that is Ken Paxton by issuing a ruling that saves the statute but likely does not accomplish what the Tea Party dominated State House really wanted.

Trump Drops Texas Voters in the Grease

Coming down on the side of making it harder to vote in the face of absolutely no evidence of in-person voter fraud, the Trump Administration decided that Texas’ Voter ID law is A-Okay.  The Texas Tribune reports:

The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed Monday it plans to ditch its longstanding position that Texas lawmakers purposefully discriminated against minority voters by passing the nation’s strictest voter identification law in 2011.

The move comes one day before a federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments on that high-stakes voting rights question, and it highlights yet another instance in which President Donald Trump has dramatically departed from the path of his predecessor.

Former President Obama’s Justice Department originally teamed up with civil rights groups against Texas throughout the long-winding legal battle over the ID law, known as Senate Bill 14. But on Monday, lawyers for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told parties that they were dropping a claim that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Latino and African-American voters.

Today in Texas History – December 2

From the Annals of Faux Law Enforcement – In 2010, Our Poor Idiot Governor Rick Perry named Chuck Norris (of Walker- Texas Moron fame) and his brother Aaron as honorary members of the Texas Rangers law enforcement agency.  Criminals across the state trembled at the prospect and a couple of would be felons turned themselves in.  If only Red could know what the actual Texas Ranger in the background was thinking.

Legalize It?

Image result for legalize it

The Texas Tribune reports that Texas Legislators have filed several bills aimed at decriminalization of Marijuana.

Less than a week after several other states approved measures weakening marijuana restrictions, some Texas lawmakers are looking to do the same. 

On Monday, the first day of bill filing for the 2017 legislative session, Lone Star State legislators submitted several proposals to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Among the bills are those that would create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders, reduce criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and re-classify convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana. 

Among the Texas proposals that have been filed thus far:

House Bill 58 by state Rep. James White, R-Woodville, would create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders based on the principle that first-time defendants are often self-correcting. The measure is intended to conserve law enforcement and corrections resources, White said in a news release.

State Rep. Joseph “Joe” Moody, D-El Paso, filed House Bill 81, which aims to replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $250. The bill also allows Texans to avoid arrest and possible jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana. Moody authored a similar bill during the previous legislative session; it did not pass.

State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, filed House Bill 82, which aims to classify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor instead of Class B. However, if a person is convicted three times, it would revert back to a Class B misdemeanor. Dutton co-authored a similar bill last session with Moody.

State Sen. José Rodríguez filed Senate Joint Resolution 17, which would allow voters to decide whether marijuana should be legalized in Texas, following the pattern of a number of states.

Senate Joint Resolution 18, also authored by Rodríguez, would allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use if recommended by a health care provider. “It is long past time we allow the people to decide,” Rodríguez said in a statement.

Rodríguez also filed Senate Bill 170, which would change possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil one.

Two Texas Judges Leave GOP – Will the Trickle Become a Flood?

In the past two weeks, two Texas judges have said, “Enough” to the Tea Party dominated Texas GOP.  First Terry Jennings of the First Court of Appeals in Houston switched to the Democrats.  According to Jennings:

 “The Democratic party- and the Democratic party alone- presents our country with a positive and optimistic vision for the future of all Americans, not just a select few.”

Then this week, Judge Lauren Parish of the 115th Judicial District which serves Upshur and Marion Counties returned to the fold.  Parish had served as a Democrat but changed teams as those  rural counties turned more and more red.  Parish cited her Christian values in making the decision to return to the Democratic Party.

“The Grand Old Party of Lincoln no longer exists today. The current Republican Party has abandoned all the principles instilled in me by my parents, my church and my community.

I was brought up to respect my fellow man and to respect authority, to love my neighbor, to help those who cannot help themselves, and to help build people up not tear people down.

I see no way of reconciling my Christian beliefs with the manner in which the Republican Party is conducting itself. That is why I feel compelled to stand up and come back to the Texas Democratic Party.”

Almost too predictably, the Republican powers that be in Upshur County are now contemplating suing Parish after she issued an order making it easier for prospective jurors to do their civic duty.  Parish ordered the court house to be opened at 7:30 on jury days with the metal detector operating.  That got up the hackles of the Tea Party controlled county government and the county commissioners have hired an Austin law firm to investigate whether to sue Parish.

Red doubts that this signifies a larger trend.  It may be that some RINO judges in Harris County join Jennings in abandoning the GOP ship, but it seems unlikely right now.  If the Democrats sweep in November, Red may be singing a different tune.

 

Today in Texas History – August 10

From the Annals of the State Police – In 1935, the Texas legislature established the Texas Department of Public Safety.  As the name implies, the function of the agency was to provide for public safety meaning primarily crime prevention and investigation.  The DPS was under the oversight of the three-member Public Safety Commission who were appointed by Gov. James Allred.  The Commission hired the director and assistant director who were responsible for day-to-day operations.  The original DPS was organized into six divisions: the Texas Highway Patrol, Texas Rangers, Bureau of Communications, Bureau of Intelligence, Bureau of Education, and Bureau of Identification and Records. The DPS is still in business today with its headquarters on N. Lamar in Austin.

Supreme Court Upholds UT-Austin’s Admission Standars

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions process which gives a small advantage to black and Hispanic applicants.  The decision yet again allows US colleges to use of affirmative action in their admissions procedures.   The 4-3 vote was a defeat for Sugar Land’s favorite litigant Abigail Fisher who has repeatedly claimed that she was unfairly denied admission because of her whiteness.  After being denied admission into UT-Austin in 2008, she has been relentless in her campaign to end even the slight hint of affirmative action that UT-Austin uses in an attempt to preserve some diversity on the 40 Acres.  Fisher – who did not qualify for automatic admission – claimed that black and Hispanic students who were less qualified got in over her.  But Thursday’s decision brings her case to a close. The ruling will likely have national implications in that the Court has again reaffirmed that colleges have some leeway to use affirmative action in picking their students.

What’s in a Name?

The 93 year old South Texas College of Law has decided to change its name.  The only independent law school in Texas will soon be known as the Houston College of Law.  The STCOL board apparently believed that the school needed an even closer association with its home city.  Board Chairman J. Ken Johnson commented on the change

The law school has been an integral part of downtown Houston for almost a century. Our students are within walking distance of some of the nation’s biggest law firms and the city’s courthouses are in our back yard. With our diverse student body that mirrors Houston’s population, we will remain dedicated to educating future generations of attorneys.

Red for one does not really view Houston as being in South Texas.  Houston falls into its own category.  Will this require a lot of resume changing?

Texas Cemetary Remains for “Whites Only”

Just when Red thought we were past the most overt expressions of racism in our fair country, people in Texas prove him wrong.  And sure enough, there comes along a recalcitrant bigot or a whole group of them.    This time its a cemetery association and its operator  who somehow think that white people can still discriminate even in death.  The Texas Tribune reports on the racist goings-on at the San Domingo Cemetery in Normanna.

Dorothy Barrera was married to her late husband, Pedro, for more than 40 years before he died in February. He was Hispanic. She is white. Dorothy expected they would eventually be together again when she was buried beside Pedro in the San Domingo Cemetery in the tiny, rural town of Normanna.

But when she looked to bury his ashes in the cemetery, she allegedly ran into the cemetery’s “whites only” policy — an apparent relic of Jim Crow-era segregation in Texas that’s thrust this small community located an hour northwest of Corpus Christi, into a modern-day desegregation fight.

That’s what is alleged in a federal lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund against the Normanna Cemetery Association, which oversees the cemetery. The lawsuit alleges the association is violating the federal Civil Rights Act by enforcing a “whites only” rule at the San Domingo Cemetery, leaving Hispanics and other non-whites to be buried in the nearby Del Bosque Cemetery.

According to the lawsuit, cemetery operator Jimmy Bradford told Barrera that her request to bury her husband at the cemetery had been denied by the Normanna Cemetery Association. When Barrera questioned the vote, Bradford allegedly responded Pedro Barrera couldn’t be buried there “because he’s a Mexican” and directed her to “go up the road and bury him with the n—– and Mexicans,” the federal complaint details.

Is the irony that a cemetery named “San Domingo” wants to prohibit Hispanics from being buried within its august confines lost on anyone other than Red?  Well Mr. Jimmy Bradford, if these allegations are true, Red hopes your racist proclivities are proclaimed far and wide throughout the nation and that you are widely exposed as the ignorant bigot that you appear to be.  No doubt this overt racism will be cloaked in the veil of religious freedom.  And no doubt Mr. Bradford and his cohorts will be voting for Donald Trump.

Photo from thescoopblog.dallasnews.com

Texas Allows Guns in Mental Hospitals

Please don’t claim that you are surprised to find out that a State Mental Hospital cannot ban visitors from bringing guns into the facility.  Hospital officials, however, were taken off guard when they recently discovered that under Texas law the longstanding practice of prohibiting handguns at the ten state psychiatric hospitals was illegal – and had been for years.

“Patients in our facilities are a danger to themselves or others,” Cathy Campbell, a policy coordinator for the state hospitals, wrote in a December email. “It seems inconceivable that we would require visitors to store box cutters but allow them to bring a gun on campus.”  But despite Campbell’s concerns, the law in Texas does not allow the state-run hospitals to ban handguns.

Tom Benning of the Dallas Morning News has the whole sad story of how the Texas Legislature failed to foresee the consequences in their zeal to promote more guns in the state.

Lawmakers who passed gun carry laws in the 1990s don’t appear to have contemplated the scenario. Carve-outs in the law and later legislative tweaks fuzzed things. At some point, “no guns” signs were posted at those hospitals. And until last year, the setup went largely unnoticed.

Officials with the Department of State Health Services have now taken steps to mitigate the risk of a patient accessing a gun – posting signs, for example, that ask visitors to voluntarily keep guns away.

But at least one facility, Austin State Hospital, has been slow to put up the new signs — which remain difficult to notice. And though there’s optimism that lawmakers will address the issue next year, the state remains in somewhat uncharted territory.

“It defies comprehension,” Dorthy Floyd, superintendent at Terrell State Hospital, wrote in an email in January. The News obtained the emails under the state’s open-records law after the gun policy earned international attention in January.

State-run psychiatric hospitals are just one of several government institutions re-evaluating their firearms policies these days. Private mental hospitals continue to have the right to bar guns on their property.