Monday, March 26, 2007

One Protester = Three Cop Cars

An activist stages a one-man march to protest immingrant jails in South Texas -- including jails for children -- and receives a trio of police vehicles as an escort in Port Isabel:

The protest walker had been walking alone all day, without a single reporter or photographer. But there were three cars that had fallen in behind the truck of John Neck[,] who always follows [Jay] Johnson-Castro to keep him protected from traffic. So the feds had the protesters outnumbered.
Johnson-Castro's no stranger to protest walks in the Rio Grande Valley: he recently completed a 200-mile trek to protest the proposed border wall (with Neck driving slowly behind him).

Now the demonstrator wants to bring attention to the fact that our government throws children into prison. In addition to protesting RGV facilities in March, he marched against the Haskell prison last month. Inside these jails, children are treated like inmates, with little to no schooling or play time.

Bitch all you want about "but they took ar jerbs" or "whut part uv illeegul dont u unnerstand?" regarding adults charged with immigration violations -- but don't hold these kids responsible for their parents' actions. To throw them in jail and treat them like criminals is unconscionable.

Not only are children punished like adults, but allegations of sexual abuse by staff members surface at one of these facilities:

The last child left the state-licensed Away From Home Inc. shelter in Nixon, southeast of San Antonio, on March 7. The FBI is investigating reports that young detainees, all illegal immigrant children traveling alone, have been sexually abused.
Of course, no one doesanything at first, other than remove the kids from the facility, in an out-of-sight, out-of-mind move. Now, perhaps, anyone responsible for sexual abuse will be punished.

Meanwhile, Johnson-Castro marches on, hitting Harlingen on his way to the country's largest detention center, a tent prison in Raymondville (a.k.a. "Ritmo") where he concludes the protest walk.

Other than that Action 4 News report, the Valley media fall strangely silent, prompting the editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review to conclude in this blog post that "[t]he newspapers here are basically anti-immigrant and we are not going to get any coverage" thanks to either politics or apathy.

I don't think politics are behind the lack of coverage -- the local dalies' parent company, Freedom Communications, holds a libertarian editorial outlook , and that philosophy includes open borders and immigration reform (I should know; I used to be the opinion editor at The Monitor)-- but rather a lack of resources or lack of knowledge about the event.

Anyway, let's see if this issue gets some more Valley coverage.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Astute Reporting

Over at Grits for Breakfast, blogger Scott Henson gives a shout-out to the Valley daily newspapers' Austin correspondent, Elizabeth Pierson, calling her "perhaps the most astute reporter covering problems at the Texas Youth Commission over the last few years."

He mentions her work in this post on the latest troubles concerning the scandal-plagued Texas Youth Commission -- something Pierson (whom I've known for several years) has followed since the beginning.

Way to go, Liz!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

PSJA Arrests

I just saw this on The Monitor's website:
FBI agents arrested PSJA school board member Roy Rodriguez and two McAllen contractors early this morning in connection with the raids of PSJA school offices and board members’ homes in January 2005.
In addition to Rodriguez, the feds charged Joe Lopez and Pedro Armando Gutierrez, who they say paid the school trustee in exchange for favorable votes and influence on district contracts. Sez NewsChanel 5:
We're told the charges involve Rodriguez's work on the school board and school construction projects
This isn't the first bribery case concerning PSJA. Back in 2005, a federal grand jury charged board member Jaime Santa Maria and contractor Alonso Cardenas Jr. They later pleaded guilty -- and it turns out that Cardenas taped his conversations with the board member, which led to evidence against Santa Maria.

Any bets on whether that case or the current prosecution will lead to more indictments of PSJA officials?

UPDATE: The Monitor (whose archives disappeared when it remodeled its website) has posted its 2004 two-part series on Joe Lopez:
In addition, the U.S. Attorney has details on the charges:
The indictment, returned under seal on February 27, 2007 and unsealed today, charges all the defendants with conspiracy to commit extortion, mail fraud, and bribery concerning a federally funded governmental agency, and interstate travel in aid of a bribery scheme. PSJA-ISD, a large school district which receives substantial federal funds, is located in Hidalgo County, Texas. Rodriguez is accused of receiving cash payments totaling $65,000 from his co-defendants between 1997 and 2004 in exchange for the use of the official power of his elected office to arrange and assiste Lopez and Gutierrez with bids the submitted for PSJA-ISD design and construction contracts.