A Tale of Two Sisters

Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” blasted from the speakers as Leticia Van de Putte took the stage and snapped a selfie with the crowd at the Texas Democratic Convention Friday night. Later that evening, after Wendy Davis finished her speech, she left the stage to Katy Perry’s “Roar”. 

It was one of many not-so-subtle reminders that this is the first time in Texas history that two women have been at the top of their party’s ticket. Both Davis and Van de Putte, the Democratic nominees for governor and lieutenant governor respectively, invoked their gender a number of times, and for several reasons: in criticizing Republicans for certain policy positions, in telling voters about their respective life stories, and—intriguingly—in highlighting the camaraderie between the two of them, which is noticeably not present in the relationship between their Republican opponents, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick.

"Honey, Let's Go Look for Dangerous Chemicals Tonight"

Wendy Davis clearly won her exchange with Greg Abbott over whether the public had the right to know where dangerous chemicals may be stored. Abbott had previously ruled that “government can withhold state records of dangerous chemicals locations [from the public].” Abbott’s advice to families concerned about the issue bordered on the preposterous: “You know where they are if you drive around,” he said. “You can ask every facility whether they have chemicals or not. If they do, they can tell which ones they have. Homeowners who think they might live near stores of dangerous chemicals would simply ask the companies what substances are kept on site."

Arson Science Under the Microscope Again

In 1993, Sonia Cacy was convicted of killing her uncle, Bill Richardson, by dousing him in an accelerant and burning him to death in their home in Fort Stockton. She was sentenced to 99 years, what essentially amounted to life in prison. But six years into her sentence, the parole board released her. Gerald Hurst, a leading fire investigator, had submitted a brief on her behalf, detailing the questionable evidence of arson used by the prosecution against Cacy.

Road to Nowhere

The issue of the state's inadequate highway infrastructure has reared its head again. Most of the issues should be well known by this time:

(1) First and foremost, to keep up with demand for roadbuilding, TxDoT needs around $4 to $5 billion a year, every year.

Another inch forward

Yesterday brought a small setback for Greg Abbott, who is, as attorney general, tasked with defending Texas’s current system for funding public schools: a visiting judge has decided that John Dietz, the district judge who has been presiding over the school finance lawsuits that have been inching their way through the courts for two and a half years, can remain on the case.

Your Friends and Contributors

The list of recipients of Emerging Technology Fund grants in particular is replete with Perry's longtime friends and campaign contributors. The Dallas Morning News has reported on who received some of these grants, and have contributed large sums to his campaigns. The list includes:

•$2.75 million to Terrabon Inc., a Houston company. Its backers have included Phil Adams, a college friend of Perry's who has given his campaign at least $314,000.

Meanwhile, about this border situation...

Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Brownsville, Texas. 

On June 2nd Barack Obama issued a memorandum announcing the creation of an interagency task force in response to what he called “an urgent humanitarian situation” on America’s southern border--a sudden influx in unaccompanied alien children. Law enforcement officials have apprehended almost 52,000 such children since October of last year. Some 38,000 of them, or about two-thirds, have entered the country in the Rio Grande Valley.

A few days later, the story got a boost when Breitbart Texas published a batch of leaked photos showing hundreds of people, most of them children, who are being held in federal facilities while awaiting legal proceedings—or as Breitbart’s Brandon Darby put it, reasonably enough, a batch of leaked photos showing hundreds of children “warehoused in crowded U.S. cells.” The images hit a nerve, and over the past two weeks the unaccompanied alien children have gained more attention as state and federal officials have been arguing over the causes of the crisis and the appropriate response.

The influx is, by any standard, a complex and rapidly evolving situation. It’s also an emotionally charged and politically contentious one. Thousands of extremely vulnerable children are involved. But so too are many more controversial people: a president whose policies may have spurred this crisis; the saber-rattling Republicans who have been fulminating about our porous border for years; the transnational drug-trafficking organizations that are helping these immigrants cross the border, and are surely aware of the disruption that the influx has caused; the constellation of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies working in the Valley; and, of course, the parents of the children arriving recently, who are surely vulnerable in their own ways but who have either endangered the children in question—or accompanied them as regular, adult aliens.

All of that adds up to a pretty bewildering picture. But after spending the weekend reporting in the Valley, I came away with several conclusions. First of all, the influx of unaccompanied alien children makes a lot more sense if you think about it as part of a surge in illegal immigration from Central America. That surge began a couple of years ago and is due (at least in part) to widespread reports in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that the United States is not going to enforce immigration law against minors—that’s why so many of the immigrants in question are children. The more lurid and ominous reports about the migrants themselves are exaggerated. The influx is real, though, and markedly different from the illegal immigration that the United States has experienced in recent decades.

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