Monday, January 15, 2007

Why Bill White Will Have a Hard Time Getting Elected Governor in Texas (Or Even Land Commissioner)

There’s the crime, of course, with the mayor’s “Criminals, get packing” tagline on his bond-election commercials coming perilously close to a Dukakis-in-a-tank moment.

For another, less pressing “for example,” consider this entity, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and the newsletter it publishes every two weeks.

We don’t imagine this on-line newsletter has much circulation outside of a small circle of immigrant advocacy types, if it has even that---in fact, its disinterested readership may be limited to us and the public-spirited citizen who directed us to it---but it’s definitely not the kind of thing you’d want floating out there in the ether under your very own mayoral brand if you were serious about running for office outside the Loop as the nominee of a still-walking-with-a-crutch political party. It’s not hard to imagine some hardballing GOP operative hanging this all over the Bill White for Governor (or Senator) Campaign.

According to the city’s web site, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, which was created under Lee Brown (natch) and is run by Benito Juarez---not that one, we think---is “dedicated to facilitate [sic] a smoother transition for immigrant and refugee communities living in the city of Houston. The policy of MOIRA is to encourage access by all persons residing in the city of Houston, regardless of nation of birth or current citizenship status, to the full benefits, opportunities, and services which are provided and administered by the city of Houston.”

In addition to advising the mayor on immigration policy---which we thought he himself has said is a federal matter---the office seeks to “inform and educate the public about immigrant and immigration policies, act as a liaison between immigrant communities and city government [and] advocate on behalf of constituents.”

Some picky sorts might take issue with the notion that all people living in Houston are entitled to the “full benefits” offered by the city “regardless of … current citizenship status,” but we wouldn’t quibble with the larger notion that in a city with so many immigrants---many of them legal!---the mayor’s office ought to have some sort of formal liaison with the newcomers and the various institutions, organizations, Bar card holders and gum-beaters who represent them.

But check out almost any issue of MOIRA’s newsletter and it’s apparent that this arm of the mayor’s office takes its charge to “advocate on behalf of constituents” (which constituents, by the way?) to mean advocate in one of the most blatantly partisan and political manners that we’ve seen in supposedly non-partisan city government. The content is heavily slanted toward agitating for “comprehensive” immigration reform (which we’ve come to belatedly realize means amnesty, then more of the same when it comes to the non-enforcement of current law) or something even looser. Is that a responsibility of the mayor's office?

Sure, there’s some neutral, need-to-know information, such as a copy of HPD’s revised policy on illegal immigrants and the occasional news release from la migra or on some community event, but most of it is just straight-up polemics, rhetoric and information aimed at facilitating the organizing of illegal aliens.

Which is fine, it's a free country, but do taxpayers gotta foot the bill?

Take the Dec. 21 edition, which reprinted the United Nation’s “International Migrants Day 2006” resolution, with signatories ranging from the AFL-CIO to the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition and including this ripe verbiage:

In the United States, the U.S.-Mexico border region, in particular, continues to experience intensified militarization with impunity, and has become a de-constitutionalized zone where communities and immigrants are racially profiled and subjected to unfair detentions and deportations. We condemn the Bush Administration's and the U.S. Congress' approval of 700 more miles of additional walls, electronic surveillance and the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to police the border.

We reject restrictive immigration proposals in Congress that would criminalize immigrants through intensified border enforcement, and extend inhumane enforcement mechanisms to the interior. We further reject the current "compromise" proposals that contain guest-worker provisions that would expand and sustain an underclass of migrant workers, inevitably exposing migrant workers to employer abuse. Furthermore, we denounce such provisions that ensure corporations a pool of cheap, disposable labor for use and discard according to economic demands.
Is that Bill White’s position? (Although personally we can't argue with that last sentiment.)

Or consider this missive in the Nov. 16 edition, whose inclusion means city of Houston resources were used to encourage meddling in another municipality’s business:

Dear Community Leaders & Activists,

I was given a tip last night that a local municipality is going to follow in the footsteps of Farmers Branch, Texas. I was not told what city it was, but that it was going to be announced within the week.

I ask you to stay vigilant in the surrounding cities and inform us (LULAC District Directors) as soon as possible so we all can be present when they cast a vote for the anti-immigrant legislation.

LULAC has the petition ready to be filed against any city that passes this type of anti-immigrant legislation within our local area.

We will stand together against these types of actions within our Greater Houston.
Jose Luis Jimenez
Deputy District Director
LULAC District VIII – Houston
Or the Nov. 10 issue, which reproduced an “analysis” of the 2006 election by the Greenberg Traurig law firm that bizarrely included only one small section on immigration along with the “tax advice” disclaimer required by the IRS (somebody needs to do more than cut and paste and maybe read this stuff---free advice!) as well as a news release on the janitors' strike.

The previous week’s issue included a “want ad” from the National Association of Latino Elected Officials for poll watchers for the Nov. 7 election (offering a $50 stipend---if we’d only known).

And that's just from recent issues. It actually was a lot riper back in the spring, at the time of demonstrations and school walk-outs protesting non-comprehensive immigration reform.

We're pretty sure this sort of thing won't play well outside the 713 and 281 area codes.

We're pretty sure it wouldn't play all that well in many parts of the 713 and 281 area codes.

The mayor needs to get triangulatin’.