Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Arizona

State to help defend county bail policies

Of course it will.

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the top lawyers in five other states are backing Harris County in its protracted battle over money bail for poor low-level defendants, as the tally of those released on no-cash bail nears 1,000.

Paxton and the lead attorneys in Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska filed a joint brief late Monday supporting the county’s appeal of a federal court order that took effect three weeks ago eliminating cash bail for indigent misdemeanor defendants.

[…]

At a tense Harris County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, officials provided the clearest picture yet of the people released from impact of Rosenthal’s ruling. Nearly 980 people have been released by the sheriff under Rosenthal’s ruling as from June 6 through Friday, according to county’s office of budget management.

Of those, 40 people who were released on personal bonds had been arrested again by Friday and charged with new crimes, a rate of about 3 percent.

In the group of people who were able to afford cash bond — either through a bail bondsman or by posting cash — during the same time period, only about 1 percent had been re-arrested, county officials said.

The county’s arguments were countered in a lengthy hearing before Rosenthal that led to her order.

[…]

Paul Heaton, academic director of the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice and co-author of a study on Harris County’s criminal justice system, said the brief rehashes old arguments.

“The brief does demonstrate, however, that there are still important constituencies that have yet to be convinced of the need for bail reform,” he said. “Despite the significant progress in this area in states like New Jersey, Maryland, and Kentucky, and the mounting empirical evidence that cash bail systems can generate unwanted disparities and harm public safety — particularly when applied to low-level offenders — there are still many jurisdictions satisfied with the status quo that don’t want to change.”

Alec Karakatsanis, director of Civil Rights Corps, who represents ODonnell and the others who couldn’t afford bail, said Monday’s filing by the states’ attorneys echoed that stance.

“The amicus brief is a repeat of bail industry talking points that are entirely untethered to law and to fact,” he said.

I couldn’t find a copy of the Paxton brief, so you’ll have to rely on the story for what we know. Hard to know what else to make of this, or if the amicus brief will have any effect. Some days I wonder what it would be like to have an Attorney General who fights on the right side of an issue, any issue. Must be nice.

SB4’s day in court

Sparks were flying.

Opponents of Texas’ state-based immigration law told a federal judge Monday that allowing the controversial measure to stand would pave the way for a nationwide police state where local officers could subvert the established immigration-enforcement powers of the federal government.

But the state’s attorneys argued in tandem with their colleagues from the U.S. Department of Justice that the issue was settled in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a state-based immigration-enforcement provision passed in Arizona.

The day marked the first skirmish in what could be a lengthy battle over Texas’ law, Senate Bill 4, which has been billed as the toughest state-based immigration bill in the country. Known as the “sanctuary cities” law, SB4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and seeks to punish local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation. Punishment could come in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.

Opponents of the measure, including the cities of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Cenizo, as well as Maverick and El Paso counties, have argued the law violates several provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including guarantees of equal protection and freedom of speech. They are seeking a temporary injunction of the rule, which is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union representing the city of El Cenizo, a small municipality in Webb County, argued that the law, as written is vague and provides such little guidance to officers that they will be forced to use a heavy hand when detaining or arresting someone. That, he said, will lead to a broad assumption that they need to ask nearly every minority their immigration status for fear of violating the provision of the law — the aftereffect of which would be an across-the-board erosion of Texans’ rights.

“The overriding point is that the penalties are so harsh that it’s simply unrealistic for any police officer to take a chance” of violating the law, Gelernt told U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia. “[The lawmakers] knew what they were doing when they crafted the legislation.”

There’s a lot more, so go read the rest. The state’s argument, among other things, was that SB4 was less strict than Arizona’s infamous SB1070, and that it adhered to the parts of SB1070 that were upheld by SCOTUS. The plaintiffs’ argument, also among other things, was that the law was so vague and broad it was hard to even say what it did and did not allow and require law enforcement agencies to do; they also noted that while the Arizona law punished agencies, SB4 targets individuals who fail to comply with it. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect while the matter is being litigated; you can read the ACLU’s application for an injunction here. Judge Garcia did not say when he might rule, but he did note that he’s also one of the judges in the redistricting litigation, so maybe don’t expect anything till after those hearings in July. The Observer, the Chron, and the Current and Current again have more.

The Arizona experience

This is what Texas has to look forward to post-SB4.

Seven years in, Arizona’s experience hints at what Texas, with the nation’s largest Hispanic population after California, might expect. Supporters of Arizona’s legislation say it has worked, helping to reduce the number of immigrants illegally in the state by 40 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C. More than 200,000 left. Since then, the population has stayed about the same.

“Enforcement does work and even the threat of enforcement makes a difference,” said the bill’s Republican sponsor, former state Sen. Russell Pearce, who became Arizona’s first legislator to be removed from office in a 2011 recall election shortly after the passage of what’s known as SB 1070. “As long as you got the bird feeder out, the birds are going to come and eat. You gotta take the bird feeder down.”

Many of Trump’s supporters see it the same way at a time when the issue has arguably never been more rancorous. But business leaders in Arizona warn that such a reduction came at a cost.

“No one stops to think that, when you eject people from an economy, you’re not going to feel it,” said Todd Landfried, executive director of Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform. “It’s a dramatic impact. People aren’t buying food, clothes, gas. They’re not going to baseball games or buying soccer uniforms, they’re not going out and socializing. Business owners have to cut back and lay people off. It’s a snowball effect.”

Some economists have found that the exodus reduced Arizona’s gross domestic product by roughly 2 percent a year. Proponents of the law say that loss was bolstered by savings in education, medical care and the costs of incarceration. A 2004 study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C., group seeking to reduce immigration, argued those services cost the state more than $1 billion annually.

But Landfried called that a red herring, noting that all of Arizona’s residents, no matter their legal status, contribute to property taxes paying for education, whether they own homes or rent. Immigrants illegally in the state don’t qualify for any public benefits, although their American children do.

The overall impact to the state’s convention and tourism industry alone was $752 million in completed and potential cancellations and booking declines, Landfried testified to the U.S. Senate judiciary committee in 2012. That involved more than 4,200 lost jobs.

[…]

Some executives say that even the perception of the law as anti-Hispanic casts a shadow that they are still struggling to overcome. The city of Oakland, Calif., declined Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s invitation to a Governing Magazine summit this month, reportedly citing an ongoing travel ban due to the 2010 legislation. Stanton’s office, meanwhile, has been working to improve relations with the state’s largest trading partner of Mexico, recently opening a second office there.

“This was a complete disaster for our state from an image perspective and from an economic perspective,” said Lisa Urias, the president of a large advertising agency and a member of the boards of the Greater Phoenix Leadership Council and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “There is still lingering damage that is there, and we are still a state that feels very raw about this issue.”

Of course, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick have clearly shown via their support of a bathroom bill that they don’t really care about the state’s image and economy, since everyone with any credibility has told them that it would be bad for those things. The same is true for the so-called “sanctuary cities” law, with law enforcement added in for good measure. At this point, it’s hard to imagine anything that would change their minds. All that remains is to change who’s in power. Easier said than done, obviously, but it’s the only way.

Get ready for the “sanctuary cities” lawsuits

It’s just a matter of time.

Now that Senate Bill 4 is on its way to becoming law, opponents are looking to the courts for relief – and a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case is giving them hope.
The high court struck down parts of a controversial 2010 immigration law in Arizona on the grounds that Congress, not the states, has the power to create immigration law. Experts say that argument could come into play with Texas’ SB 4, which requires local jails to comply with immigration detention requests that federal officials have said are voluntary.

“My opinion is the state is regulating in the immigration field,” said Barbara Hines, senior fellow at the immigration reform group the Emerson Collective. “What the state of Texas is doing is they are creating their own detainer program. That is pre-empted. Immigration is a federal area.”

Among other things, SB 4 would create civil and criminal penalties for officials who disregard requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to extend the detention of jail inmates suspected of being in the country illegally. Those detention requests, or detainers, help facilitate possible deportation proceedings.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, predicted that the bill will follow the same course as Arizona’s SB 1070, better known as the “papers please” law because it required law enforcement officers in Arizona to demand the documentation of anyone they believed was in the country illegally.

Texas’ SB 4 doesn’t require officers to ask, but it prohibits sheriffs or police chiefs from keeping their officers from doing so.

“It allows local law enforcement to ask anybody on the street for their immigration status,” said Anchia, who chairs the Democrat-dominated Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which is fighting the state in court over redistricting maps it says are racially discriminatory.

[…]

Critics have argued the bill would separate families, deport well-meaning immigrants and create a fear in immigrant communities that might undermine their safety.

They picked up a legal argument this week after a group of mayors, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, met with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for clarity on the ramifications for so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Sessions confirmed Tuesday to the mayors that compliance with the federal immigration detention requests sent to local jails — the central requirement of SB 4 — isn’t mandated under federal law. Rather, the jails can choose whether to hold inmates longer at the request of ICE, Sessions said.

That the comments came from such a high-ranking Trump administration official deflated the notion often associated with SB 4: that local officials like Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez are breaking federal law by choosing to ignore some ICE detention requests.

It also raised questions over whether the state could step in and create an immigration law making the detainers mandatory.

“It is inevitable that you will see cities and counties across the state suing the state. The overreach is unprecedented,” Austin City Council Member Greg Casar said. “I don’t know who died and made Greg Abbott (into) Putin, but our cities are going to fight back.”

See here for the background, and here for more on what Mayor Adler said about his meeting with Sessions. I hope opponents of this lousy bill flood the zone with lawsuits. It’s clear from the HB2 experience that setbacks in court will not stop the Lege from trying the same things again in the future, but it’s still necessary. Also, I say Greg Abbott has always had authoritarian inclinations, he’s just more comfortable expressing them in public now.

There will also be many headaches for law enforcement agencies, which strongly opposed SB4.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo spoke vehemently against Senate Bill 4 Thursday afternoon, calling it a dangerous move by the state Legislature because it would redirect limited HPD resources from crime fighting efforts to an initiative that does not improve public safety.

Acevedo did not share if HPD would alter its policies if SB 4 were to become law. However, he made it clear during the afternoon presser he would make public safety a priority over policies he believe are unrelated.

“I am carrying out my sworn duty and moral duty to speak out on matters of public safety. And I’m not here to keep a job to do it,” he said.

[…]

The legislation would force police to honor all federal requests to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally until federal authorities can investigate the person’s status. It also would prohibit local jurisdictions from passing or enforcing an ordinance that prohibits police officers from inquiring about a detained person’s immigration status, which would nullify the Houston Police Department’s 1990 policy on the matter.

“If that language does not get removed … we’re going to have some negative consequences,” Acevedo said.

Police departments across the state, including Houston, are understaffed, he said. And the bill would diminish those already limited resources, he added. Just this year Acevedo announced plans to target high-crime areas and violent documented gang members.

He also announced a joint effort with the Texas Department of Public Safety to decrease violent crime in the area by creating two squad assigned to the initiative.

However, he believes SB4 may affect those plans.

“We don’t have the resources, nor do we have the bandwidth nor the desire to be ICE agents. If I wanted to work for ICE, I would’ve applied for ICE,” he said.

Acevedo’s worry is that a police officer’s duty and the proposed policy will create a divide among departments throughout the state. While police officers are sworn to protect, he says the bill could open the door for harassment.

“I will lose my ability and authority to direct (my officers) workflow,” he said. “ … And all of sudden I’ll have a police officer that wants to go off and play ICE agent all day.”

He went on to add he hopes that isn’t the case, but that perception would be damaging for Houston – particularly on immigrant communities.

It’s not about what local officials want, it’s about what Greg Abbott wants. Sorry, Chief. The Chron, ThinkProgress, and the Press have more.

Uber moves driverless car pilot to Arizona

This happened right before Christmas, so I’m just catching up to it now.

The day after California regulators shut down Uber’s self-driving car program in San Francisco, Uber on Thursday packed up its autonomous vehicles and hauled them to Arizona, vowing to resume testing there.

The move was a quick rebound by Uber after its pilot program in San Francisco fell apart after just one week. Instead of giving in to California regulators and applying for a $150 permit to test its self-driving cars on public roads, Uber on Thursday once again signaled it doesn’t need to play by its home state’s rules.

“Our cars departed for Arizona this morning by truck,” an Uber spokeswoman wrote in an emailed statement Thursday. “We’ll be expanding our self-driving pilot there in the next few weeks, and we’re excited to have the support of Governor Ducey.”

The company released photos showing its silver Volvo SUVs loaded onto the back of a semi truck owned by Otto — the autonomous trucking startup that Uber acquired in August.

[…]

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Thursday welcomed the self-driving Ubers to his state, where they will not need a special permit to drive on public roads, and positioned California’s neighbor as a welcoming alternative for Uber and other disruptive innovators.

“While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses,” he wrote in a statement. “California may not want you, but we do.”

Ducey last year signed an executive order supporting the testing and operation of self-driving cars and establishing a Self-Driving Vehicle Oversight Committee to advise officials on how to advance the progress of autonomous vehicles.

Self-driving cars are treated the same as any other vehicle in Arizona, Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Timothy Tait wrote in an emailed statement.

“We hope this cooperation and common-sense approach, combined with this state’s favorable climate, encourage even more companies to test autonomous vehicles in Arizona,” he wrote.

See here for the background. Arizona’s permissive approach is certainly one way to do this, though one wonders what their response will be if Uber decides that even their rules are too restrictive and so it will just ignore them as they had done in California. It should also be noted that there are some twenty (!) other companies testing driverless cars in California now, following the rules Uber refused to comply with. One presumes Uber will eventually want their cars to operate in CA, so either they’ll have to suck it up or get the US Congress to pass a law requiring all states to allow them to operate as they see fit, much like they want the Lege to do to cities in Texas. I wonder if Ken Paxton will file a lawsuit over the egregious federal interference with states’ rights if that happens. The Fiscal Times, Engadget, the Guardian, and the Washington Post have more.

A new way to attack gerrymandering

From Think Progress:

America’s anti-gerrymandering law is an incoherent mess.

Thirty years ago, in Davis v. Bandemer, the Supreme Court held that a partisan gerrymander may be struck down as unconstitutional upon proof of “both intentional discrimination against an identifiable political group and an actual discriminatory effect on that group.” Yet the Court struggled to determine where to draw the line between lawful and unlawful maps.

Nearly two decades later, in Vieth v. Jubelirer, the justices seemed even more confused. Four of them called upon federal courts to simply give up on solving the problem of partisan gerrymanders. Four others splintered into a maze of dissenting opinions, altogether proposing a total of three different standards for weighing alleged gerrymanders. In the middle, Justice Anthony Kennedy threw up his hands in frustration. “The failings of the many proposed standards for measuring the burden a gerrymander imposes on representational rights make our intervention improper,” Kennedy wrote. Nevertheless, he concluded that “if workable standards do emerge to measure these burdens . . . courts should be prepared to order relief.”

Now, a dozen years after Kennedy despaired for want of a workable way to uncover partisan gerrymanders, two young scholars may have cracked the code. In a paper published in the University of Chicago Law Review last year, law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee propose a mathematical formula judges can use to identify suspect maps. This formula is now the subject of a federal lawsuit, Whitford v. Nichol, which has survived two motions, submitted by defenders of Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn maps, that sought to kill the case. Moreover, because of a quirk of federal law, the case is overwhelmingly likely to wind up in the Supreme Court.

[…]

The test offered by the plaintiffs in Whitford, which is based on Stephanopoulos and McGhee’s scholarship, is not a perfect solution to the problem of gerrymandering. For one thing, it effectively gives lawmakers a free election where they can enact gerrymandered maps and not need to worry that a court will strike them down in advance of the election. This is because the only way to calculate a map’s efficiency gap is to first run an election under that map and then add up the wasted votes.

Additionally, it may not catch the most devious gerrymanders. In a nod to Davis‘ holding that plaintiffs must show “both intentional discrimination against an identifiable political group and an actual discriminatory effect on that group” in order to prevail in a gerrymandering case, theWhitford plaintiffs explain that a high efficiency gap is not enough to prove gerrymandering, or even to establish a reputable presumption that a map is gerrymandered. Rather, to win their case, plaintiffs challenging a gerrymander must also show that the mapmakers acted with discriminatory intent when they drew the maps.

That’s probably not going to be a high bar to clear in Whitford where it is uncontested that Wisconsin Republicans “hired a law firm and a political scientist to design an Assembly plan that would maximize the electoral advantage of Republicans.” In other cases, however, lawmakers may learn to do a better job of covering their tracks.

Whatever its flaws, however, the plaintiffs’ proposed standard in Whitford does have one important virtue: it may have a better likelihood of prevailing in court than any other standard previously proposed by litigators. In federal litigation, defendants typically can make multiple attempts to convince a court to kill a case before it goes to a full trial. Whitford has now survived two of the most potent weapons in the Wisconsin defendants’ arsenal — a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment. Significantly, they’ve done so despite the fact that the three-judge panel hearing this case includes a Reagan appointee and a George W. Bush appointee (the third judge was appointed by President Jimmy Carter).

The fact that two Republican appointees believe that Whitford deserves a full trial suggests that some conservative justices, like Kennedy, might be convinced that Stephanopoulos and McGhee have found the solution to the problem of partisan gerrymandering. Moreover, though the Supreme Court normally has discretion to turn away cases it does not want to hear, it has far less ability to ignore cases heard by three-judge district courts. So even if Kennedy (or, for that matter, a newly constituted Court that could soon include Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland) would prefer not to wade into the fraught waters of partisan gerrymandering, it is far from clear that he’ll be able to avoid doing so.

The basics of the standard is measuring the number of “wasted” votes in each single-member district. Above a certain threshold, the evidence suggests that one party or the other has an unfair advantage. You can read the story and follow the links to see what you think about this proposed standard, the point is that if the courts buy it, it would greatly change how redistricting litigation is done. Among other things, it would apply equally to a map drawn by Democrats to screw Republicans. The plaintiffs in Wisconsin would have to win first, and then SCOTUS would have to take the case for this to be on the radar. Just keep it in mind, because it could be a factor in 2021 and beyond.

In other news, SCOTUS ruled on a redistricting case, too.

The Supreme Court upheld an Arizona redistricting commission’s right to draw legislative districts in a way that ensures minority representation, delivering a crushing rebuke on Wednesday to a group of Arizona tea party activists who’d sought to strike down the state’s redistricting maps in order to increase the voting power of rural white voters.

In Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the plaintiffs were taking on Arizona’s Independent Election Commission, a body created through a 2000 ballot initiative intended to make redistricting less partisan. The commission produced its first legislative maps after the 2010 census. Its work came under fire almost immediately, primarily by Republicans. At one point, then-Gov. Jan Brewer (R) attempted to impeach the commission’s chair in what was seen as a power grab. When that failed, in 2012, the Republican-led state legislature filed a lawsuit arguing that the ballot measure that created the commission was unconstitutional because it deprived the legislature of its redistricting power. The lawsuit went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which last June ruled 5-4 in the commission’s favor.

In the current lawsuit, filed in 2014, the plaintiffs, all Republicans, argued that the commission diluted their voting power by packing more people into Republican districts while underpopulating Democratic ones. They wanted the court to mandate that all district have almost exactly equal populations; the current ones vary by 4 to 8 percent. The commission, in turn, responded that it drew the districts in such a way as to win approval from the Justice Department, in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Due to Arizona’s long history of suppressing minority voting, it was one of the jurisdictions required under the Voting Rights Act to clear any changes to legislative districts with the Justice Department before implementing them. The Supreme Court gutted this requirement in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, but it was in place when Arizona redrew its legislative maps.

If the Harris plaintiffs had been successful, the case could have opened the floodgates to lawsuits challenging how states around the country draw their legislative districts. But in an opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court ruled unanimously that Arizona’s maps were indeed designed to comply with federal law in ensuring minority representation, and that the minor population deviations were acceptable.

SCOTUSBlog explains what this unanimous decision means.

In his opinion for the Court, Breyer explained that the Constitution requires states to try to distribute residents evenly among legislative districts, but it “does not demand mathematical perfection.” In particular, states can draw districts with populations that aren’t perfectly equal if there is a good reason to do so – for example, to draw districts that are compact or to ensure that a city or county is not split up. And the fact that districts aren’t perfectly equal, standing alone, does not mean that a redistricting map violates the Constitution, Breyer explained, if the largest deviation from perfect equality is less than ten percent.

When, as in this case, the deviation is less than ten percent, plaintiffs like Wesley Harris and his fellow voters must meet a more difficult standard: they must show that “it is more probable than not” that the deviation is attributable to some other, illegitimate reason. And, the Court concludes, Harris cannot do so here. When the commission was drawing the maps after the 2010 census, its primary consideration was whether the maps would comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. Among other things, that act prohibits new redistricting plans that would decrease the number of districts in which minority groups can elect candidates of their choice. The evidence in the case, the Court reasons, reflects that any deviations from equally populated districts were largely attributable to the commission’s efforts to make sure that the plan contained enough of these “ability to elect” districts to pass muster under the Voting Rights Act.

But, the voters had protested, party politics must have entered (improperly) into the mix: after all, virtually all of the Democratic districts have populations that are lower than they would be if all districts contained the same number of people – which would give more voting power to the residents in those districts – while most of the Republican districts have populations that are greater than they would otherwise be, giving those residents less voting power. The Court seemed to regard this as a matter of correlation, rather than causation, though. Noting “the tendency for minority populations in Arizona in 2010 to vote disproportionately for Democrats,” it suggested that, in its efforts to ensure that it had enough “ability to elect” districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, that the commission may have had to move “other voters out of those districts, leaving them slightly underpopulated.”

Both stories reference the recent Evenwel decision, since the plaintiffs in both cases were conservative activists. There’s some tension between this case and the Wisconsin one, since the Court ruled here that compliance with the Voting Rights Act is an acceptable reason for population variances in the service of drawing minority “ability to elect” districts, and a lot of these districts are going to show up as outliers in the wasted-vote test. I presume there’s a way to harmonize these two competing interests, either in the standard for calculating “wasted votes” or in a legal standard the courts will eventually devise. Just a reminder that redistricting is often messy no matter how it’s done. Daily Kos has more.

Get out of solar’s way

Keep an eye on this.

“Hawaii is a postcard from the future,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.

Other states and countries, including California, Arizona, Japan and Germany, are struggling to adapt to the growing popularity of making electricity at home, which puts new pressures on old infrastructure like circuits and power lines and cuts into electric company revenue.

As a result, many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. In response, those solar companies are fighting back through regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

The shift in the electric business is no less profound than those that upended the telecommunications and cable industries in recent decades. It is already remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation’s grid.

The issue is not merely academic, electrical engineers say.

In solar-rich areas of California and Arizona, as well as in Hawaii, all that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts.

“Hawaii’s case is not isolated,” said Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the smart grid program at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical association. “When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there’s going to be problems.”

The economic threat also has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Edison Electric Institute, the main utility trade group, has been warning its members of the economic perils of high levels of rooftop solar since at least 2012, and the companies are responding. In February, the Salt River Project, a large utility in Arizona, approved charges that could add about $50 to a typical monthly bill for new solar customers, while last year in Wisconsin, where rooftop solar is still relatively rare, regulators approved fees that would add $182 a year for the average solar customer.

This story doesn’t have a direct connection to Texas, but our state has a tremendous potential for solar, high electric bills in many cities, and a Legislature that isn’t all that friendly to renewable energy, but very much is friendly to the entrenched status quo. That’s a combination that makes this all worth keeping an eye on.

Online voter registration bills advance

Some good news.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

House Bill 313, which received praise from committee members in a Monday hearing, and Senate Bill 315, which was voted out of committee Thursday, propose allowing voters to register online and have that application automatically authenticated rather than having to wait on local election officials to reenter the data in their systems and confirm it.

Arizona, which was the first state to create a completely online registration system in 2002, now receives more than 70 percent of its applications digitally, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, introduced HB 313 with a higher authentication standard than seen in Arizona and other states.

Users would have to prove their identity by providing the last four digits of their social security number, driver’s license number and driver’s license audit number, which is specific to the physical card and would prevent someone from stealing a license to register online.

“That is such a high threshold of authorization that in Texas law it constitutes notarization,” Strama said.

The Texas Association of Counties reported in the bill’s fiscal note that the proposal would yield considerable savings associated with the expedited process and not having to hire temporary staff to handle an increased influx of paper registrations near deadlines — often increasing the margin of human error.

[…]

A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts noted that in Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, that online registrations cost the state three cents to offer and process while paper applications cost 83 cents.

Albert Cheng, manager of voter registration for Harris County tax-assessor collector’s office, initially listed himself on the witness list as opposing the bill, but said he would support the bill if the author would work with him to address some concerns about security and voter identification.

SB315 is by Sen. Carlos Uresti, and it was approved 7-0 by the Senate State Affairs Committee. As noted, the bills would save counties money while making it easier to register voters in a way that also helped avoid the kind of basic, fixable errors that can lead to registration forms being summarily rejected by some registrars – you know, like what we’ve seen the past few years in Harris County. Like many other things, filling out a voter registration form is something that could easily be done on a smartphone if only the law would allow it. Well, these bills could be that law. I can’t think of any good reason to oppose them. Texpatriate has more, while Texas Redistricting recaps the action in the Elections Committee.

In case you didn’t have enough Supreme Court business to worry about

Here’s Texas Redistricting to give you more to worry about, in the form of Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.

Although the case has gotten far less attention than challenges to the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, it could profoundly reshape the power of the federal government to regulate elections by narrowing what traditionally has been a broad interpretation of the scope of the Constitution’s Elections Clause (Article I, sec. 4, clause 1).

That clause provides that:

The TImes, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing [sic] Senators.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

In 1993, Congress used the clause to enact the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which set nationwide standards for voter registration.

In 2004, however, the state of Arizona passed legislation to require that new voters in Arizona provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote and instructing election to reject all applications, even those approved under the NVRA, that were not accompanied by that proof.

In subsequent litigation, Arizona argued that the NVRA could not be read in a way to limit a state’s right to set voter qualifications under different clauses of the Constitution.

[…]

Indeed, the Supreme Court’s interpretation could well affect litigation in Texas currently at the Fifth Circuit over application of the NVRA to Texas’ voter registration regime.

Back in August 2012, U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa cited conflicts with the NVRA when he entered an order enjoining enforcement of Texas laws that prohibit deputy voter registrars from photocopying completed applications and that require that completed applications be delivered to county elections officials in person. The Fifth Circuit heard an expedited appeal in the case back in December, and a decision is expected any day now.

The act also served as one of the bases used in 2012 to challenge what LULAC contended were unacceptable voter purges being conducted by Harris County.

Meanwhile, in Austin, State Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land) has filed a bill, HB 3074, that would require proof of citizenship before new registrants are added to the voter rolls.

As set out in a detailed amicus brief at the Fifth Circuit in the Texas NVRA case, Texas has a long and complicated voter registration history. And voter registration remains a highly charged issue in the state. Just look at the back and forth 2008 allegations about the processing and rejection of applications in Harris County or allegations that Waller County improperly rejected applications of African-American students.

This may be a sleeper case, but, given the numerous and continuing voting-related battles in Texas, it’s one to watch.

See here, here, and here for background on the Texas litigation. Oral arguments were heard on Monday. SCOTUSBlog, TPM, and Rick Hasen have previews. In the end, based on the reports from SCOTUSBlog and TPM, it’s not clear how this might shake out. The hearing wound up being less than an hour in total, and as the SCOTUSBlog report noted, it seemed to hang on a pretty narrow legal distinction, which may mean that the decision will be narrowly tailored. It’s even possible, I suppose, that this could strengthen the case against restrictive voter registration procedures like the ones Texas passed in 2011. That’s not going to stop me from sweating it out until the ruling. See the transcript, via Texas Redistricting, for more.

On voter confidence

There was one more interesting aspect to that poll of Harris County from last week, and it had to do with how confident voters were that the vote they cast would be counted. This KUHF story goes into that result.

A new KUHF/KHOU poll shows that black voters aren’t as confident as other voters that their vote will be counted accurately.

[…]

Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein, who conducted the poll, says confusion and possible anger over voter ID could be fueling the lower level of assurance.

“African-Americans here are actually considerably less confident that their vote will be counted accurately than other African-Americans throughout the country, with the exception of states who’ve had this controversy over photo IDs.”

Stein says the difference between the KUHF/KHOU poll and national polls is the level of confidence African-American voters expressed. While nationally 40-45 percent of black voters are very confident that their vote will be counted accurately. Stein says the numbers are different for those voters polled in Harris County.

“Among African-Americans only about 36% are very confident, compared to 50% white and 44% Hispanic.”

Here are the relevant tables from the topline data:

Dr. Stein asked me for my feedback on this, and I replied as follows:

Interesting stuff. From a Dem perspective, I would add two things that likely add to the perception of one’s vote not being counted:

1. In my experience, Dems have a much higher level of distrust of electronic voting machines. Some of that is lingering paranoia and conspiracy-mongering from Ohio 2004, and some of it is the very legitimate concern that these machines aren’t terribly secure and could well be compromised without anyone knowing it. The fact that every cycle there seems to be a story about some well-connected Republican having an ownership stake in a company that produces these machines, as is the case this year with Tagg Romney, adds to this level of distrust.

2. Every time something happens that causes a problem with voting, or that results in misinformation about voting, it seems to affect people of color in a vastly disproportionate amount. See the recent debacle with the “dead voter” purge here, and the recent story in Arizona about the wrong date for Election Day being provided in Spanish-language materials. Add in the various official and unofficial efforts to suppress minority voting – voter ID, the King Street Patriots’ “poll watchers”, efforts to curb early voting in Ohio, etc etc etc – and it’s easy to see why some folks feel like their vote is discounted.

Almost as if on cue, we had this story in Friday’s Chron:

State election officials repeatedly and mistakenly matched active longtime Texas voters to deceased strangers across the country – some of whom perished more than a decade ago – in an error-ridden effort to purge dead voters just weeks before the presidential election, according to a Houston Chronicle review of records.

Voters in legislative districts across Texas with heavy concentrations of Hispanics or African-Americans were more often targeted in that flawed purge effort, according the Chronicle’s analysis of more than 68,000 voters identified as possibly dead.

It’s unclear why so many more matches were generated in some minority legislative districts. One factor may be the popularity of certain surnames in Hispanic and historically black neighborhoods.

That’s as may be, and as noted before there were Anglo voters and known Republicans affected by this as well. But still, there are only so many times that this sort of thing can happen before people stop believing it to be a coincidence or an innocent mistake. Texans for Public Justice argued last week that this was anything but an innocent mistake, as they accused Andrade of deliberately trying to suppress the vote. You can read the report and come to your own conclusions, but again I’m not surprised by the poll numbers. I’m sure there are other reasons I didn’t come up with. Maybe this is an anomaly, maybe it’s a small sample size problem, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, because people who don’t think their vote counts are less likely to vote. What do you think about this?

Fifth Circuit will re-hear the Farmers Branch lawsuit again

I have an uneasy feeling about this.

When will they learn?

Farmers Branch was sued four years ago after it passed an ordinance allowing the city building inspector to evict any illegal immigrant renters. Its case will now go before the full membership of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with 10 judges appointed by Republican presidents and just five by Democrats.

So far, no court has allowed Farmers Branch to enforce any form of the ordinance. But the appeals court’s rare move to hear the case a second time, months after a different three-judge panel ruled against Farmers Branch, could be a sign that the town might finally get a victory.

The current ordinance, which replaced an earlier 2006 version, would require all renters to obtain a $5 city license and fill out an application that asks about their legal status. Then, the city’s building inspector would have to check whether any immigrant applying for a license was in the United States legally. Illegal immigrants would be denied a permit, and landlords who knowingly allow illegal immigrants to stay as tenants could be fined or have their renters’ license barred.

The appeals court has directed all sides to focus on the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling on Arizona’s tough immigration law. That ruling rejected major parts of the law, but upheld the so-called “show me your papers” requirement, which gives law enforcement authority to check a person’s legal status if officers have reasonable suspicion he or she is in the U.S. illegally.

See here for more on that original Fifth Circuit ruling, and here for plenty of Farmers Branch-related blogging. A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania has heard a similar appeal from the town of Hazelton, which is the Keystone State’s version of Farmers Branch, but it hasn’t ruled yet. The Fifth Circuit could set a precedent for other appeals courts to follow, and given how awful some of its recent rulings have been. that’s an ominous prospect. We’ll see how it goes.

Fifth Circuit rules against Farmers Branch

I almost missed this.

When will they learn?

A federal appeals court has upheld the ruling that struck down a Farmers Branch renters ordinance aimed at banning illegal immigrants from rental housing in the city.

The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday upholds the federal government’s right to control immigration laws through the Constitution’s supremacy clause.

“This is a national problem, needing a national solution. And it impacts the nation’s relations with Mexico and other nations,” the decision said.

The appeals court ruled that the ordinance was more than a housing regulation and was “designed to burden aliens, both documented and undocumented, in Farmers Branch. As such, the ordinance serves no legitimate city interest…”

Farmers Branch Mayor Bill Glancy said he hadn’t read the decision, or spoken to the outside legal counsel. But, he said, “I have supported our stance on illegal immigration because I feel something must be done.”

Glancy said he couldn’t say yet whether the city would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One reason why that might not be such a hot idea is in the Huffington Post story:

William Brewer, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said he sensed a “strong undercurrent” throughout the appellate court’s decision that Farmers Branch was engaged in discrimination. The ruling is particularly meaningful because the 5th Circuit has a reputation for conservatism, he said.

Brewer noted that the ruling affirms Boyle’s decision that Farmers Branch must pay the plaintiffs’ attorney fees, which before the appeal were nearly $2 million. He called that portion of the decision “a strong deterrent” against other cities seeking to pass similar laws.

“Clearly, both the trial court and the appellate court recognize that this ordinance was discriminatory,” Brewer said.

That’s on top of the $4 million they’ve spent so far; who knows how many more millions they’d have to waste pursuing a Supreme Court appeal. They haven’t shown any evidence of sanity on this, however. Some lessons just have to be learned the hard way, I suppose.

The plaintiffs don’t think it’s over yet, either.

Nina Perales, the vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who argued the case before the 5th Circuit in October, didn’t downplay the significance of the ruling, which she said came from one of the most conservative appellate courts in the country.

“This is a stern message from the federal court that ordinances that target people for expulsion based on their race or ethnicity are unconstitutional, even if you dress them up as local immigration laws,” she said.

But while the ruling is a victory for immigrants in the realm of housing, she said the effects on other aspects of immigration law cannot be easily predicted. That’s because immigration laws are often packaged into big omnibus bills, she said — including some pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“A lot of these laws are a smorgasbord,” she said. “Some have to do with police, some have to do with employment, day laborers, solicitation of employment, some with housing.”

And coming up next month is the SCOTUS hearing on Arizona’s notorious SB1070, which was the basis for the “sanctuary cities” bill that Rick Perry declared an emergency but which thankfully did not pass. While most of that bill has been blocked by the lower courts, some portions of it were upheld. Regardless of what happens, there’s likely to be a lot more attempts by cities and states to regulate immigration in some fashion, and a lot more litigation to follow it. Given how lawsuit-happy some Attorneys General have been of late, even if Congress manages to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, I doubt that will stop any of this activity any time soon.

Election results elsewhere

Results of interest from elsewhere in Texas and the country…

– Three of the ten Constitutional amendments were defeated, with Prop 4 losing by nearly 20 points. It drew strong opposition from anti-toll road activists, and I daresay that was the reason for the lopsided loss. The other two, Props 7 and 8, were pretty innocuous, and I have no real idea for why they went down.

– There was one special legislative election, to replace Fred Brown in HD14. Republicans Bob Yancey and John Raney will advance to the runoff for that seat.

– In New Braunfels, the can ban was upheld, and it wasn’t close.

The container ban ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1, was approved by 58 percent of the vote.

Ban supporters hailed the win as vindication of their claim that residents want the river protected from rowdy tourists and their litter.

“This was a landslide that can be disputed by no one,” said Kathleen Krueger, spokeswoman for Support The Ban. “New Braunfels has spoken loud and clear that we want to protect our rivers for the next generation.”

The lead spokesman for the opposition said the real issue was government transparency and vowed to continue the fight.

“I’m not disappointed,” said Mark McGonigal. “I have an opinion and so do other people. I knew one side would prevail. But the legality of this has yet to be determined.”

A lawsuit challenging the ordinance as illegal under state law, filed by a group of local business owners, is pending in state district court.

Nearly 9000 votes were cast in that referendum.

– Elsewhere in the country, there were a number of good results for progressives. Voters in Maine restored same day registration, while voters in Ohio repealed a law that would have curtailed collective bargaining rights. Each was a defeat for the state’s elected-in-the-2010-landslide Republican Governor. Mississippi voters rejected a radical “personhood amendment” that could have had far-reaching negative effects on reproductive choice. And finally, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the author of the anti-immigrant SB1070 and a notorious racist, was recalled by voters there. Small steps, but in the right direction.

MLB needs to stand by all of its players

A brief history of baseball’s other color line.

There is no Latin American Jackie Robinson, no single Hispanic ballplayer who lifted his people onto his back and crashed through baseball’s racist barricades. But there always has to be a first, and many of the game’s historians point to two Cubans, Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans, who made their debut with the Cincinnati Reds a century ago. Of course, baseball was still segregated then. The Reds took great pains to highlight the irreproachable ethnicities of their newest employees: yes, they were Cuban, but they were purebred Spaniards, without so much as a trace of African blood.

One thing that was not in dispute was that the Cubans could play. “Uncle Sam’s monopoly of the baseball market has been seriously threatened,” one reporter surmised, noting that “this little nation of brown men whom Uncle Sam set up in the nation business” was liable to “rise up and lick Sammy at his own game.”

Politics has prevented us from testing the accuracy of this prediction. As a source of talent, Cuba, whose diamonds are off-limits to American prospectors, produces a small fraction of the Hispanic players who now represent more than a quarter of all major leaguers and an even larger percentage of those in the minors. No American institution owes a greater debt to Latin Americans than baseball. Our national pastime would be nothing today without the likes of Pujols, Bautista and Reyes, and it all started with Almeida and Marsans, who played in their first major league game on — I’m not making this up — July 4, 1911.

So how is baseball honoring their legacy, almost exactly 100 years later? By holding its 2011 All-Star Game in the cradle of America’s new nativism.

That would Arizona, where MLB still hasn’t said anything about SB1070 and the insult it is to a large portion of MLB’s players and fans. I never expect much from Bud Selig, but he’s still managed to disappoint me here. Even a symbolic gesture would have been better than the nothing we’ve gotten, as it least then we’d know that he noticed. The silence so far is shameful.

The cost to cities of being anti-immigrant

The Center for American Progress has a new report out called The High Price of Local Immigration Enforcement that tracks how much various anti-immigrant ordinances in cities like Hazelton, PA, and Farmers Branch have cost them. Most of those costs have been related to litigation, as they have had to defend themselves against multiple lawsuits, though they have also seen their tax bases erode. As someone who’s been following the Farmers Branch story since 2006, this was all familiar to me, but just to bring everyone up to speed, here’s the bit about where Farmers Branch stands now from the full report.

The city was hit with four separate lawsuits, including one from merchants claiming that the English-only provision had hurt their businesses. The lawsuits were eventually combined. In January 2007, after a court temporarily blocked implementation of the Farmers Branch law pending the outcome of the lawsuits, the city council repealed the original rental law and replaced it with a similar one drafted by [anti-immigrant activist Kris] Kobach that made adjustments for families of mixed immigration or citizenship status.

That ordinance was approved by voters in a May election but was declared unconstitutional a year later by a federal court on the grounds that it violated the federal supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, similar to the Hazleton, Pennsylvania, case. Undeterred, the city council passed another Kobach-authored ordinance in January, 2008, that would require all renters of apartments and houses to pay a $5 fee and state their legal status in their application for an occupancy license, thus removing landlords from the verification process.

The third ordinance also was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in April, 2010. Among its findings, the court noted that the Farmers Branch ordinance applies federal immigration classifications for purposes not authorized or contemplated by federal law. “As a result, the ordinance creates an additional restriction on alien residence in the City. The direct regulation of private contract for shelter based on inapplicable federal classifications constitutes an impermissible regulation of immigration,” the court stated. Farmers Branch then followed the path of Hazleton by asking an appellate court to overturn the lower court’s rejection of its immigration control ordinance. The case is now pending before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

All of this has cost Farmers Branch $4 million, with more to come as the current case proceeds. Read the report for all the details.

What this report doesn’t explore, unfortunately, is the potential cost to cities and the state of the various anti-immigrant bills that are pending in the Texas Legislature. I presume that the first thing that will happen after some form of one of Debbie Riddle’s bills is signed into law that Texas will be subject to similar litigation as Arizona. Even if you take lawsuits out of the equation, the so-called “sanctuary city” bills are designed to force local law enforcement agencies to do the work of immigration officials at the risk of losing some state funds, but no funding mechanism is provided to compensate them for that extra work. What would an honest fiscal note for these bills look like? Those are the questions I’d like to see addressed right now.

Arizona Congresswoman shot

Horrible.

Six people were killed and 12 others wounded — including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — in a shooting outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store where the congresswoman was holding a constituent meeting, police said.

The suspect in the shooting was in custody, according to U.S. Capitol Police, who did not identify the alleged gunman.

Darci Slaten, a spokeswoman for University Medical Center in Tucson, said Giffords, 40, was undergoing surgery Saturday afternoon for a gunshot wound to the head.

Local law enforcement officials have not provided a public accounting of the injuries, but President Obama called the shooting an “unspeakable tragedy,” and said “some have passed away,” according to a statement from the White House. He said Giffords was “gravely wounded.”

A federal judge was also killed in this attack. He had received numerous death threats in 2009 as the result of a ruling he made in a civil suit.

In February, when U.S. District Judge John Roll presided over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher, the Marshals Service was anticipating the fallout.

When Roll ruled the case could go forward, [US Marshall David] Gonzales said talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats.

In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online.

“They said, ‘We should kill him. He should be dead,’ ” Gonzales said.

Roll, who is the chief federal judge in Arizona, said both he and his wife were given a protection detail for about a month.

“It was unnerving and invasive. . . . By its nature it has to be,” Roll said, adding that they were encouraged to live their lives as normally as possible. “It was handled very professionally by the Marshals Service.”

While Rep. Giffords is thankfully expected to survive, one of the fatalities is reported to be a nine year old girl. I’m just sick to my stomach. We don’t know yet what the motivation was of the shooter, but given all of the violent rhetoric and imagery that has infected our politics lately, it’s not hard to speculate about possible causes. In the meantime, I pray for the full recovery of all of the injured, and for peace for the families of the dead.

Sheriffs not sold on Arizona immigration bill

Texas’ sheriffs are not very enthusiastic about being charged with enforcing federal immigration laws.

Texas has 254 sheriffs, and while opinions vary about whether illegal immigration should be their problem, some Republicans are pushing measures that won’t give them a choice. More than a dozen bills targeting illegal immigration await the Legislature when it convenes Tuesday, when the GOP will enter with a historic conservative supermajority in the House.

One bill would require police to ask drivers without identification if they’re in the country legally. Another would cut off state funds to departments that don’t enforce immigrations laws.

“It’s split among my colleagues on whether we should be out here just stopping individuals without probable cause, and questioning them on their immigration status,” said Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, who believes the proposals invite profiling.

[…]

Many Texas sheriffs along the border, long vocal about being understaffed and underfunded on the edge of Mexico’s violent drug war, oppose the measures as another drain on their deputies. They and sheriffs in Houston and San Antonio also worry about profiling.

Others don’t see it as an imposition, and maybe a necessity. In Fort Bend County, which includes Houston’s conservative suburbs, Sheriff Milton Wright said he would support laws requiring his deputies to enforce immigration laws if the federal government won’t.

“If they’re not going to do it, then we need to,” he said.

Arizona’s new law left Texas facing unavoidable questions. Texas has an estimated 1.6 million illegal immigrants, second only to California, and Republicans control every statewide office. Gov. Rick Perry has said he doesn’t support Texas adopting a law identical to Arizona’s, while at the same time praising that state’s initiative for taking the illegal immigration problem into its own hands.

I fully expect that Gov. Perry will sign whatever immigration-related legislation makes it to his desk, despite what some people think. I do not believe he will cross the base on this, and I think there’s plenty of room to make enough cosmetic changes to Arizona’s bill to allow him to claim that Texas’ version of it is different.

It would have been good to hear from more Sheriffs on this. With the exception of Fort Bend’s Wright – who, if he truly believes there are no constitutional issues with making people show their papers as a matter of routine, can certainly instruct his deputies to do so – everyone in the story was opposed to such legislation. How many Sheriffs agree with Wright, and how much of the state’s population do they represent? Based on this story, the opponents can claim Harris, Bexar, Travis, El Paso, and all the border counties; I will presume Dallas is in this group as well. That’s an awful lot of the state right there.

It’s not at all clear that the legislators who want to force the sheriffs to do their bidding care about what they think, however.

So important is the issue to state Rep. Debbie Riddle that she camped outside the clerk’s window to ensure her get-tough immigration bills would be first in line. State Sen. Dan Patrick filed a bill that would require police to ask anyone without an ID whether they’re in the country illegally, but the Houston-area talk radio host says his measure affords officer discretion. For instance, he said an officer could choose not to arrest a harmless minivan-driving mom who is revealed to be an illegal immigrant.

Patrick, who visited Arizona to see its new law in action, said the possibility of legal challenges is no barrier.

“Too many people want to duck and cover and bury their heads in the sand,” Patrick said. “This is an issue we have to stand tall on. Republicans have to stand together.”

[…]

During the previous two legislative sessions, Patrick said “too much chaos” in the House doomed immigration proposals. This time, Patrick said, Republicans have the numbers – and a willingness to work with law enforcement.

“You have to have their buy-in,” Patrick said. “I want them to be enthusiastic about it.”

Won’t stop him from proceeding if they’re not, though. I continue to be fascinated by Republicans like Patrick who scream bloody murder when the federal government imposes a requirement on the state of Texas but have no problems imposing their own requirements on local governments that don’t want them. I guess counties don’t have rights.

If Patrick et al don’t care what the sheriffs think, do you suppose they’ll care what businesses think?

The Texas ACLU and an El Paso county sheriff who supports the controversial Secure Communities program stood side by side at the State Capitol in Austin Thursday to denounce pre-filed, immigration-related legislation similar to Arizona’s SB 1070. A conservative businessman was added to the mix, indicating lawmakers intent on rounding up Texas’ undocumented population might have a harder time than initially presumed.

“Who would imagine that after 28 years of law enforcement the ACLU would be talking so nicely about me,” Sheriff Richard Wiles joked after being introduced as a common-sense sheriff by ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke for his opposition to proposed legislation patterned off Arizona’s.

[…]

Bill Hammond, the executive director of the Texas Association of Business, said Texas should realize the business “pipeline” in Arizona has run dry after it passed its law, and Texas could share the same fate if bills aimed at businesses who hire undocumented immigrant pass.

“Some of this legislation would require then to become forensic experts and we think that’s unfair. It’s an unfair burden on them when what they are trying to do is provide employment for Texans who want a job,” he said. “Mexican nationals invest literally millions and millions of dollars in Texas and we believe that one of the detrimental effects that people haven’t considered is the drying up of that investment. In my view, if this legislation were to become law, perhaps someone should file a bill to change the state’s motto [“Friendship”] as well,” he said.

Texas Politics and the Statesman also covered that rally. While I appreciate Hammond’s willingness to speak out on this issue, I will once again say that until they actually target someone for defeat over this, they should continue to expect it from the Republicans they otherwise support. When TAB-backed candidates take on Riddle and Berman in the 2012 GOP primaries, that would be putting their money where their mouth is. Until then, I don’t expect any current Republicans to take their words on this too seriously.

How anti-immigrant is this session going to be?

It will likely be very strongly anti-immigrant. It’s really just a question of how far the Republicans pushing this will go. The Democrats can’t stop them – I’m not expecting the Senate’s two thirds rule to be much of an impediment – so it’s just a matter of numbers on the Republican side. Those who claim they will fight back are too late.

The business community will likely fight legislation, said Rice University political science Professor Bob Stein, especially if the economy begins to improve.

“To the guy who’s running that small business, the roofer, the cementer, that’s a cheap labor force that he can hire up that’s non-union and he can use to make a recovery,” Stein said.

Texas businesses — particularly in the hospitality, agriculture and construction industries — rely on immigrant labor, said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business. Legislation seen as discriminatory could hurt Texas’ tourism and convention business, he said.

The illegal immigration issue should be handled at the national level, he said.

The whole reason why we’re going to have this fight here in Texas is because the business community, for all its limp protests about this kind of legislation, has never truly pushed back against it. If they actually cared about this, they would have tried at some point to unelect the ringleaders of the xenophobia caucus. But there have never been any consequences for anti-immigrant Republicans, so there is nothing holding them back. Until such time as the likes of TAB runs an opponent against the Riddles and Bermans of the world, there’s no reason for them to think twice about what they’re doing.

Looming over any immigration legislation is the pending legal challenge of Arizona’s law. A federal judge temporarily has blocked provisions of that law on the grounds that immigration enforcement is the federal government’s jurisdiction. Even if the law survives that challenge, it is certain to face later challenges on the grounds that it is discriminatory, said Scot Powe, a law professor at at UT-Austin.

“You need an example of an American citizen or somebody with a green card being improperly hassled under the law to bring that challenge, and I think that challenge is an ironclad winner,” Powe said.

It’s an iron-clad guarantee that what eventually gets passed will be subject to a lawsuit. The only questions are how much of it winds up getting thrown out, and how much time and money the state spends appealing the verdicts. Because no budget is ever too tight to waste money on this sort of thing. This is what we need to be prepared to be the alternative to.

The anti-immigrant hysteria has officially begun

Didn’t take long.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle camped out and endured “creepy” noises inside the cold, empty Capitol to be first in line Monday morning to file legislation targeting illegal immigration and ballot security.

The Tomball Republican said she remained outside the House chamber for two days because of the importance of getting priority bill numbers assigned to the two hot-button issues.

House Bill 16 would require voters to present photo identification or two forms of non-photo identification before they are allowed to cast ballots.

House Bill 17 is similar to Arizona’s controversial immigration law. It would allow law enforcement officers to charge an immigrant who lacks proper documentation and already is detained on another charge with criminal trespass – a Class B misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $2,000 and maximum jail time of six months.

Both issues are part of the Republican Party of Texas platform but have failed to pass in recent legislative sessions.

However, with election results transforming what had been a narrow, 76-74 Republican advantage in the state House to a whopping 99-51 margin, Riddle expects favorable treatment for both bills.

“We better. Otherwise, the citizens of Texas are going to be pretty outraged – and you ain’t seen nothing yet,” Riddle said Monday.

Democratic leaders said Riddle’s immigration bill would result in the same litigation that has tied up the Arizona law and drained millions of dollars from the state’s coffers.

I can’t think of a better way to encapsulate the blinding, irrational fear that motivates nutjobs like Riddle than the fact that she was actually frightened by things going bump in the night as she camped out like a teenager hoping to score Justin Bieber tickets. I don’t even know what else to say about that. Stace has a complete listing of Riddle’s mania, plus a statement by Rep. Armando Walle that decries her hatefulness. There’s going to be a lot more opportunities for that, I’m afraid.

There are three groups whose responses we need to watch. One of course is Democrats, who cannot stop any of this madness – you can be sure that the Senate’s two-thirds rule will not be allowed to be an obstacle – but who can send a message about what they truly stand for to the constituencies that need to hear it by their actions. There’s no reason, and no excuse, for wavering. Take whatever actions you can to make the inevitable somewhat less distasteful, and fight like hell every step of the way.

Another group to watch will be business interests, who continue to claim that they don’t support these measures.

In an illustration of the coming schism between pro-business Republicans and social conservatives in the party, the state’s largest business lobby is opposing all statewide immigration proposals, saying that attempting to solve the problem of illegal immigration at the state level is ineffective. “The bottom line is, Congress needs to act and pass comprehensive immigration reform. We’re sympathetic to the fact that Congress hasn’t acted. We’re frustrated, too,” says Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business. Hammond maintains the E-Verify computer system is too unreliable to put to use in Texas.

I’ll say again, until such time as Hammond and his cronies take direct action to oppose the lawmakers who are the driving forces behind this madness, their so-called “opposition” is meaningless fluff. Call them out by name, lobby them directly, recruit and/or raise money for primary opponents – there are many things they can do. Hell, just not giving money to them would be a step in the right direction. Put your money where your mouth is, Bill, or sit down, shut up and take it like the wimp you’ve been so far on this. If not, don’t be surprised when something like this happens.

The other group to watch will be those newly elected Latino Republicans in the Lege.

During the 81st Legislature, MALC put forth a united front in opposition to one of the session’s most divisive issues: voter ID. Though some members were more vocal than others, the caucus as a whole participated in the “chubbing” that successfully killed the bill on the House floor.

Assuming that all Hispanics will lock arms this session would be a mistake, [Rep.-elect Larry] Gonzales says.

“It does Latinos a huge disservice to say we all think alike,” he says.

Asked about whether he would vote for an Arizona-style immigration law in Texas, Gonzales said it would be “irresponsible” for him to deal with a hypothetical. But, he says, he supports the Arizona Legislature’s interpretation of what it believes is best for the state.

“I totally respect Arizona’s right as a sovereign state to do what it feels it needs to do,” he says.

[Rep. Trey] Martinez Fischer is optimistic that differences can bridged.

“Yes, they are Republican. Yes, their ideology is different. But we are all Latinos,” he says. “I don’t see why an issue that affects me one way should be 180 degrees opposite somewhere else.”

I’m afraid I don’t share Rep. Martinez Fischer’s optimism. But we’re sure gonna find out soon enough.

Arizona Green Party sues to kick its own candidates off the ballot

Just when you think you’ve seen it all

The state Democratic Party is alleging possible voter fraud in what it called a scheme to undermine its candidates by recruiting “sham” Green Party hopefuls.

In a complaint filed late Monday, the party seeks an investigation by federal, state and county law-enforcement officials.

The complaint names Rep. Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix; Steve May, a Republican candidate for the Legislature; and a House Republican staffer as complicit in an effort to register at least a half-dozen people as Green Party members so they could run as write-in candidates in last week’s primary election.

Republicans accused of the ploy denied any wrongdoing.

Under state election law, it only takes one write-in vote for a person to qualify as a Green candidate on the Nov. 2 general-election ballot.

The newly minted Green candidates have been disavowed by the Arizona Green Party and are running in races in which Democrats are believed to be competitive. Those races include secretary of state, treasurer, Arizona Corporation Commission and several legislative contests in swing districts.

If you’re thinking that law sounds a bit fishy, it’s the reason why the Green Party has sided with the Democrats on this. Here’s their statement.

Today’s lawsuit requests the invalidation of a statute which creates a separate but unequal category of political party, that applies only to the Arizona Green Party, in a way that mocks our substantial and consistent efforts for two decades, against unreasonable barriers, to provide the voters of Arizona with meaningful alternatives to politics as usual

Anyone can run for office in the Party of their choosing, if they get enough signatures to show a decent level of support within the Party. Or they can run as a write-in candidate, and get the same number of write-in votes . The signatures or votes of party members is the “permission” that the party gives for them to be our candidates . Or, at least, that is the way that it is for other political parties. But ARS 16-645 creates a special category of political party, that only the Green Party fits into, where an individual doesn’t have to get permission or support from anybody else in the party. They can wait til the last minute to sign up as a write-in, and vote for themselves in the primary, and they get their name listed on the general election ballot as a Green Party candidate.

We want the ref to blow the whistle. We in the Arizona Green Party want our team to play by the same rules as other teams, and not have somebody in the stands deciding to be a player on our team. And especially not have our opponents recruiting field-rushers, handing them a uniform, and sending them out to disrupt a fair game.

So we are going to court, demanding the fairness that the US Constitution grants us, and putting a stop to sham candidates and special rules. Because we already HAVE a team, of real candidates, endorsed by us, who followed the rules, and gathered their signatures twice already– once from the general public to be a recognized political party, and a second time from party members, to show that Greens support their candidacy, and support the message they will be running on, in trying to offer the public new and better ideas than they can find elsewhere. Or old, forgotten ideas, like fair-play and Constitutional rights.

According to Newsweek, the last-minute candidates include the roommate of one of Rep. Weier’s daughters, “a tarot-card reader, and several drifters who hang out on Mill Avenue in Phoenix”. I love this quote:

Joe Yuhas, a partner in the Riester political-consulting firm, spent years in elected office in New Jersey in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s before moving to Arizona. He says that, when it comes to political shenanigans in Arizona, “the boldness is staggering.” His firm, he says, will soon launch a Web site to detail the abuses, and adds, “For a guy who cut his teeth in New Jersey politics and thought had seen it all, I’m astounded. The depth and breadth of it makes New Jersey races look like student-council elections.”

I dunno, some of those student council races can be pretty cutthroat. But point taken nonetheless. Local Texans has more.

The chiefs talk about Arizona

HPD Chief Charles McClelland was one of several police chiefs to go to Washington and talk with Attorney General Eric Holder about why Arizona’s immigration law would be harmful to them, and why the federal government needs to finish the job of comprehensive immigration reform.

“The federal government should bring clarity to this issue,” McClelland said outside the Justice Department following a one-hour meeting with Holder.

McClelland said the government needs to define the varying roles of federal, state and local police agencies in enforcing federal statutes.

Several of the police chiefs were critical of the Arizona law, which allows police officers to demand from people proof of being in the country legally.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said officers are bound to enforce the law, but warned that it would have consequences.

Those consequences, the chiefs said, include the possibility that victims and witnesses with questionable immigration status might not come forward to report crimes or cooperate with investigators.

That loss of trust with segments of the community would give criminals more protection from law enforcement, they said.

As I’ve noted before, we’ve already seen what happens when local law enforcement steps in on the immigration question. In Maricopa County, Arizona, home of nativist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, crime is up and response times are down, because the Sheriff’s deputies are too busy rounding up people who may be undocumented immigrants to focus on the rest of their job. We already know what will happen, because it’s already happened. Why would we want to emulate that?

Targeting Frito-Lay

I’ve talked about sporting events like the 2011 MLB All Star Game that are currently scheduled to be held in Arizona and of various ways that people who have some involvement with them have spoken out about Arizona’s “Show me your papers” law in an effort to change the law, or at least change where that sporting event will be played. One group that hasn’t been discussed yet is the sponsors of these events. Well, they’re being pressured, too.

Frito-Lay Inc. is among the “dozens of companies” nationwide being urged to drop sponsorship of sporting events in Arizona following that state’s passage of a controversial immigration bill.

Reports circulated Monday that Latino-activist groups — including the League of United Latin American Citizens — were calling for a boycott of products made by Frito-Lay if the Plano-based snack maker did not end its sponsorship of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

A national spokesman for LULAC, one of the nation’s largest Latino activist groups, said LULAC is not calling for a boycott, though some local members might embrace such a move. He said he is making plans to meet with executives from a variety of companies to talk about their sponsorships.

“Let me be clear: There is no LULAC boycott of Frito-Lay or any other company,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the Washington-based group, which has its strongest presence in Texas.

He said Frito-Lay is among the “dozens of companies that we’ve reached out to, to ask them to pull their sponsorship of events in that state.” He did not say if he was meeting with any other Texas companies.

This is a common tactic, and I certainly wish LULAC well with their efforts, but I doubt they will have any effect. Not at this time, at least, what with the Arizona law polling depressingly well. I don’t think they’ll have a broad enough base of support to make this work, especially when you realize that companies that yield to this kind of pressure always face blowback. Again, I wish them well, but it’s going to be a long haul.

Briefly noted

Some interesting things from today that I wanted to note…

There are plenty of people who want to be on the Appropriations Committee, so putting some who doesn’t want to be there, like State Rep. Joe Driver of Dallas, doesn’t make much sense. But once you’re on Appropriations, whether you wanted it or not, you ought to show up to the big budget meetings, what with the budget being such a big deal and all these days.

As you know, TFN will be live-blogging what may be the last clown show of some SBOE members’ careers. I expect the Texas Observer and the Trib to be there as well. If you want some preliminaries, you can attend TFN’s “Don’t White-Out Our History” rally, about which SBOE candidate Judy Jennings has more. You can also read Martha’s explanation of the Board’s agenda for the next few days.

The long-awaited Martinez-Fischer/Riddle debate finally took place. Rep. Martinez-Fischer declares victory and talks a little smack.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos writes another letter about HISD Superintendent Terry Grier.

Finally, a release from the HCDP:

On the recent episode of the PBS local series Red, White and Blue, Republican candidate for Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners was asked if he was concerned about getting the support of the Hispanic community after defeating incumbent Leo Vasquez. His answer concluded with the following – “I don’t have a problem with their (Hispanics) agenda except for trying to get benefits that may not have been earned.”

Below is a statement from State Representative Armando Walle:

“Mr. Sumner’s position that Hispanic families don’t work hard for what they earn is both ignorant and offensive but not the least bit surprising. With their inflammatory rhetoric and political agenda, Texas Republicans have made it clear there is no room for Hispanics in their Party.

Most recently, local Republican state representative Debbie Riddle announced plans to introduce a Texas version of the highly controversial and discriminatory Arizona immigration legislation.  And later this week in Austin, the extremist Republicans who control the State Board of Education will meet to finalize their plans to purge Tejano heroes who died at the Alamo from our children’s social studies books. Latinos have played a major role in shaping Texas’s rich culture and history, but local Republican politicians see our community as a pinata to score points with the far right wing of their party. This assault on our community is disrespectful, intolerant and will not be forgotten when Hispanics head to the polls in November.”

I think that about covers it.

Selig avoids All Star Game issue

We always knew he was a weenie.

With a lengthy non-answer, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday gave no indication he would move the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix in response to Arizona’s immigration law, saying MLB has already done everything it should do regarding equality.

[…]

The players’ union has come out against the law, and some — including the city of San Francisco — have called for MLB to pull its Midsummer Classic from Arizona.

But asked about it after a quarterly owners’ meeting adjourned, Selig responded only by citing MLB’s progress in hiring minorities.

“We have enormous social responsibilities,” Selig said.

“We’re a social institution. We have done everything we should do — should do. Our responsibility, privileged to do it, don’t want any pats on the back. And we’ll continue to do it.

“We’ve done well. And we’ll continue to do well. And I’m proud of what we’ve done socially, and I’ll continue to be proud of it.

“That’s the issue, and that’s the answer.”

That’s also a whole lot of nothing. Honestly, though, it’s not unexpected. While sportswiters and bloggers may call on Selig to take action, I don’t see him doing anything unless he’s compelled to do so. Maybe Congress could force the issue, but that’s a long shot at best. No, if Selig can be goaded into action it’ll have to be the players’ union, which didn’t directly address the All Star Game in its statement but did say they would “consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members” if the law went into effect, which it now has. Your move, MLBPA.

Austin divests itself from Arizona

Good for them.

The Austin City Council decided Thursday to end business and travel ties with the state of Arizona to protest a new state law that will allow law enforcement officers there to detain people they suspect are in the country illegally.

There was little discussion before the resolution passed unanimously . Two people showed up to speak in favor of it; none spoke against.

The resolution, proposed by Council Member Mike Martinez , calls for ending all city business travel to Arizona, unless it is related to police investigations, providing humanitarian aid or protecting Austinites’ health and safety. It also asks the city manager to review all city business with and investments in the state of Arizona and devise a plan to end them.

[…]

Austin has no contracts with or investments in the state of Arizona, according to memos from city controller Diana Thomas . Forty-eight employees in six city departments, including council offices, Austin Energy and the police department, took 20 business trips to Arizona over the past year, at a cost of $47,908.

Obviously, that’s not a lot of commerce. The symbolism matters, though, and the fact that it’s not that much means it ought to be a not-too-difficult decision for an interested city council to make. And if enough cities do it, the cumulative effect will be nontrivial. As only the Mayor can add an item to Houston City Council’s agenda, any action here would have to originate from that office. Drop a note to Mayor Parker at mayor@cityofhouston.net, or contact your Council member and ask him or her to ask the Mayor about it if you want to see it happen here.

You tell ’em, Chuck

Charles Barkley, speaking to ESPN’s Dan Patrick, talks sense about the Arizona “Show me your papers” law:

DP: You’re a resident of Arizona, I’m curious if you think baseball should get involved with the immigration law. Do you like that they’re standing up for their players to say we’re concerned about this law?

CB: I think we all need to. As a black person, I’m always against any form of discrimination or racial profiling. I really respect Adrian Gonzalez for coming out and saying something. I didn’t realize that in the major leagues there’s 30 percent Hispanic players, and in the minor leagues it’s like 50. Those are some daunting numbers. I think that we need to do two things. Living in Arizona, I’m disappointed that we came up with the law. But we need to do two things. We need to find a way to get these immigrants their citizenship, that’s the first thing, is to find a way to help them get citizenship. I’m very disappointed in John McCain. He used to be somebody I really admired and respected. The second thing, to me, would be very simple. Anybody who hires immigrants, you just fine them. They’re not working for other immigrants. Fine and penalize the people they’re working for, because most of those immigrants here are busting their hump, doing a great job, and to go after them every couple years because you want to raise hell doing something to get re-elected, that’s disrespectful and disgusting.

I don’t think I need to add anything to that. Way to go, Chuckster. Link via Think Progress.

Interview with Linda Chavez-Thompson

Linda Chavez-Thompson

Linda Chavez-Thompson

No, I haven’t started my slate of 2010 candidate interviews yet. It’s too early for that. But I did have the opportunity to ask Linda Chavez-Thompson, the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, a few questions about immigration reform and the odious Arizona law that has us all talking about it. Here’s what she had to say:

Download the MP3 file

I’ll be back to speak with Chavez-Thompson, and many other candidates, about a broader array of topics in a few months. In the meantime, as always your feedback is appreciated. Oh, and just FYI: This interview was done over the phone. At about 17:30, someone else called me, which made my phone beep as call waiting kicked in. Sorry about that.

HGLBT Political Caucus issues resolution in favor of immigration reform

From the inbox:

GLBT CAUCUS COMES OUT FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

The membership of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for a resolution (attached) making a strong statement in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

“We, as a civil rights movement, see the immigration reform movement in the same light,” said Kris Banks, Caucus president. “We both have a long way to go. We both have seen our communities demonized by politicians stoking fear for political gain, as we saw with the recent draconian Arizona law. And we both face laws that simply do not work.”

Currently, more than 12 million people living in the United States are in a state of limbo, unable to reach citizenship or legal residency status. The laws regulating immigration are broken, outdated and fail to address reality: Mexico is allotted the same number of visas as Iceland, making for untenable waiting lists. Families are separated as the immigrant parents of U.S. citizens wait outside the United States for visa.

“The GLBT community has also faced, and still faces, laws that simply do not work. Laws like the sodomy statute and ‘cross-dressing’ laws, and laws still in place like marriage bans. They don’t work because they don’t recognize the innate drive of human beings to seek to live to their full potential, to constantly seek their own pursuit of happiness,” Banks said. “We are proud to stand with the immigration reform movement as they seek justice and fairness.”

The GLBT community is also directly affected by immigration issues. Currently, citizens and legal permanent residents are unable to sponsor their same-sex partners or that partner’s children. The Reid-Schumer-Menendez “framework” proposed in the U.S. Senate includes language from the Uniting American Families Act which fixes that problem, uniting families.

However, the Senate framework also includes language that would create a national ID card that uses biometrics, which would make getting documents correctly identifies the gender of transgender people difficult. The Caucus opposes such a measure.

The Caucus is the South’s oldest organization for the civil rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. For more information, see www.thecaucus.org.

Nicely put. I’d like to see more clubs and organizations issue take the same action. Then maybe we could do more than just begin the work of getting comprehensive immigration reform done. For those of you who are in a club or organization and would like to emulate the HGLBTPC’s example, the resolution with all its “Whereas”es is here.

Latinos and the GOP

Yeah, no big surprise here.

Adam Bustos, a third-generation Mexican-American, has voted Republican since Ronald Reagan ran for president. But he has been reconsidering his party affiliation since Arizona State Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation’s toughest immigration law last month.

“I’ve been thinking I might leave the party,” said Mr. Bustos, a 58-year-old Arizona native. “A lot of my Latino Republican friends have been talking about it after this law.”

The new Arizona law requires police to question people whom they suspect are in the U.S. illegally. Supporters say the law is necessary to combat rampant illegal border crossings. Opponents say it can’t be enforced without violating civil liberties.

Many Hispanic-Americans say they feel stung by a law they allege invites racial profiling, incites hatred and discriminates against all Latinos.

The law in Arizona was passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a GOP governor. Republican lawmakers in Texas, Utah and several other states have said they would consider introducing laws similar to the one passed in Arizona.

Conservative Hispanic voters, in particular, say they feel betrayed by Republican Party leaders who have supported the law.

Dear Democrats: Please don’t screw up this golden opportunity that you’ve been given. Thanks.

The Suns take a stand

I’m very glad to see this.

In an extremely bold move, the Phoenix Suns as an organization made a strong political statement in opposition to the recent Arizona immigration bill.

Discussions on taking action began last week after the bill passed, with an idea that came from Robert Sarver, Managing Partner of the Phoenix Suns.

According to Steve Kerr, the team discussed it internally before going to the league for approval to both wear the ‘Los Suns’ jerseys, but also to come out publicly in this way.

Kerr said both the NBA and the San Antonio Spurs were fully supportive of the Suns move.

Ultimately, the decision was left up to the players, but in a locker room led by Steve Nash, it is no surprise how that turned out.

“I think the law is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the detriment to our society and our civil liberties and I think it is very important for us to stand up for things we believe in,” Nash said of the bill. “I think the law obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we don’t want to see and don’t need to see in 2010.”

Sarver’s statement is here; judging from the comments – this is posted on a Suns fan blog – it was clearly a gutsy thing for him to do. Surely now the path is clear for Commissioner David Stern to take a stand. More here and here.

UPDATE: More from Fanhouse.

Not just MLB

Basketball writer Bethlehem Shoals argues provocatively that NBA Commissioner David Stern should take a stand on the Arizona “Show me your papers” law.

Enter the NBA’s éne-bé-a campaign, launched at the beginning of this season in attempt to capitalize on and expand all manner of “Hispanic” interest in the league. There were web pages in English and Spanish; promotion of players and just plain promotion of the sport in certain neighborhoods; and most controversially, “Latino Power Rankings” that made absolutely no sense.

What exactly “Hispanic” meant was up for grabs, since they brought in both English-speaking Melo and non-Latino Rudy Fernandez. The distinction between Afro-Latin players like Nene and the Italian-by-descent Manu Ginobili has always been sticky, and rarely so — sorry for this one — black and white. But as tone deaf as the éne-bé-a effort may have been, it showed the NBA — not the Players Association — had an undeniable interest in this demographic, just like the MLB union.

Here’s the massive irony, one bigger than Nash the hostage do-gooder, or LeBron and burden of greatness. The Players Association just isn’t going to touch this issue because of another racial element in this equation. The league doesn’t have enough Latinos to make a union statement look like an act of solidarity. It’s not truly diverse enough to appeal to notions of universal justice. This league is still seen as African-American, and from a public relations perspective, nothing’s scarier than a bunch of black men who stake out a strong political position.

[…]

David Stern is notorious for being a ruthless capitalist who, on his own time, lends his support to Democratic causes to a degree that would put Steve Nash to shame. For once, the two seem to match up well. Strange as it is for the league to show more political gumption than its players, in this case, Stern’s the one whose hand is being forced. And, you’ve got to figure, he’d be more than a little happy to take the bait.

The NBA may not be heavily Latino, but it does have a lot of foreign-born players in it, some of whom may have a few thoughts about this issue. Maybe if someone like Yao Ming said he thought this law wasn’t such a hot idea, it might get some people’s attention. I don’t mean to single him out, I just think there would be value in reminding people that “immigrant” does not necessarily mean “Latino”. Even in Arizona, as the Canadian-born Steve Nash could attest. But I agree that Stern is more likely to speak up, and may be a better fit for it anyway. And regardless of that, more sports leagues and teams should be a part of this conversation as well.

More pressure on MLB over the 2011 All Star Game

Keep it up.

A New York congressman who called for the league to move the 2011 game from Phoenix is the latest person to push for an economic boycott against the state in protest of the new law. Companies have been pulling conferences out of Arizona resorts while others have suggested consumers shun companies, such as US Airways, that are based in the state and have yet to condemn the the law.

“I think that when people, states, localities make decisions this monumental, they should know the full consequence of that decision,” Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., said. “I think Major League Baseball, with 40 percent Latino ballplayers at all levels, should make a statement that it will not hold its All-Star Game in a state that discriminates against 40 percent of their people.”

Forty percent is an overstatement – from what I’ve seen elsewhere, MLB is about 27% Hispanic – but the exact number is not particularly important for these purposes.

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who focuses on sports, said the economic loss from one game would have “a pretty small impact” on Arizona but that the attention it would draw could be damaging.

“A publicity campaign that goes on for months and months and months makes other people, who have nothing to do with Major League Baseball, stay away from Arizona,” Zimbalist said.

It’s not just the All Star Game, though that would be a nice symbolic place to start. About half of the teams have spring training sites in Arizona. Get them to pull out, and you’re starting to talk serious hurt. Plus, just getting the first high profile rebuke like losing the All Star Game would send a message that this is the right thing to do. Someone has to be first.

More here, here, and here. It’s great to see sportswriters, players, and managers like Ozzie Guillen speak out. Here’s one player who won’t participate if the All Star Game is in Arizona next year:

[Padres star Adrian Gonzalez] told FanHouse that he will not attend next year’s All-Star Game in Phoenix if the law is in effect, and that he’d like for major league baseball to boycott spring training in Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law on April 23.

“I’ll support the Players Association 100 percent,” said Gonzalez, who grew up in both Tijuana and a suburb south of San Diego. “If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I’ll probably not play in the All-Star Game. Because it’s a discriminating law.

“I know it can’t be done, but they should take spring training out of (Arizona) if it’s possible.”

That’s a lot of people speaking up, and there will be more to come. I just hope Bud Selig is listening. And as long as we’re sending messages to the Commissioner, would someone please tell him to drop that stupid “league that wins the All Star Game gets home advantage in the World Series” idea? Thanks.

MLBPA opposes Arizona immigration law

Good for them.

New York, NY, Friday, April 30, 2010 … The following statement was issued today by Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner regarding the immigration law recently passed by the state of Arizona.

“The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States. These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association. Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans. All of them, as well as the Clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.

“The impact of the bill signed into law in Arizona last Friday is not limited to the players on one team. The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October. In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks. And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona. All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal. Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status. This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.

“The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly. If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

“My statement reflects the institutional position of the Union. It was arrived at after consultation with our members and after consideration of their various views on this controversial subject.”

Well said. Though I would prefer for it to not come to that, I hope the union follows through on its consideration of additional steps in the event the law doesn’t get blocked. It would be nice if Commissioner Selig followed their lead, too. Now maybe MLS will take a stand, too. Thanks to David Pinto for the link.

Will Texas make like Arizona?

If there’s been one small positive thing about the ridiculous Arizona anti-immigrant law, it’s been to remind the rest of the country that states besides Texas do crazy, inexplicable things as well. And I do believe that there’s a reason to be optimistic that in the end, people will learn that this was a terribly wrong thing to do. I’m also hopeful that while crazies like Rep. Debbie Riddle will propose legislation to do what Arizona has done, it won’t get anywhere. She’s done this before, without success, and I don’t see her getting any more traction on it next year.

I could be wrong about that, of course. The good news is that the political implications of Arizona’s actions may play in Bill White’s favor.

“In the best of all worlds, for White to win, there has to be a large Latino voter turnout,” said Jerry Polinard, a political scientist at the University of Texas Pan-American.

He said if the anti-immigration debate nationally is perceived as anti-Latino, it could spark a voter turnout that has not been there for Democrats in the past.

“This is almost like a gift to him,” Polinard said of White.

The anti-immigration voters already like Perry and do not need to be convinced to vote for him, Polinard said.

“What this does is make it harder for the governor to get back to the middle of the road,” he said.

True enough, but this isn’t really what Rick Perry wants to talk about. I doubt he’d have picked yesterday to tell us about that coyote he killed in February if he were eager to discuss Arizona. The list of what’s wrong with Rick Perry is several miles long, but for the most part he’s not been a demagogue on immigration; certainly, compared to some of his partymates, he’s downright reasonable. Sure, he’s tossed around the silly “sanctuary city” charge at Bill White, because he’s never not playing to the cheap seats, and he likes to talk big about frivolous money-wasters like border cameras, but I do believe that he’s unlikely to make a big deal out of this.

Jim Harrington, of the Texas Civil Rights Project, predicted “zero” chance of a similar effort here, saying Texas has “a different relationship with the Hispanic community.”

Such a push “would cause an enormous political transformation of the state a lot quicker than it’s happening at this point,” Harrington said. “It would galvanize the Hispanic community astronomically.”

Asked about the Arizona law, GOP Gov. Rick Perry and his Democratic challenger, Bill White, emphasized through spokespeople that immigration is a federal responsibility.

“You can take the political temperature by just looking at Rick Perry being quiet,” Harrington said.

I suspect Perry won’t change his approach much. He’ll keep bashing the federal government for its failures on fixing the immigration system while doing his usual macho posturing, but in keeping with his norms he won’t actually propose any solutions. White will likely stick to his “it’s a federal responsibility” line, which is true but carries the risk of annoying supporters who want to see him take a stronger stand against measures like Arizona’s. Sometimes, just not being the Republican isn’t enough.

Still, it’s important to remember that even if Rick Perry is kinda not too bad on immigration issues, many members of his party, like Riddle and Leo Berman, are nuts. And this is a serious schism in the GOP that isn’t going away any time soon.

The Texas Association of Business’ Bill Hammond said that while it is likely similar legislation will be filed in the Lone Star State, “I think and hope there’s little likelihood the Texas Legislature would pass anything so misguided as what they’ve done in Arizona. I think it is blatantly unconstitutional.”

Hey, Bill, here’s a suggestion. Instead of blowing smoke about health care, why not do something that you’re actually good at and find primary challengers for clowns like Riddle and Berman, who are the ones pushing this legislation that you say is hurtful and unconstitutional? I know, it’s too late for this year, and by 2012 it may not matter. Point is, this is something you could have taken action on if it really mattered to you.

UPDATE: The Trib has Perry’s statement, which is pretty much what I expected.