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KRLD 1080 - Texas
Administration Cuts Space For Detaining Migrant Families
HOUSTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has warned that Central American families are staging an "invasion" at the U.S.-Mexico border. He has threatened to take migrants to Democratic strongholds to punish political opponents. And his administration regularly complains about having to "catch and release" migrants.
At the same time, his administration has stopped using one of three family detention centers to hold parents and children and left almost 2,000 beds unused at the other two. It says it does not have the resources to transport migrants to the centers.
Immigrant advocates accuse the administration of closing off family detention to further the perception of a crisis.
The Karnes County Residential Center in Texas used to hold up to 800 parents and children at a time, who would usually be detained before an initial screening to judge whether they qualified for asylum.
But ICE last month started to release families until they were all gone from Karnes. Advocates who work there say ICE is now restricting legal access to the roughly 400 adult women being detained there.
The population at the family detention center in nearby Dilley, Texas, was also reduced and remains at roughly a quarter of its 2,400-person capacity. A 96-person facility in Pennsylvania had only 18 immigrants this week.
Meanwhile, the numbers of parents and children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border have surged, leading immigration officials to declare the situation a crisis. More than 50,000 parents and children were apprehended by the Border Patrol in March, setting a monthly record.
The number of border crossings in one day sometimes exceeds ICE's total family detention space.
More than 4,800 people crossed the border in a single day this week. Almost 1,000 were traveling in three large groups, the largest of which was 375 people, Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, said Wednesday.
The Border Patrol has stopped referring many families to ICE and instead releases them directly to nonprofit groups or drops them off at bus stations.
In a statement, ICE said the surge left it "overwhelmed" and unable to transport families from the border to the Karnes and Dilley facilities, even if both detention centers had available beds. As of Wednesday, 427 women were in custody at Karnes.
"As such, ICE has determined that, at this time, Karnes will better meet operational needs by also serving partially as an adult detention facility," the agency said.
Immigrant advocates say they do not believe that ICE cannot transport people to the facilities. They say the government has reduced family detention space for political reasons — to show that Democrats' refusal to change laws to allow for longer family detention and more deportations has left officials with no choice but to catch and release.
"We believe that this is part of trying to justify a narrative," said Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. "Trump's policies have swung from one extreme to the other. There's no consistency; there's no strategic planning."
The legal services group RAICES goes to Karnes daily to consult with detained immigrants about their asylum cases. The group says subtle policy changes at the facility have reduced legal access for detained women seeking asylum.
Since Monday, authorities at Karnes have prevented attorneys and volunteers from meeting with many large groups of migrants at once, which prevents them from quickly consulting with more people, according to Andrea Meza, RAICES' director of family detention services.
Karnes staff also stopped sending RAICES the names of detainees who put their names on sign-up sheets outside the visitation room, Meza said.
Meza said she received conflicting explanations from ICE for the changes, including that there were complaints by staff from the private contractor GEO Group, which operates Karnes.
ICE confirmed it had reduced group meetings at Karnes because "more residents are represented by private attorneys." The agency said it provided 12 hours of legal visitation at Karnes every day, more than its detention standards require.
If the changes remain in place, fewer people will be able to consult with a lawyer before asylum interviews, Meza said, and it will be harder for the group to follow up with potential asylum seekers.
"We don't know what's happening to people after their interviews," she said.
Texas Lawmakers Consider Bill To End 'Confederate Heroes Day'
AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - State lawmakers in Austin are considering a bill to get rid of a Confederate holiday.
"Confederate Heroes Day," is celebrated January 19th in Texas. It's a day set aside to celebrate Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee and other confederate heroes. But not everyone considers them heroes.
Representative Jarvis Johnson of Houston filed the bill.
He says many people consider the holiday offensive and he argues keeping Confederate Heroes Day as a state holiday will only create more division among Texans.
US Home Construction Slips 0.3% In March
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home construction slipped 0.3% in March, as housing starts are running below last year's pace in a sign that inventory could be a challenge for would-be buyers.
The Commerce Department says that housing starts last month were a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.14 million. So far this year, starts have fallen 9.7%. Builders are pulling back from their construction of single-family houses and apartments.
Housing starts fell last month in the Northeast, Midwest and South, but they surged in the West. The construction data can be volatile, so the regional levels of homebuilding can change sharply on a monthly basis.
Permits, an indicator of future activity, fell 1.7% to an annual rate of 1.27 million.
Texas Senate Bill Would Bar Ex-Felons From Seeking Office
AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - Under legislation proposed by Republican Sen. Pat Fallon of Prosper, an ex-felon would only be able to run for a political office if they have been pardoned.
The current state law says they can run if they have been released from "resulting disabilities."
Fallon's bill came in response to a run for Austin City Council last year by ex-felon Lewis Conway Jr. who argued that since he had served his time and was again able to vote, he had been released from those "resulting disabilities." He was allowed to remain on the ballot.
Conway says this bill is not so much an attack on him, but it's an "attack on 4.7 million Texans who have criminal justice involvement. And it's also an attack on the constitution. The constitution gives us exclusive rights regardless of our conviction status to run for president and to run for congress."
He says that means the state constitution is trying to supercede the US constitution.
He adds pardons are few and far between and the justice system disproportionately impacts men of color, such as himself.
Conway says this is more about people having served their time, it's a matter of when do their sentences end. "When are we going to allow the same folks who vote and pay taxes to write the policies that are landing on the people who vote and pay taxes?"
People convicted of misdemeanors face no such consequences.
State representative Ron Reynolds, a Democrat from Missouri City and personal injury attorney was convicted of illegally soliciting clients in 2015. He was in office then and won afterwards. He served four months on a one year sentence and was released from jail at the at the beginning of the year in time to go to Austin for the start of the legislative session.
Baby Pygmy Hippo In Texas Is Splashing Up Attention
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - A five-month-old baby pygmy hippo has yet to be named at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville.
Her mother, Clover, closely watches over her. Her father, Juanito, keeps an eye on the baby, too.
Walter Dupree is the curator of mammals at the Glady Porter Zoo. He says, "The baby arrived on Halloween. This is about the seventh baby we've had from this pair."
He says the pygmy hippo only weighs up to 600 pounds as an adult.
Their status in the wild is declining. Dupree says, "They are only found in Western Africa and they are primarily found in Liberia. In captivity, there are only about 90 left. So, all of the births we have are significant." Dupree says the public loves them. "They look like over-inflated gray footballs. The baby follows her mom."
North Texas Growing Faster Than Any Other Part Of The Country
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - The US Census says Dallas - Fort Worth added more residents over the past year than any other part of the country.
The Census says the population of the Metroplex increased by 131,767 from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018.
North Texas' population is now 7,539,711, which ranks fourth in the United States behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Phoenix is the second fastest-growing metro area, followed by Houston, which grew by 91,689 to 6,997,384.
Four of the ten fastest-growing counties in the United States are in Texas. Harris County added the third most people in the country, growing by 34,460.
Collin County is the fourth fastest-growing, adding 33,753 last year. Tarrant County is eighth with 27,463 new residents last year and Bexar County is ninth, growing by 27,208.
Comal County, north of San Antonio, was the second fastest-growing by percentage in the country last year, adding 5.4 percent more residents. Kaufman County was third, growing by 4.7 percent.
Racist Rant Lands Texas Man In Trouble
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) -A video of a Pasadena man making racist statements in a Friendswood cellphone store is going viral.
Acording to reports, 38-year-old Joey Christian of Pasadena became angry when his nephew could not open an account because he didn't have the proper ID for a credit check.
His anger went up a level or two when he learned the clerk's name was Mohammad. He said "I don't like dealing with some little pee-on [sic> Arab that doesn't even belong here," and added "People like this are the reason our country is going what its going to. Because I've been killing his kind for longer than you've been alive."
He also said he had killed Arabs for almost two years.
Christian was ticketed for disorderly conduct and public intoxication.
He got a DWI last week, on Aprl 8th, his second.
Man Fined, Sentenced For Illegal Sport Hunting From A Helicopter
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Cody Morganthaler of Oklahoma paid $12,000 to shoot four animals at a Laredo resort. He and three others have now been sentenced for illegal sport hunting from a helicopter in violation of the federal Airborne Hunting Act.
In September and October of 2018, Cody Morganthaler, 36, of Oklahoma, pleaded guilty in federal court in Laredo, along with Edelmiro Martinez, 33, Eduardo Lopez, 39, and Inocente Sanchez, 56, all of Laredo.
Morganthaler booked a hunt at the Laredo Hunting Resort in Laredo for the weekend of October 14th, 2017, which Martinez owned. He wanted to shoot four exotic animals - an addax, a mouflon, an aoudad and a blackbuck antelope.
He killed the addax and mouflon from the ground on the 14th. Time was running out, so Lopez suggested Morganthaler shoot the other two from a helicopter.
The next day Sanchez took Morganthaler and Lopez up where Morganthaler used a rifle to locate, shoot and kill the aoudad and blackbuck antelope.
Texas Game Warden Kevin Winters said "The circumstances in this particular case would make any sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts furious. "The fact that these individuals organized a trophy hunt from a helicopter, which resulted in the harvesting of a trophy Aoudad (Barbary Sheep) and Blackbuck (Antelope), is unethical and is a violation of both state and federal laws.
Hunting from helicopters in Texas is only allowed, with a permit, and only for hunting wild hogs and coyotes, animals that cause damage to crops, livestock, humans or property
Governor Abbott Issues A Disaster Declaration
AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration today for nine Texas counties.
It's after the severe weather over the weekend. The counties include: Houston, Cherokee, Freestone, Leon, Madison, Nacogdoches, San Augustine, Shelby and Robertson.
Governor Abbott says he wants to make sure people with widespread property damage can recover as quickly as possible. The National Weather Service has confirmed three tornadoes touched down in Central and East Texas Saturday. At least six people were killed.
US Wants To Build More Tents At Border To Detain Migrants
HOUSTON (AP) — The Trump administration wants to open two new tent facilities to temporarily detain up to 1,000 parents and children near the southern border, as advocates sharply criticize the conditions inside the tents already used to hold migrants.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a notice to potential contractors that it wants to house 500 people in each camp in El Paso, Texas, and in the South Texas city of Donna, which has a border crossing with Mexico.
Each facility would consist of one large tent that could be divided into sections by gender and between families and children traveling alone, according to the notice. Detainees would sleep on mats. There would also be laundry facilities, showers, and an "additional fenced-in area" for "outside exercise/recreation."
The notice says the facilities could open in the next two weeks and operate through year end, with a cost that could reach $37 million.
But the agency has said its resources are strained by the sharp rise in the numbers of parents and children crossing the border and requesting asylum. It made 53,000 apprehensions in March of parents and children traveling together, most of whom say they are fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. Many ultimately request asylum under U.S. and international law.
In a statement Tuesday, CBP said it urgently needed additional space for detention and processing.
"CBP is committed to finding solutions that address the current border security and humanitarian crisis at the southwest border in a way that safeguards those in our custody in a humane and dignified manner," the statement said.
The Border Patrol has started directly releasing parents and children instead of referring them to immigration authorities for potential long-term detention, but families still sometimes wait several days to be processed by the agency and released.
The Border Patrol processing center in McAllen is routinely over capacity . Kevin McAleenan, the new acting homeland security secretary, was scheduled to visit McAllen Tuesday and Wednesday.
In El Paso, hundreds of people are detained in tents set up at the center of a parking lot next to a patrol station. People detained there have complained of prolonged exposure to cold. The Border Patrol limits them to one warm layer of clothing, confiscates coats, and issues a Mylar blanket to each detainee, citing health and safety concerns.
U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan, a California Democrat, visited the tents earlier this month. She said she had seen a mother with her 4-month-old child who had been there for five or more days, in conditions she said were "unhealthy."
Border Patrol officials have declined to allow the media inside the tents in El Paso.
Land near the bridge in Donna was used last year as a camp by active-duty soldiers when they were ordered to South Texas' Rio Grande Valley.
The Border Patrol also established a tent facility at Donna to hold migrants in December 2016, in the last weeks of the administration of former President Barack Obama, in response to a previous surge of migrants from Central America.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said she had been allowed to visit the tent facility in 2016. She said that facility had been "open and clean," but noted she visited before it began detaining people.
"Detention is never a good idea for any family," Pimentel said. "I believe families are victims of a lot of abuse, and we just add to that abuse by the way we respond to handle and process them."