Things That Matter

Refugees Are No Longer Welcomed In Texas As It Becomes The First State To Refuse Refugees Under New Trump Rule

We recently published a story detailing how some Republican governors seemed to be breaking ranks with president Donald J. Trump when it comes to a controversial executive order that allows local and state governments to block refugee resettlements in their jurisdiction. This means that a program that has been hailed by politicians, including presidents, from both sides of the aisle is at a clear and present danger of being greatly diminished.

Trump’s order has been blasted by pundits and activists. As reported in The Washington Post: “Critics said the policy change underscores a growing hostility to the country’s refugee resettlement program, especially in some conservative states and the White House.”

So this is Trump’s America and he is standing by his campaign promise of reducing the number of migrants that enter the US under his administration. The social and human cost of these policies, however, has been enormous, and populations that were already vulnerable due to discrimination are further put into the spotlight. 

One of the most important states when it comes to migratory issues is Texas, which shares a long border with Mexico and has a long history of multiculturalism. And a recent decision by its governor has the potential to have longstanding effects on how Texan society and culture is shaped. 

Governor Greg Abbott has announced that his state will reject the resettlement of new refugees.

In a letter penned to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Governor Abbott stated that Texas has “carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process.” He also described the current migration status quo that of “a broken federal immigration system”. And, surprise, surprise, he blamed the Democrat-led Congress for the downfall: “Texas continues to have to deal with the consequences of an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix.”

And yes, Texas has harbored more refugees than most states, so this is not necessarily an anti-immigration move per se, but the move is certainly a disappointing development.

Even if the number of new intakes has diminished in recent years, Texas has taken in more refugees than other states. As BBC reports: “Texas has large refugee populations in several of its major cities. In the 2018 fiscal year, Texas took in 1,697 refugees – more than any other state, but a large drop from 4,768 in the previous fiscal year.”

And as Abbott wrote in his letter: “Since FY2010, more refugees have been received in Texas than in any other state. In fact, over that decade, roughly 10% of all refugees resettled in the United States have been placed in Texas.”

Well, yes, but we also have to consider that Texas is a huge state and that migrants have greatly contributed to its development. The devil is in the details and in the past. Abbot has a history of opposing the resettlement of certain migrant groups. During the Obama administration, in 2015 to be exact, he tried to reject the arrival of Syrian refugees to the state. This was seen as a discriminatory measure at the time. As The New York Times reminds us: “Under Mr. Abbott’s leadership, Texas sued the Obama administration in 2015 to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees, accusing the federal government of failing to consult with state officials. Mr. Abbott also cited security concerns and said people with ties to terrorist groups were exploiting the refugee program. That lawsuit proved unsuccessful in the courts.”

The governor claims that resources are limited and the system cannot support any more arrivals.

In his letter, the governor stated that the resources the state would allocate to new arrivals should instead go to “those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless – indeed, all Texans”. He also stated that refugees that have already resettled in other states will be free to move to Texas if they wish, but they will not receive benefits. 

And the decision has been controversial and activists are echando el grito al cielo.

Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, a refugee resettlement group, said in a statement: “This is a shameful decision by Gov. Abbott which is unworthy of the great state’s reputation for being big, bold and hospitable.”

Several church groups are legally challenging Trump’s executive order. And others have used even harsher words. Ali Noorani, executive director at Leaders from National Immigration Forum, said: “At a time of historically low state unemployment rates, why would Texas turn away refugees with an entrepreneurial spirit that contributes to local communities and economies? Turning away those seeking safety and opportunity isn’t just disheartening — for Texas, it’s bad business.”

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Things That Matter

Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Photo via Getty Images

Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

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Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

Things That Matter

Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

Photo via Getty Images

The GOP’S voter-suppression tactics in Georgia have been gripping the nation. But now, the media is also turning its attention to other voter-suppression tactics in the rest of the country. Now, Texas Republicans are taking the heat.

According to Common Cause Texas, Texas Republicans are planning on recruiting thousands of volunteers create an “election integrity brigade”. They want the “brigade” to go into Black and brown neighborhoods in Houston and “fight voter fraud”.

A Texas GOP presentation was leaked that outlined plans to send an “army” of poll-watchers to Black and brown precincts.

“I’m trying to encourage and recruit, as a precinct chair, about 30 people in my precinct who will have the confidence and courage to come down in here…,” said an unnamed GOP official, pointing to majority non-white urban areas, “…in these areas where we really need poll-workers. Because this is where the problem is occuring.”

“So me finding poll-watchers out here, it helps, but it’s a pretty safe precinct”. He said this while pointing to majority-white Houston neighborhoods.

The video inspired outrage among people who saw these tactics as blatant attempts to suppress the voting rights of POC.

“The impetus for releasing [the video] right now is there are some bills in the legislature that seek to empower poll watchers in some really scary ways,” said executive director of Common Cause Texas, Anthony Gutierrez, to NBC News. “And also at the same time, take away the power of the presiding judge at the poll site from being able to remove a disruptive poll watcher.”

“It’s very clear that we’re talking about recruiting people from the predominantly Anglo parts of town to go to Black and Brown neighborhoods,” said Gutierrez to The Washington Post.

“This is a role that’s supposed to do nothing but stand at a poll site and observe,” he added. Why is he suggesting someone needs to be ‘courageous’?”

This “election integrity brigade” comes on the heels of a problematic election bill the Texas Senate just passed.

According to NBC News, the bill “bans overnight early voting and drive-thru early voting” and also “empowers partisan poll watchers.”

“It’s part of the intimidation, the confusion, the antics that (the Republican Party) has engaged in for so many generations that culminated in President Trump asking people to overturn the election,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to CNN.

“What they’re doing is filing bills that are essentially a poll tax that weaponize the election system against our own voters,” she continued. “And what they’re proposing is absolutely tragic and reminiscent of the worst of what we’ve seen in Texas and across the South since Reconstruction.”

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