In an interview with anti-immigrant radio host Joyce Kaufmann yesterday, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas expressed dismay at undocumented immigrants joining the military and cited a disputed study to claim that the Obama administration is “aiding and abetting crimes in America by intentionally releasing illegal aliens back into our communities.”
The interview took place at an annual event hosted by the extreme anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Smith, apparently citing a flawed study from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, claimed that the Obama administration “has released tens of thousands of criminal aliens” and is “putting those folks back on the street” to go on and “commit crimes from murder on up and down.” The administration is “absolutely guilty of aiding and abetting crimes in America by intentionally releasing illegal aliens back into our communities,” he insisted.
Barletta also reacted poorly to a congressional proposal to allow DREAMers who enlist in the military to earn a path to citizenship. “Can you imagine illegal immigrants suddenly being eligible to put on a uniform and defend our borders?,” he asked incredulously.
We have a situation where they’re supporting efforts to give amnesty to illegal immigrants who join the military. Can you imagine illegal immigrants suddenly being eligible to put on a uniform and defend our borders?
You know, you have an administration who has released tens of thousands of criminal aliens, illegal aliens either charged with or guilty of crimes. They’re putting those folks back on the street. And we’ve got a list now of tens of thousands of additional crimes these folks have committed. Again, that is totally the responsibility, it’s more than the responsibility of the administration, they’re absolutely guilty of aiding and abetting crimes in America by intentionally releasing illegal aliens back into our communities. And they commit crimes from murder on up and down. And inexcusable, it could have been prevented, this administration has to take responsibility for their actions.
As Benjamin Johnson of the American Immigration Council explains, Smith's claim about the administration putting "tens of thousands of criminal aliens...back on the street" is far from the truth:
The claim in the CIS report that ICE has simply chosen to “release” 68,000 “criminal aliens” through the exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” is inaccurate. Being released by ICE is not the equivalent of being set free. It often means being released with an ankle bracelet or under an order of supervision, or issued a notice to appear in court. Just as importantly, many of the immigrants being released have committed minor, non-violent offenses that do not constitute a threat to public safety. These details were conveniently left out of the CIS analysis.
In fact, research has shown that immigrants commit crimes at a much lower rate than the native-born population.
When he was running for office two years ago, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas insisted that rather than expanding Medicaid, Texas should just let the uninsured get all their health care from emergency rooms. The argument that emergency rooms are an acceptable backup for the uninsured has also been used by Mitt Romney, Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint and many other prominent Republicans.
But now, some members of the GOP are trying to keep the uninsured from using emergency rooms at all. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is pushing Congress to allow hospitals to turn people away from emergency rooms, and Georgia congressman and US Senate candidate Paul Broun – who previously cited ERs to claim that “everyone has access” to health care – has introduced a bill that would allow ERs to treat only patients who they determine have an “emergency medical condition.”
Now, the Madison Project, a Tea Party group that has earned the high-profile backing of Sen. Cruz in its effort to defeat three sitting GOP senators in primaries this year, is also advocating for allowing emergency rooms to turn away anybody not deemed to need immediate emergency care.
In a blog post on the group’s website yesterday, Madison Project policy director Daniel Horowitz writes of taking his son to the emergency room only to encounter a waiting room “full of illegals” (although he doesn’t specify how he knew the citizenship status of his fellow patients), including “adults who, let’s just say, did not look like they were about to keel over.”
My wife and I were entreated to the chaos of emergency room care last night after our two-year-old son slipped while climbing onto a high kitchen counter and banged his head on the floor. He had a massive lump on his forehead and we were concerned about internal bleeding. When we drove to the closest hospital, the waiting room was full of illegals. Most of them were adults who, let’s just say, did not look like they were about to keel over. Opting not to wait all night simply for a decision whether to put our son through a CT scan, we drove for a half hour in the rain to a hospital that was less likely to be full of those who use ERs for regular care.
Thank God our son recovered and there was no internal bleeding, but in a different situation that extra time could have been critical. Also, if you ever wonder why you get hosed with outrageous bills simply for stepping foot in a hospital, look no farther than the “undocumented” costs of illegal aliens.
The solution for this, Horowitz concludes, is to allow hospitals “to turn away people from ERs if they do not have an immediate need for emergency care” thereby “solv[ing] the problem of illegal immigrants using ERs for primary care.”
The problems with illegal immigrants and emergency hospital care also provide us with an opportunity to examine true free market healthcare reform. Any GOP healthcare proposal must be predicated not on “replacing” Obamacare, but on fixing even some of the anti-market federal policies that existed before passage of the monstrosity.
One of those policies is the mandate on hospitals to treat everyone who comes to an ER – including illegal immigrants – irrespective of whether they are suffering from a real emergency. In 1986, Congress passed The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which was ostensibly the first act in universal healthcare mandates.
If we ever plan to curb skyrocketing hospital costs and improve access to emergency care, we must address this massive unfunded federal mandate of EMTALA. Among the provisions of Rep. Paul Broun’s Patient Option Act, which is one of the best healthcare reform proposals, are some good reforms of emergency and indigent care. Under Broun’s proposal, hospitals would be allowed to turn away people from ERs if they do not have an immediate need for emergency care. This would solve the problem of illegal immigrants using ERs for primary care.
Could it be that Tea Party leaders like Sen. Cruz never actually thought that emergency rooms were suitable alternatives for the uninsured and were instead just looking for any excuse not to expand insurance coverage?
When the news broke earlier this week of another shooting at Fort Hood, Texas Republican Congressman Pete Olson's office sent out a tweet asking for people to pray, to which someone else on Twitter responded that what is needed is not prayer but for "cowardly congressman" to stand up to the NRA:
Apparently, this Twitter exchange was deeply upsetting to Olson because, when he appeared on Steve Malzberg's program yesterday to discuss the shooting, he brought it up four separate times during the ten minute interview.
Olson said he was experiencing a "deep anger" because this "cold, heartless liberal" did not support his call to prayer and instead sought to use the tragedy to promote a political agenda.
"Outrageous," Olson said. "Outrageous. So I'm angry about that."
Olson proceeded to mention this tweet several more times during the discussion and even closed out the interview by asking listeners of the program to go on to Twitter themselves and "respond to that women who gave the outrageous comment" and send her a message to "get the heck out of America":
In the famously red state of Texas, Republican state legislator Jason Villalba of Dallas last week offered a frank assessment of the crossroads at which his party finds itself.
[T]he time has come closer when we will see the sleeping giant [of the Hispanic electorate] awaken and it will make a tremendous difference in our ability to win elections if we cannot win the votes of our fellow Hispanics.
Even as the country rapidly becomes more diverse, the GOP has clung to its strategy of alienating Latinos, African Americans, women, and LGBT people with an endless barrage of outrageous statements and discriminatory policies.
As some Republican leaders, like Villalba in Texas, are noting, this tactic isn’t good for the GOP. Demographic changes, though small on the surface, could have major political impacts, particularly in swing states, that will make it harder and harder for Republicans to win important elections.
In Texas alone, analysts are projecting a two percent increase in the Latino electorate for the 2016 election cycle compared to 2012. That kind of increase is still relatively minor in Texas, but a similar shift could make a crucial difference in swing states like Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. As GOP pollster Whit Ayres notes
Changing the demographics of the state by two percentage points puts a finger on the scale in each of the swing states for the party that’s doing well among Hispanics. This underscores the critical importance for Republican candidates to do better among nonwhite Americans, particularly among Hispanics, if Republicans ever hope to elect another president.
Some far right activists argue that the GOP can win by increasing its share of the white vote, but the numbers don’t bear that out. As Resurgent Republic noted, “every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Hispanics will turn 18.” Without appealing to those voters, Republicans face a steep climb to victory in any national race—and a quick journey to minority party status.
No wonder the party is so fond of strict voter ID laws, restricted early voting opportunities, and proof of citizenship laws to deter certain people from coming out to vote.
The Texas state chapter of David Lane’s extremist American Renewal Project is set to host Sen. Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott, the state attorney general and GOP gubernatorial nominee, at a “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” next month. Cruz has also addressed the group’s chapters in Iowa and South Carolina, two early primary states.
Mike Huckabee, who like Cruz has also floated the possibility of running for president in 2016, will also appear at the event.
The Texas Freedom Network points out that at a Texas “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” in 2005, Dwight McKissic said that God used Hurricane Katrina “to purify our nation” from gay people.
Joining Cruz and Abbott will include Religious Right favorites including American Family Association founder Don Wildmon; pseudo-historian and anti-gay activist David Barton; anti-gay preacher Ken Graves; right-wing conspiracy theorist William Federer and Laurence White, who believes God is about to destroy America.
Just last week, Dr. Steve Hotze made news for sending out a Republican Party fundraising letter in which he declared that "our Founding Fathers would be furious to find out that the Constitution was being interpreted to allow sodomites to marry."
This sort of rhetoric is not at all surprising coming from someone like Hotze, who was responsible for anti-gay mailings that attacked Houston mayor Annise Parker and who believes that "medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin":
Hotze was able to better articulate his views in 1986, when he was one of dozens of ministers, professionals and laypersons who signed the Coalition on Revival's Manifesto for the Christian Church. The coalition claims on its Web site to be a national network of religious leaders aligned in a mission "to help the Church rebuild civilization on the principles of the Bible so God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven." They want all aspects of life -- government, science and education -- to adhere to fundamental biblical beliefs. These beliefs include the following:
• A wife may work outside the home only with her husband's consent
• "Biblical spanking" that results in "temporary or superficial bruises or welts" should not be considered a crime
• No doctor shall provide medical service on the Sabbath
• All disease and disability is caused by the sin of Adam and Eve
• Medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin
• "Increased longevity generally results from obedience to specific Biblical commands"
• Treatment of the "physical body" is not a doctor's highest priority
• Doctors have a priestly calling
• People receiving medical treatment are not immune from divine intervention or demonic forces
• Physicians should preach to their patients because salvation is the key to their health
So naturally, when Hotze was in Washington, DC last week, he was invited to have a personal meeting with Sen. John Cornyn to discuss Cornyn's support for Hotze's lawsuit against Obamacare:
Yesterday, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach suffered a double setback when the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals of decisions striking down two local anti-immigrant ordinances that Kobach had written and shepherded through the courts. Now, both towns are facing the possibility of paying legal fees for opponents on top of years of legal costs that they had already incurred.
Kobach was behind an ordinance in Farmers Branch, Texas, that required people to prove they were in the country legally in order to rent a home and one in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that would have penalized people who rent to or employ undocumented immigrants. Both ordinances were struck down by federal courts, and neither town succeeded in appealing those decisions to the Supreme Court.
In August, the Dallas Morning News reported that Farmers Branch, a town of 29,000 people, had already spent $6 million defending the law since it was first passed in 2006, and expected to pay $2 million in legal fees for its opponents if it lost in the courts. The town has already been forced to cut back in other areas of its budget in order to keep up with the costs of defending the ordinance, despite a $500,000 contribution from real estate heir Trammell Crow.
Meanwhile, Hazleton reported last year that it had spent nearly $500,000 on legal fees since 2006, financed mostly from donations from an online fundraising campaign, along with a $50,000 gift from Crow. But the Hazleton Standard Speaker reports today that the city’s legal defense fund has dried up and it’s facing the possibility of paying millions of dollars in legal fees for civil rights groups that challenged the law. The town of 25,000 faces these costs on top of a pension fund deficit of over $28 million.
Even Kobach-backed ordinances that fare better in the courts can still present huge costs for cities that take up his anti-immigrant crusade. Residents of Fremont, Nebraska, voted last month to keep a similar Kobach-written anti-immigrant ordinance after it was upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Since the ordinance was first passed in 2010, the town raised its property taxes in order to set aside $1.5 million to pay legal fees and implementation costs; the town also risks losing millions of dollars in future federal grants.
While Kobach uses small cities to push his anti-immigrant experiments, those cities are forced to foot the bill as they work through the courts. The cities sometimes even pay for Kobach's services. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted in 2011 that "Kobach has said that he normally charges about $50,000 a year to defend his ordinances against legal challenges. He described that rate as under market and said he wants to ensure 'the cities can afford it.'"
States that push Kobach's harsh anti-immigrant laws have also faced enormous costs. Arizona spent millions of dollars defending SB1070 before it was ultimately largely struck down by the Supreme Court, and lost an estimated $23 million in tax revenue and $350 in direct spending from a resulting economic boycott.
Kobach’s home state is hardly immune from this either – state election officials are now facing the possibility of having to set up a dual elections system in which 15,000 voters caught up in Kobach’s voter ID plan will be allowed to vote only in federal elections – a costly bureaucratic nightmare.
Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, who has called this week’s marriage equality ruling in Texas a “hollow victory,” yesterday called it “one of the most egregious forms of judicial activism of our generation.” “The federal judiciary is out of control,” Saenz told Family Research Council head Tony Perkins on yesterday’s edition of Washington Watch.
He promised that there would be an “epic battle” to defeat marriage equality in Texas.
Similarly irate, Perkins said that judges and the Obama administration believe they can “tear away at the foundation of the rule of law” when it comes to the issue of marriage equality, which he warned will lead to “anarchy” and a “breakdown of society altogether.”
Robert Jeffress was interviewed yesterday about the decision by a federal judge striking down Texas' same-sex marriage ban. Not surprisingly, he did not agree with the ruling, declaring that there is no such thing as a constitutional right to marry, which is why siblings are not allow to marry one another.
It was God who created the institution of marriage to be between one man and one woman, Jeffress stated, warning that America will not survive if it continues to condone "what God has condemned."
"As an American," he said, "I also realize that no nation can survive that condones what God has condemned. And God has condemned homosexuality, just like he does adultery or per-marital sex, as being wrong and, as a nation, we cannot be blessed by God if we're rejecting God":
Oddly, we don't see a lot of Religious Right activists leading efforts to outlaw adultery and per-marital sex or make it legal to discriminate against people on such grounds.
WASHINGTON – In response to a federal judge striking down Texas’ ban on marriage for same-sex couples, People For the American Way Foundation president Michael Keegan issued the following statement:
“Today’s ruling is one more strong point in an argument that’s getting clearer and clearer every day: this ain’t the Texas of old.
“In my native Texas and across the nation, Americans are increasingly coming to see that blocking committed couples from the responsibilities and protections of civil marriage causes real, and needless, harm to families. More and more people are coming to the same conclusion: banning same-sex couples from getting married is unfair, dangerous and contrary to the core principles of our Constitution.”
In another win for the marriage equality movement, today U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia struck down Texas’ ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The judge wrote that "Texas' current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.”
The Washington Post reports:
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia did not say gay marriages could be performed immediately. Instead, he stayed the decision, citing a likely appeal.
"Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," Garcia wrote in his decision. "These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."
Similar bans have been struck down in states across the country – most recently in Virginia less than two weeks ago. Today’s victory in a state with a whopping 26 million residents brings us one important step closer to nationwide marriage equality.
PFAW’s 2012 report, “Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the One Percent, Undermining Democracy,” included a section titled, “The Pernicious Private Prison Industry.” We reported that across the country, private prisons were often violent, poorly run facilities that put prisoners, employees and communities at risk even while failing to deliver on promised savings to taxpayers. But state legislators, encouraged by ALEC and by private prison interests’ lobbying and campaign expenditures, continued to turn prisons over to private corporations, often with contract provisions that acted as incentives for mass incarceration.
A new story in Politico Magazine, “The Private Prison Racket” comes to the same conclusions. “Companies that manage prisons on our behalf have abysmal records,” says author Matt Stroud. “So why do we keep giving them our business?”
The Politico story slams “bed mandates” – guarantees given by states to private companies to keep prisons full. Contracts like that build in incentives for governments to lock people up – and punish states financially when they try to reduce prison populations.
Politicians are taking notice. Last month, In the Public Interest reported that reality has turned the tide against private prisons: “Coast-to-coast, governments are realizing that outsourcing corrections to for-profit corporations is a bad deal for taxpayers, and for public safety.” The dispatch cited problems with private prisons in states as diverse as Arizona, Vermont, Texas, Florida, and Idaho, where Gov. Butch Otter, a “small government” conservative, announced last month that the state would take control of the Idaho Correctional Center back from private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America due to rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity, and contract fraud.
But the huge private prison industry is not going away anytime soon. As In the Public Interest notes:
All of this momentum does not suggest the imminent death of the for-profit prison industry. Some states, including California and West Virginia, are currently gearing up to send millions more to these companies. But the past year has been a watershed moment, and we are heading in the right direction. In light of these developments, these states would be wise to look to sentencing reform to reduce populations, rather than signing reckless outsourcing contracts.
The arguments against private prisons are myriad and compelling. Promised savings end up as increased costs. Lockup quotas force taxpayers to guarantee profits for prison companies through lock up quotas hidden in contracts. They incentivize mass incarceration while discouraging sentencing reform in an era when crime rates are plummeting.
But more than anything else, the reality of the disastrous private prison experiment has turned the public against the industry.
In a 2012 campaign speech for his son, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Rafael Cruz warned that President Obama was pushing for gun violence prevention laws in order to “impose a dictatorship upon us.”
“They are trying to take our God and our guns,” he said in the speech, which was uploaded to YouTube in July 2012. “And if they do that, then they can impose a dictatorship upon us.”
Cruz also pushed the conspiracy theory that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty would “impose a ban on guns.”
The Family Research Council is deeply troubled that Democrats have the gall to try to win elections in the state of Texas. On Washington Watch yesterday, FRC senior fellow Kenneth Blackwell said that President Obama is “trying to keep the border of Texas very open and porous” to allow undocumented immigrants to enter the state so they can vote Democratic, even though they are not US citizens and therefore cannot vote.
Blackwell even tied this “very disturbing” Democratic conspiracy to the lawsuit against the Texas voter ID law, a measure that would bar the 1.4 million Texas voters who lack a photo ID from voting.
“There’s a confluence of events and activities that taken as a group paints a very disturbing picture,” Blackwell told host Tony Perkins.
“Think about Texas and think about how the left is now trying to keep the border of Texas very open and porous and so you look at the number of illegals who are crossing the lines and now you have folks trying to make it easier—they’re fighting Texas in court to make voter ID illegal in Texas -- all of the sudden you see non-registered, non-legal citizens coming over the border, you see this effort by field organizers to get data on folks, making it very easy for them to mobilize those voters on Election Day.”
Of course, Blackwell’s argument is completely bogus. The Texas voter ID law would do extremely little to curtail voter fraud. The Dallas Morning News found last year that of the mere 66 people in Texas charged with voting irregularities since 2004, just “four cases involved someone illegally casting a ballot at a polling place where a picture ID would have prevented it.”
Blackwell also made a patently false claim about Obama’s handling of the US-Mexico border, as the number of border patrol agents on the southern border has grown to record highs since Obama came into office:
Texas Republican congressman Steve Stockman, in his primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn, has displayed a pretty loose relationship with the truth, from his easily disprovable denial that he was once arrested for felony drug possession to the very premise of his campaign, that Cornyn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, is actually a liberal.
In an interview with WorldNetDaily published today, Stockman – apparently unfazed by recent criticism – continues to push his fuzzy version of the truth. First, he claims that Cornyn’s conservatism can’t be trusted because he “only sounds like a conservative.” “Wendy Davis sounds like a conservative,” Stockman observeds and “Obama sounded like a conservative when he was running.” Stockman also repeats his claim that Cornyn , who voted several times against the Affordable Care Act, actually supports it, and that the health care law is “going to absolutely destroy our nation.”
Stockman said that the GOP actually lost seats when Cornyn was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee because he doesn’t advocate a conservative agenda. The congressman said the senator only sounds like a conservative when he runs for re-election.
“Even though his ads say he is a conservative, (Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Wendy Davis sounds like a conservative. Obama sounded like a conservative when he was running, if you actually listened to the rhetoric. But we have to look at his voting record and his positions. And it is abundantly clear that they are different than the mainstream conservative values.”
Illustrating his point, Stockman said “A vote for Cornyn is a vote for Obamacare.”
The congressman said Cornyn has supported Obamacare numerous times in the false notion that it’s going to help the Republican Party, adding, “That’s going to absolutely destroy our nation.”
Later in the interview, Stockman repeats his claim that he singlehandedly stopped both immigration reform and a gun violence prevention law in Congress, which as the Texas Tribune notes, is completely false.
And, he added, they didn’t like that he killed the amnesty bill (Sen. Majority Leader) Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had sent to the House.
“We did what’s called a ‘blue-slip.’ We declared it a tax, which it is because the Supreme Court ruled the fees in the health care bill are taxes. The Senate cannot create or generate any revenue. The Constitution gives that power strictly to the House. The House creates what’s called a blue slip, in that event, and I did that to both the immigration and the gun bills.”