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Trump travel ban affects hundreds of students, faculty at Texas universities

Lauren McGaughy

 

AUSTIN — Mahya was excited to study at Southern Methodist University. She had her student visa and her plane ticket. She was supposed to arrive in Texas on Wednesday.

But her plans came to an abrupt halt after President Donald Trump issued his executive order blocking immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, including her home of Iran. Instead, Mahya will stay in Paris, where she now studies, and forgo her dreams of coming to the United States to research how social media drives women’s empowerment movements in her home country.

“I was angry, to be honest,” said Mahya, 29, who asked The Dallas Morning News to use only her first name because of the politically sensitive nature of her research. “I didn’t believe it. I was like, ‘It’s not possible’ because I already have my visa and my ticket and everything.”

Mahya is one of the hundreds of students, staff and faculty in Texas affected by Trump’s executive order. SMU has 49 students from the seven affected countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. The order has forced them to choose: Either stay put in the U.S. or risk, like Mahya, being stuck abroad for the foreseeable future.

The University of North Texas has 85 students from the seven countries affected by Trump’s order; the Dallas County Community College District, 47; UT-Dallas, 127; Texas Tech University, 149; and the University of Houston, 280. Schools are advising the students to forgo all foreign travel for the time being.

Out of “an abundance of caution,” UT-Austin is also warning its 110 students and staff from the seven affected countries to not travel and to avoid the Texas-Mexico border because there are checkpoints nearby, school spokesman J.B. Bird said.

Trump signed his executive order just before close of business Friday. The travel ban halts entry to the U.S. for citizens from these seven countries for the next three months. Refugees from Syria are also barred entry indefinitely.

The order has led to widespread confusion and concern as hundreds of refugees, green-card holders and other immigrants were detained at airports across the country over the weekend. At U.S. colleges and universities, where foreign-born scholars and graduate students from across the world convene to exchange ideas and further their research, the response was the same: Our people are here legally and we’ll defend their right to stay.

“Absent legal compulsion, we will not reveal the immigration status, citizenship or national origin of any student,” Rice University President David Leebron said in a prepared statement. “These measures were implemented with a callous indifference to their immediate impact on individuals and their families.”

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Cornyn concerned about Trump import tax proposal

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Friday he is concerned about a proposal floated by President Donald Trump’s administration as a way of paying for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Thursday, Trump appeared to endorse a proposal to put a 20 percent tax on all imported Mexican goods, but a spokesman later said it was just one option available to fund the wall.

“I have concerns about it,” Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters after a speech in Austin. “I want to make sure we know what the consequences are going to be and exactly how this would work.”

Asked how serious Trump is about the tax proposal, Cornyn replied, “We’re getting mixed signals from the administration on it. I think we need to pin that down.”

Cornyn specifically expressed concern about the tax’s potential impact on the United States’ imports of heavy crude oil.

“Those would all be subject to the tax,” Cornyn said. “One refiner told me that they thought that that might increase the cost of gasoline by 30 cents.”

Cornyn hinted Thursday he was not entirely onboard with the tax, tweeting that there are “many unanswered questions about proposed ‘border adjustment’ tax.”

Other Texas Republicans have not embraced the tax proposal. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chaired Trump’s campaign in Texas, said late Thursday he does not support it.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, appeared to also weigh in on the idea Friday, noting that the United States and Mexico “have a productive economic partnership that is especially good for Texas and San Antonio.”

“I hope the new administration will consider the value of this relationship and its economic impact, from job creation to prices at the grocery store, as it contemplates trade policy going forward,” Straus wrote on Facebook.

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Texas Federal Judge Blocks State’s Fetal Burial Requirement

Late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks issued a preliminary injunction banning the state of Texas from implementing a rule, drafted last summer, that would require the burial or cremation of any tissue resulting from an abortion performed in the state. In granting the injunction sought by Whole Woman’s Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights, Sparks said that the burial rule would place substantial burdens on Texas women’s access to abortion that “substantially outweigh the benefits,” the rule might create.

Rather than sitting on his hands as the lawsuit to stop the requirement moves forward in Sparks court, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday that he would appeal Sparks’ decision to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

“Today’s ruling, however, reaffirms that the abortion lobby has grown so extreme that it will reject any and every regulation no matter how sensible,” Paxton said. “Indeed, no longer content with merely ending the life of the unborn, the radical left now objects to even the humane treatment of fetal remains. Texas stands committed to honoring the dignity of the unborn and my office is proud to continue fighting for these new rules.”

In his order Sparks made it clear that he believes any fetal burial requirement passed by the state is an attempt to stymie abortion rights, rather than, as the state has argued, an attempt to protect the dignity of the unborn.

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FACT CHECK: Trump cites man’s dubious voter fraud claims

President Donald Trump has pressed his widely debunked claims of massive voter fraud by encouraging the work of a Texas man who has offered no evidence to support his claim that millions of people illegally voted in the 2016 election.

Trump tweeted on Friday: “Look forward to seeing the final results of VoteStand. Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!”
The tweet came less than an hour after a CNN interview with Phillips, who has refused to substantiate his claims since he made them days after the November election.

Phillips tweeted that a Houston-based group, True the Vote, “will lead the analysis” of widespread voter fraud. But the founder of that group said Friday it has not confirmed that millions voted illegally.

Here’s more about the man Trump is cheering on, and about True the Vote.

WHO IS PHILLIPS?

Phillips is a former Texas state official whose brief stint as deputy executive director at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission drew media scrutiny over privatization efforts. He went on to found AutoGov, a health care software contractor whose clients include state governments, and created a mobile app called VoteStand that allows people to report suspicious voting activity.

Phillips also previously worked as a state health official in Mississippi, resigning under fire from lawmakers. A state panel concluded that he stepped down as executive director of the Mississippi’s Department of Human Services on the same day he went to work for a company that he had given a state contract.

“Mr. Phillips’s actions create the appearance of impropriety, facilitating an erosion of the public trust,” according to the panel’s 1995 report.

After the 2016 election, Phillips tweeted that his “completed analysis” of voter registrations concluded that the “number of non-citizen votes exceeded 3 million.” He has rebuffed media requests for evidence, saying since Nov. 15 that he would release it broadly to the public, but he hasn’t. He suggested Friday that he might do so in a few more months.

Upset that Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated him in the popular vote, Trump has repeatedly blamed that result on illegally cast or counted votes but offered no substantiation. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have completed their election results with no reports of the kind of widespread fraud that Trump alleges.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: Lawlessness is Obama’s Real Legacy

When President Obama spoke at his first inauguration, his words were buoyed by promises of hope and change. Eight years later, I can attest that the president was at least half right. The path America journeys down has indeed veered from what came before. The destination, however, is no promised land.

President Obama took it upon himself to recreate the United States in his own image. He acted often in spite of Congress and without constitutional authority. He quipped. He clawed. He pontificated until the primary check on his audacity was his own sense of shame.

I do not exaggerate when I tell you that President Obama’s greatest legacy will be his administration’s lawlessness and the precedent it set.

To give you an idea of what I mean, let me describe what my office has confronted in the last two years since I became Texas attorney general.

First, the Obama administration bore almost no respect for the private market.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the outgoing administration finalized 570 “major” rules in its first seven years, so-called because they each inflicted a $100,000,000 cost on the U.S. economy or had a significant adverse impact on productivity and/or employment. President George W. Bush, conversely, had churned out 410 “major” rules by the same point in his presidency.

A report published by the Heritage Foundation calculated that the regulations implemented under President Obama drained the economy of $108 billion annually, the brunt of which was borne by the American worker.

The left may dress up the regimentation of the national economy as being good for social welfare, but in practice each imposition locks the market in place, away from any cheaper alternatives. The result is a higher cost of living but fewer opportunities by which to afford it.

Second, President Obama ramped up the federal government’s intrusions into matters of local concern.

Conservatives have warned for years that cooperative federalism—the acceptance of federal funds—presents a grave risk to our Constitution. Grant money is, after all, a form of public welfare, which creates a sense of dependency. Too much and the states become beholden.

President Obama did not create this problem, but he certainly exploited it.  His administration repeatedly used the threat of federal funds to force policies that the federal government could not otherwise have demanded under its enumerated powers.

On New Year’s Eve, for instance, my office won a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the Obama administration’s new health rules, which conditioned Medicaid and Medicare funding on a medical provider’s willingness to perform sex change operations and abortions. Absent our court victory, Texas would have risked losing $42.4 billion a year in Medicaid funding unless it complied with the mandate.

Third, the Obama administration has upended the structural checks that once kept government confined to its proper role.

The nature of government ensures that no matter who is in power, public officials will overreach. Some are more frequent rule-breakers than others, but the temptation to take shortcuts exists regardless of party or philosophy. The remedy is what Madison described in Federalist 51: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

President Obama rejected the American Founders’ wisdom. He viewed resistance to his political agenda as a moral failing embedded inside our constitutional order. He therefore made a great spectacle of using his “pen and phone” to circumvent whatever obstacles Congress or the states established.

His strategy was successful in that many of his policy ideas gained a foothold in the national economy, but his strategy also legitimatized unitary behavior from officeholders nationwide. He turned lawlessness into a mark of moral government.

This abuse of power raises the question: how do we defend our liberty from government excess when all the institutions which would normally push back—the market, the states, and internal checks—have been compromised?

President Obama took the United States down a road it never should have traveled. When unitary power becomes a habit, not an aberration, tyranny looms not far around the corner.

I have seen what wasteland looms on our existing path. With President Donald Trump, we at least have hope that the country will return to the trail blazed by its Founders.

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Greg Abbott announces More money to Dallas PD & Grand Prairie gets bodycams

Raquel Gonzalez

Dallas, TX — Greg Abbott is giving the Dallas Police Department a money makeover!

It’s no secret that on July 7th, 2016, Dallas took shots, literally and figuratively.

The devastating ambush shook many, right to the core.

People all over the world came out to support, not only the fallen but also for those who still need to go out and protect our communities every day.

Which is why on Thursday, Governor Abbott announced the Homeland Security Grants Division is going to award Dallas more than one million dollars. That’ll go towards new gear like helmets and bulletproof vests.

But the makeovers aren’t just happening in the Big D, Grand Prairie is also getting a reboot on security.

GP PD is planning to issue 200 body cams to its officers next month.

The Grand Prairie Police Department said, “Body worn cameras are a tool, and they will help increase our already high levels of transparency. After the recording has been completed you can immediately view it through the device on a viewer that we can have in the car or you can bring it to the police station where anyone can view the video prior to it being offloaded to the cloud.”

Hey, anything that’s going to make our communities safer is fine by us!

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Immigrant legal defense groups brace for tough slog ahead

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Travis County moves to cooperate less with the federal government, the state is trying to step in. On Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office will change its policy on detainers, which is when the federal governments asks jails to keep people in custody who may have violated immigration law.

Sheriff Sally Hernandez says her office will only hold inmates who are charged with or have been convicted of more serious crimes like capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault, or continuous smuggling of people. People accused of other violent crimes will not receive an ICE detainer.

The day before the policy goes into effect, Governor Greg Abbott will give his State of the State address.

“We are working on laws that will – one – ban sanctuary cities, remove from office any office holder who promotes sanctuary cities, impose criminal penalties, as well as financial penalties,” Abbott said on FOX News last week.

In his address, Abbott will reveal his emergency items he wants to see passed quickly. One will likely be a ban on what he calls ‘sanctuary cities.’ On Thursday, the Senate’s State Affairs committee will start discussing Senate Bill 4, which tries to do just that.

In addition to state action, President Trump signed an executive order last week, threatening to cut off federal funding for sanctuary cities. Now many undocumented immigrants in Central Texas are worried that they could be deported.

Along Manor Road in East Austin people at the Workers Defense Project are bracing for tough slog ahead. Virginia Badillo leads an information session here, telling the room of mostly undocumented immigrants that new proposals are coming. They ask her questions. She tells KXAN they’re asking her if local police can ask for their immigration status when pulling them over for a traffic violation.

Austin Police currently do not do that.

Badillo says it would bring a lot of work and a lot of challenges. She plans on going into the community to inform people on the changes and their rights.

Similar laws have been proposed several times in the past but they have never passed the Texas legislature.

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‘Totally wrong’: Houston’s Iraqis and Syrians react to Trump’s travel ban

When the death threats grew specific, Mustafa Alsaadi decided he needed to get out of Iraq. For years, he had helped the American military as a translator. America helped him in return: Alsaadi was granted a visa, which became a green card, which turned into citizenship and a life he loves in Texas.

Family members, also in danger because of Alsaadi’s work in Baghdad, were granted the right to join him. The 32-year-old became a US citizen in October 2015. It was a proud moment, he said on Saturday: “I’m thankful that I have this opportunity to be here. They gave it to me and gave it to my family.”

But after all the giving, on Friday, America started to take. Alsaadi’s 65-year-old father needs to return to Iraq in February, to resolve a family issue. He is a lawful permanent resident of the US, yet Donald Trump’s executive order targeting seven Muslim-majority nations means that as an Iraqi citizen it is highly uncertain that he will be allowed back if he leaves.

“Now we have to cancel his trip,” Alsaadi said, sitting behind a desk at the cheerfully coloured community centre where he works in south-west Houston, serving people from 70 nationalities. “Obviously I’m not going to let him go.”

Alsaadi knows something about risky travel: his daily commute in Baghdad was perilous. On top of the everyday hazards of life in Iraq during the war and after, interpreters have often been viewed as traitors, targeted and killed.

“The most dangerous thing is that you have to leave the base every single day and come back to the base every single day. So let’s say someone is following you,” he said, matter-of-factly. “They’re going to know where you live, who’s your family, where your family’s working, and you’re going to be targeted and your entire family’s going to be targeted.”

In 2009, more than three years after he began working for the US army and, later, a private contractor, Alsaadi was warned that if he went to a particular part of Baghdad there was a strong chance he would be killed. He started the application process for a US visa.

The vetting process took about a year and required a stringent background check, two interviews at the US embassy, numerous forms and a letter of support from an army officer. Finally, Alsaadi was awarded a special immigrant visa: a rarity available to translators in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi refugee whose plight made headlines when he was detained for 18 hours by immigration officials on arrival at New York’s JFK airport on Friday, had the same visa.

Alsaadi works in a Houston neighbourhood bisected by snarling freeways, where beige strip malls have bland exteriors that belie the exotic possibilities within. Indian restaurants, Halal food stores and sari wholesalers stand across the street from burger joints and a storefront in a gas station that can sell you a bus ticket to just about any major city in Mexico.

In 2015, Texas received more refugees than any other US state, despite attempts by its Republican leaders to foment a hostile atmosphere. Last September, the governor, Greg Abbott, announced Texas would pull out of the federal refugee resettlement programme, citing safety concerns.

Yet Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country – perhaps the most diverse.

“I never have been in a situation since I came to the United States that someone told me, ‘You’re not welcome here,’” Alsaadi said. The president’s ban, he thinks, “doesn’t make any sense” – least of all for immigrants who put their safety on the line in the service of American interests.

“Is that the favour that [Trump] can return to them?” Alsaadi said. “It’s kind of hard to believe where things are going right now.”

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Sanctuary city policy legally benefits Austin

By Josephine MacLean

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez is following through on her campaign promise to no longer blindly honor all voluntary detainer requests issued by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for individuals held in the county jail. Gov. Greg Abbott was not pleased, going so far as to say he would pass legislation allowing him to “remove her from office.”

The only problem with Abbott’s plan is that it would require grounds for removal, so it must be embarrassing for him that, from a legal standpoint, those do not exist.

It’s been stoutly determined that ICE detainer requests are indeed optional — a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU shows that ICE considers its detainers to be voluntary.

In 2011, Edward Dolan, the deputy chief of staff to the deputy director of ICE, wrote in an email, “It is a request. There is no penalty if they don’t comply.” Hernandez’s decision not to comply in all cases is well within her rights as a local sheriff.

Although Hernandez said these detainers will no longer be automatically complied with, her department will still be in compliance with federal law that prohibits restriction of communication or information exchange between local and federal law enforcement.

“Immigration officials have access to information anytime someone is booked into our jail … Nothing we are doing will interfere with their investigation,” said Hernandez.

Cutting back on detainer requests is also about avoiding liability. It’s expensive to carry out an ICE detainer. Voluntary detainers take up beds and services that the county must pay for and that ICE does not reimburse. Furthermore, when ICE makes a mistake, it can cost local government “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Hernandez said.

“Many state and local jurisdictions have decided to not honor (ICE detainers) out of fiduciary responsibility to their taxpayers,” explained Elissa Steglich, clinical law professor with the UT Immigration Clinic.

In addition to compliance, Hernandez is trying to protect the constitutional rights of every person. Steglich stressed that these detainers may or may not be constitutional under the Fourth Amendment, because they do not meet the probable cause standard that would be necessary for a warrant.

This lays the groundwork for effective community policing. A 2012 study found that, under Obama’s aggressive deportation policies, “a risk of such harsh enforcement is that immigrants will become alienated from the law, thereby undermining their willingness to cooperate with the law and even comply with the law.”

It hurts a community more when members or victims are too afraid to report information to the police because they are afraid of being deported. Unauthorized immigrants are less likely than our native-born population to commit crimes, but bad things happen and people who are not afraid to call 911 when they are in danger, are inherently safer.

A recent study on sanctuary cities by associate professor Tom K. Wong from the University of California San Diego found that communities are safer and community members are more engaged in the local economy when law enforcement focuses on issues directly in their jurisdiction.

The same data found that sanctuary cities are more economically successful. The report noted that “consistent with higher median household income, the data also show that poverty is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties, and this generally holds true across the entire range of urban-rural classifications.”

While it’s too early to show causation, the economic strength of these communities may very well come from the fact that their
employment-to-population ratios are also significantly higher than non-sanctuary cities.

On Jan. 20, now known as the National Day of Patriotic Devotion thanks to President Trump, Travis County announced that it would become a sanctuary county. With 62 percent of Americans supporting the establishment of policies to allow unauthorized immigrants currently here to stay legally, what could be more patriotic than working to maintain our community’s rights and safety?

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Montgomery County Sheriff Pledges To Honor Federal Immigration Holds

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CONROE, TX — Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson said Monday he will join with other sheriffs in Texas and honor the state’s federal immigration detainers and hold individuals who may pose a danger to society in custody for an additional 48 hours. The so-called “immigration holds” are among the tools U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials use to put people in the federal deportation system.

So far, 253 county sheriffs in Texas have pledged to support the move, with the exception of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who drew the ire of Gov. Greg Abbott last week.

In an interview on Jan. 27, Abbott told Fox News he’d propose legislation this session to remove Texas sheriffs from elected office if they failed to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in detaining people thought to be undocumented immigrants for deportation.

Detainers or immigration holds allow law enforcement officials to hold illegal aliens arrested and charged with felony crimes to be held, despite a bond being imposed by a judge, until they can be turned over to immigration officials to returned to their native country after they are sentenced.

Henderson said he was adamantly opposed to Hernandez’s stance on Abbott’s order and her policies on ICE detainers.

“As a Texas sheriff, I agree with (the) removal of all state grant funding for those who do not comply with federal immigration law, which creates de facto sanctuary cities,” Henderson said in his statement.

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