• Austinities use Father's Day to protest immigrant detention

    Eschewing backyard cook-offs, cheesy cards and other signs of the holiday weekend, some members of the Austin community chose to spend this past Father’s Day weekend protesting living conditions of fathers in U.S. immigrant detention centers.  

    Around thirty Austinites traveled to east Texas on Saturday to join other activists calling for the closure of the Polk County Adult Detention Center in Livingston, Texas. The vigil was part of a national protest against immigrant detention centers across the country organized by the Detention Watch Network, a coalition of local organizations centered on issues of deportation and immigration.

    Operated by the for-profit contractor Community Education Centers, the center holds up to 1,054 beds divided between immigrants awaiting deportation and other beds contracted by the U.S. Marshals Service. Cohort members claimed the center was guilty of human rights violations.

    “There are eight men to a cell in Polk,” said Rocio Villalobos, an organizer for the protest and program coordinator in the Multicultural Engagement Center. “There is a lack of meaningful programming for these men, poor access to medical care and a recurring use of solitary confinement.” 

    Members of Detention Watch were allowed to visit the center last July to speak with detainees and tour the facility. Based on the interviews collected, Detention Watch released a report last fall alleging the facility guilty of “willful neglect” for detainees.

    Villalobos said language barriers meant many detainees signed forms they did not understand, leading to coercive conditions during incarceration.

    “A man, who only spoke Spanish, told us he signed papers in English that essentially segregated him into solitary confinement,” Villalobos said. “He was only told that the documents would benefit him but didn’t know what he was signing.”

    Greg Palmore, spokesperson for the Houston office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said authorities had been informed of the protest in advance but did not agree with the findings of Detention Watch’s report. 

    “Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reviewed the Detention Watch Network report and found it built primarily on anonymous, unsubstantiated allegations,” Palmore said in a statement. “Many secondhand sources and anecdotes in the report pre-date the agency’s initiation of comprehensive detention reform.”

    Follow Andrew Messamore on Twitter @AndrewMessamore

  • The Morning Texan: Fisher (possibly), lots of vetoes and more

    Monday's high will approach 97 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, and the heat index could break 100. A few clouds may roll in late in the afternoon and the evening.

    At 9 a.m. the Supreme Court of the United States is set to release a few decisions. One of these decisions could be on Fisher v. Texas, the court case on the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Fisher v. Texas is the oldest court case without a decision and the only October case without a decision. The court does not announce when it will release decisions on certain cases — instead they announce certain days when they will announce decisions in general. 

    For more details on the Fisher v. Texas case, check out this story by Andrew Messamore and listen to last week's podcast. 

    Here is some morning reading:

    This weekend's most read story online: On Friday, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed part of a bill Friday, taking away $1.5 million in additional funding for the Center for Mexican-American Studies.  One graduate student said he saw the veto as an "attack" on the University.

    In case you missed it: The $1.5 million funding was not the only thing the governor vetoed. Check out this complete list of his Friday vetoes.

    What you have to read: UT has recently acquired and old letter from George Washington — and the founding father may not be as truthful as originally thought.

  • Regent related amendments in budget bill left untouched by Rick Perry

     Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed more than 20 bills Friday, but he left two amendments targeted at the UT System Board of Regents untouched. 

    The amendments, part of SB 1, the state budget bill, were added by Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. Earlier this year, Pitts accused the regents of orchestrating a witch hunt to oust UT President William Powers Jr., an accusation echoed throughout the regular session. The amendments would limit how the regents can spend money, a power the state has not regulated in much detail.

    One amendment prevents regents that have not been confirmed by the Senate from using appropriated funds for travel.

    Another amendment eliminates board discretion over how to use money from the Available University Fund, a special fund only available to UT and Texas A&M University's flagship institutions. Until now, the UT System board has had discretion over how to use money from the fund. The amendment restricts the UT System's use of the fund to construction, major repairs and rehabilitation, equipment, maintenance, operation, salaries and support.

    Perry dished out 10 line-item vetoes in the budget bill Friday night, but Pitts' two amendments made it through unscathed — for now. The governor has until June 16 to veto legislation or let it become law without his signature. 

  • 26 bills vetoed by Rick Perry

    The following is a list of 26 bills Rick Perry vetoed Friday night, courtesy of the Texas Legislature's website.

    1.) HB 217: “Relating to the types of beverages that may be sold to students on public school campuses.”

    2.) HB 535: “Relating to the preference given by state agencies to goods offered by bidders in this state or manufactured, produced, or grown in this state or in the United States.”

    3.) HB 950: “Relating to unlawful employment practices regarding discrimination in payment of compensation.” 

    4.) HB 1090: “Relating to the creation of Texas Task Force 1 Type 3 Rio Grande Valley and authorizing the creation of a Texas Task Force 2 by certain municipalities.”

    5.) HB 1160: “Relating to the transfer of a certificate of convenience and necessity in certain municipalities.”

    6.) HB 1511: “Relating to the rates of sales and use taxes imposed by municipalities; authorizing an increase or decrease in the rate of those taxes.”

    7.) HB 1790: “Relating to certain procedures for defendants who successfully complete a period of state jail felony community supervision.”

    8.) HB 1982: “Relating to the enterprise zone program.”

    9.) HB 2138: “Relating to the board of directors of the Near Northside Management District and to the district's boundaries and territory.”

    10.) HB 2590: “Relating to the foreclosure sale of property subject to an oil or gas lease.”

    11.) HB 2824: “Relating to the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium.”

    12.) HB 2836: “Relating to the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum and to certain state-adopted or state-developed assessment instruments for public school students.”

    13.) HB 3063: “Relating to defense base development authorities.”

    14.) HB 3085: “Relating to the regulation of automotive wrecking and salvage yards in certain counties; increasing the civil penalty.”

    15.) HB 3509: “Relating to endangered species habitat conservation and to the creation of a board to oversee and guide the state's coordinated response to federal actions regarding endangered species.”

    16.) SB 15: “Relating to the governance of public institutions of higher education in this state.”

    17.) SB 17: “Relating to the training in school safety of certain educators of a school district or an open-enrollment charter school authorized to carry a concealed handgun on school premises.”

    18.) SB 219: “Relating to ethics of public servants, including the functions and duties of the Texas Ethics Commission; the regulation of political contributions, political advertising, lobbying, and conduct of public servants; and the reporting of political contributions and expenditures and personal financial information; providing civil and criminal penalties.”

    19.) SB 227: “Relating to the dispensing of aesthetic pharmaceuticals by physicians and therapeutic optometrists; imposing fees.”

    20.) SB 346: “Relating to reporting requirements of certain persons who do not meet the definition of political committee.”

    21.) SB 429: “Relating to the dismissal or nonsuit of a suit to terminate the parent-child relationship filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services.”

    22.) SB 504: “Relating to the requirement that certain schoolchildren be screened for abnormal spinal curvature.”

    23.) SB 722: “Relating to eligibility to serve as an interpreter in an election.”

    24.) SB 889: “Relating to the physician assistant board.”

    25.) SB 1234: “Relating to the prevention of truancy and the offense of failure to attend school.”

    26.) SB 1606: “Relating to ad valorem tax liens on personal property.”

  • Rick Perry vetoes regent bill

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the media at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas.
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the media at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas.

    (Updated at 8:03 p.m.)

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed a bill from the senate that would weaken the powers of boards of regents across the state.

    The bill, which is written to limit what regents can do to the responsibilties they are specifically given by the law, was filed by Kel Seliger and nine co-authors. Though the bill would have impacted higher education boards across the state, it was filed specifically in response to accusations from legislators that the UT System Board of Regents were "micromanaging" UT President William Powers Jr. and UT-Austin.

    "Limiting oversight authority of a board of regents, however, is a step in the wrong direction," Perry said in a statement. "History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance."

    In a statement, Sen. Kel Selgier, R-Amarillo, said the veto would cause further strife and conflict.

    “The decision to veto SB 15 ensures that the conflicts, controversies, and lack of transparency will continue," Seliger said.  "It harms the reputation of Texas' world class public universities and hinders their ability to attract the best students, faculty, and administrators to this great state. "