Latinos For Texas Blog


Jim Harrington’s Op-Ed in the Austin American-Statesman

Filed under: — kevin @ 10:14 am

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Harrington: A punitive plan that won’t solve the problem


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The number and breadth of demonstrations across the country against Congress’ efforts to criminalize undocumented immigrants and those who assist them have stunned the nation. Equally astonishing was Cardinal Roger Mahony’s public pledge to order the priests and religious in the Los Angeles Archdiocese to passively resist and disobey House Resolution 4437 if it is passed.

The House bill would make it a federal crime to be in the United States illegally or for anyone to assist undocumented immigrants.

Making it a crime to enter this country illegally will not deter anyone. Efforts to seal off the border in areas such as El Paso and California have not stopped the flow of illegal immigrants — or even slowed it. These efforts have merely made it more expensive and dangerous and have created a network of traffickers branching out to cities across the United States.

Undocumented people must pay $800 or more to a coyote before making the dangerous and uncertain journey. But that risk is better than their hand-to-mouth subsistence in poverty-racked Mexico. Thousands endure extreme conditions to cross the desert. Most make it, but every year some 300 die trying. Tagging on a criminal conviction will hardly stop them. No one would go through this hell if they and their families could survive in Mexico.

And Mahony’s point is that, at some juncture, basic human rights require that unjust laws be broken. HR 4437 would make it a crime for doctors to attend to farm workers suffering from pesticide poisoning, or to treat a construction worker’s broken bones. It would make it a crime for local faith-based food pantries to feed hungry immigrant children, for priests and ministers to give $10 to a husband to buy medicine for his pregnant wife, for teachers to teach children how to spell and respect one another, and for local church congregations to give Christmas baskets to families.

If these Congressional Republicans had their way, they would deport the 12 million undocumented immigrants already here. If they were to succeed, the economic effect on both the United States and Mexico would be devastating. Crops would rot in U.S. fields. Hotels, restaurants and construction businesses would fold. Almost 5 percent of the U.S. economy depends on undocumented laborers.

Mexico’s already limping economy would crash. Undocumented immigrants send $1 billion back to that country every year — more money than Mexico receives from its oil industry. Every Mexican who migrates to the United States is one less individual for whom Mexico has to provide, and one more worker who will help support a number of relatives en la patria.

For years, Congress has grappled in vain with how to control this near-perfect model of a free market for human labor. The draw of employment in the United States has created a flow of jobless people — mostly Mexican — illegally entering the country in search of better lives.

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., suggests that prisoners could harvest our crops, apparently a kinder and gentler form of slavery. But the quality and abundance of the prisoners’ harvest would not match anything like that produced by hard-working immigrants, and Rohrabacher’s suggestion reflects the meanness and absurdity of House Republicans.

The United States’ dependence on cheap labor and Mexico’s faltering economy will doom this House bill. Our immigration problems will not be solved until we resolve the grave distortions between the U.S. and Mexican economies. Congress would make better use of its time, and our tax money, by dedicating itself to that task, rather than by creating repressive, punitive and ultimately unworkable criminal sanctions.

Harrington is director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit foundation that promotes civil rights and economic and racial justice throughout Texas.


More Endorsements for Judge Charlie Baird

Filed under: — kevin @ 11:10 am

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From press release I received:
Hispanic Lawyers Support Baird’s Candidacy

(AUSTIN, Texas) – This week, the Hispanic Bar Assn of Austin endorsed Judge Charlie Baird in his bid for the 299th District Court of Travis County.

“The endorsement of this established and respected bar association means the legal community recognizes that my fifteen years of judicial experience coupled with my seven years as a law school professor make me
the best qualified candidate in this race.” Judge Baird said.

Also, last night Judge Baird was endorsed by the West Austin Democrats, an organization that has been home to progressive Democrats for many years. These two endorsements bring the total to 14 different clubs and associations. Each endorsement reflects their commitment to the people of Travis County to make sure only the best qualified candidates serve on our
most important criminal courts.


Want to have secure elections? Here’s an idea

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From an email I received:
Citizen Parallel Elections are BACK!!

Co-Sponsored by VoteRescue and Black Box Voting

Come learn how you can help educate voters about fair, accurate and transparent elections during the Primary Elections on March 7, 2006.

 Citizens’ Parallel Elections are non-partisan election demonstrations held 100 feet outside selected voting precincts on election day.  All voters are invited to privately mark an ”unofficial” PAPER BALLOT, cast it into a BALLOT BOX and return when the polls close to watch the votes be COUNTED BY HAND. 

Why Citizen Parallel Elections?

1. TO WAKE UP VOTERS. Help voters see the vast difference between their observable voting experience outside and voting inside on electronic machines (made by private corporations) that use secret software undisclosed to both citizens and election officials and that produce no storable paper record that the voter can verify for accuracy.  With no voter verified record of the vote, there can be no true recount in the case of a close election and no random audit by which to check the accuracy of the machine results.  Even the Government Accounting Office concluded in October 2005 that, “…concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.” On Nov. 8, 2005, four of America’s leading computer scientists and cyber secirity experts issued an emergency warning to poll workers and Americans on Election Day that, “…electronic voting machines are poorly designed, not secure and easily hacked. Your vote may not be counted!”  Bottom line: There is no basis for voters to have any confidence in the reported results of our elections.

2. TO COMPARE THE TWO RESULTS.  Each Citizen Parallel Election produces data that is used to develop increasingly accurate statistical methods with which to discover any significant differences between the Parallel Election results and the “Official” results from the electronic machines. By the time the mid-term general election occurs in November of this year, we will have full confidence in our statistical analysis to be able to find discrepancies, if any.  However, since there is no way to perform a recount here in Travis County, finding any differences will be impossible to prove.

 The first volunteer training session will be held this Tuesday, Feb. 7th, at 7 p.m. at Tres Amigos Restaurant near the intersection of 183 and 290 East. (Directions are below.)  In addition to learning about Citizen Parallel Elections, you will be able to meet many of the seasoned volunteers who helped conduct the First CPE in Texas in Nov., 2005.  They will share their various uplifting experiences of witnessing real, unfettered democracy in action.  The more new volunteers who come to help, the more new voters who will realize what is at stake and how we all must work together to fix this serious problem.

For more information, please call 496-7408 or 775-3737.

Also, please visit and

Directions: Tres Amigos Restaurant is located at the crossroads of 290 East and 183. If driving east from I-35 on Hwy 290, take the exit to 183 South and look for the restaurant which will be on the right. (It’s atleast a 1/4 of a mile from where you turn off of 290 East, so don’t panic if you don’t see it right away.) Their phone number is 275-0930 in case you need more information. 

We will get started at 7 pm and wrap up no later than 9. If you plan to eat there, please arrive by 6:30 so you’ll have your food by the time we get things underway.


My Kind of Christians

Filed under: — kevin @ 7:57 am

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Here is an email I received from a friend. The writer here is Rick Ufford-Chase, the moderator of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly (the national governing body of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.). For the record, I’m a deacon at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church. Our motto is, “Deliberately Diverse and Fully Inclusive.” A refreshing change when all we hear about in the mainstream media are religious bigots and extremist politicians who pander to them.


June 26th, 2002 was the last time I spent the night here at the shelter for migrants in Altar, Sonora, Mexico. It seems hard to believe that it’s been almost three and a half years. That night, I was with a group of seminarians from Chicago, and a dozen or so migrants from southern Mexico and Central America. We North Americans heard their stories, and then after they had drifted off to the dormitory, the rest of us quietly opened our bedrolls, spread our sheets and blankets, and carried their stories to bed with us.

We had heard about their families and their harrowing tales of hiking in the desert. Their desperation became real to us as they shared that the two gallons of water each had carried with him had disappeared all too quickly, finally becoming a few precious swallows that nothing short of a miracle could make last through the miles that still lay ahead. They had stories of hiking hard for three and four days, getting picked up by a car arranged by their smuggler, and being apprehended by the Border Patrol a few miles short of the safe house in Tucson where they were headed. Their stories evidenced a grim determination, a resolve that nothing would stop them from trying again and again to reach for a steady wage to send money home to their families.

And then, everyone else slept that night while I sat on the floor in the dark and wondered what God would have me do. That was the night I first discerned a call to stand for the position of Moderator. I felt called to lift up these stories, and to implore Christ’s church to respond.

Now, forty months later and after serving the church as Moderator of the General Assembly for almost sixteen months, here I am again. This time I’m accompanied by a different group of people.


Guest Blogger: Alfred Stanley

Filed under: — kevin @ 9:13 am

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Alfred Stanley, a friend of LFT, introduces Judge Jim Coronado to us:

Saludos LFT! Me llamo Alfred Stanley. I am helping my old friend, Judge Jim Coronado run for Justice of the Third Court of Appeals, which serves a 24-county area centered around Travis. Justice Jan Patterson serves on the Court. Attorney Diane Henson ran for it last year, did not quite make it and is running for a different place next year. Four of the six places on the court will be up in November, 2006.

Jim is a judge with 16 years experience and would make an excellent appellate judge. (An appellate judge is also referred to as a justice.) One of the reasons we’re both excited about this race is the opportunity to reach out to potential Hispanic voters. Travis County is 45% of the district; the district outside of Travis is about one-quarter Hispanic but not nearly as well organized as Travis. Yet there are lots of positive things to build upon. Jimmy Rocha, for example, is Williamson Co. chair, and Williamson Co. is 15% of the district, fast growing and becoming more and more Hispanic. Political consultant David Butts recently told me he expects Democrats to be able to pick up a commissioners seat there soon.

While I’m an Anglo born in New York City, I’ve been in Texas for nearly 30 years and have played key roles in the campaigns of Gus Garcia and Gonzalo Barrientos (fund-raiser for Gus’s first City Council campaign and for Gonzalo’s first and most recent Senate campaigns). Gus and his wife Marina are the godparents of my youngest son.

I value diversity and do what I can to make sure that well-qualified minorities and women are not overlooked when it comes to being considered for office. Other clients of mine include Travis County’s first African-American sheriff, Greg Hamilton, and former Austin Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman. Often, I’ve made it possible for candidates who do not have a lot of personal resources to be able to run well-funded, winning campaigns.

Over the last ten years I’ve also recruited, trained and helped young Hispanics get a foothold in politics including Adrian Saenz with Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, Jim Navarro, formerly with Congressman Nick Lampson and State Rep. Joe Deshotel, Tanya Vazquez, chief of staff to Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher, Rebecca Leal with the Texas Freedom Network and numerous others.

I’d primarily like to blog on Judge Coronado’s campaign as it unfolds and reflect upon the challenges and successes of reaching out to Latinos, some of whom may need to be encouraged to pursue citizenship, some of whom may need to register, some of whom are registered but need to be inspired by the possibility of a Justice Jim Coronado and all that that represents, some of whom vote but who may never have worked on a campaign, and some of whom may be involved but who are anxious to help achieve the still significant milestone of electing a Mexican-American to a Texas appellate bench.

Judge Jim Coronado

Mil gracias, Alfred.

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