Alvarado fails to raise level of sanctuary debate

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Councilmember and temporarily-former Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado decided to try her hand at blogging on Friday, and her post at Charles Kuffner’s blog is quite a debut.

Here are a few choice excerpts from Alvarado’s blog post criticizing those who favor ending the sanctuary directive issued by Houston’s police chief in 1992:

The goal is not to make our city safe from the supposed scourge of illegal immigration, nor is to help the police solve crime. The goal is to increase turnout at the polls among this thin slice of voters – turnout that supporters calculate will benefit one political party over another.

I like to call this scapegoat politics. In scapegoat politics, you designate a certain group of people as somehow inherently evil and responsible for all the ills facing society. You then persuade your targeted voters that they must rush to the polls to support a ballot item that will eliminate this scourge and, while they’re at it, vote for certain candidates who are on the right side of this pressing issue.

In 2005, Republicans did this with the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage in Texas. To this day I do not believe the Republican leadership gives one whit about gays who might wish to enter into legally binding monogamous relationships but by scapegoating monogamous gays they were able to persuade numerous conservative voters to come to the polls who might otherwise have stayed home.

This year, in Houston, the scourge of the moment is the illegal immigrant. And, let’s be honest, it’s not the illegal Canadian or British or French immigrant. It’s the illegal Latino immigrant (the one that doesn’t sufficiently “look” American). There is no need to have a real debate about the issues facing our community when you can persuade people that our crime and our economic challenges are all a result of our tolerance of this evil group and if we just get tough on them our city will, once again, be the land of milk and honey.

For evidence of just how cynical this is I need only to look to my immediate left when I am sitting at the City Council table. There sits an elected city council member who has long been either neutral or even somewhat sympathetic to the city’s immigrant population. Suddenly, she is one of the most ferocious supporters of this petition drive. It is merely a coincidence, she says, that her position radically changed at the same time that she was launching a bid for Congress the success of which requires the support of the very same people who will be inspired by this anti-Latino anti-immigrant effort.

So, folks who profess to want something done about illegal immigration are just intolerant, racist Republicans, akin to opportunistic homophobic Republicans! And one such Republican is a particularly naughty word!

After that nasty vitriol, Councilmember Alvarado (or whatever communications consultant who might have been the shadow writer) concludes:

I firmly believe our community should be engaged on the issue of illegal immigration and members of the community from all perspectives should be working together to discuss and debate it. But that is not the debate we have today.

Sorry, Councilmember Alvarado, but insinuating that those who support positions you oppose are racists, homophobes, and political opportunists isn’t exactly raising the level of debate.

If Councilmember Alvarado were serious about a debate over the sanctuary directive issued by the police chief in 1992, then she could encourage Mayor White to bring the policy to Council for a conversation among our elected officials and interested members of the community. But neither she nor Mayor White appear interested in that, preferring instead to hide behind a directive crafted by the police chief in 1992 (which seems like a long time ago). Indeed, Mayor White actually seems to be channeling Councilmember Alvarado’s rhetoric in an AP story posted at today:

Mayor Bill White and police department officials deny Houston is a sanctuary city, saying officers will arrest anybody, including illegal immigrants, as needed. But White added that officers would be diverted from priority calls if they had to check the citizenship status of every person they dealt with.

“People are frustrated about the lack of a federal policy on immigration,” he said. “But citizens should not allow their frustration on this issue to handcuff our law enforcement so they cannot respond to the complaints of citizens.”

As explained several days ago when Councilmember Alvarado complained that ending the sanctuary policy would “tie the hands” of law enforcement, the more appropriate characterization would be that removing a ban on citizenship inquiries by police officers is untying their hands, or taking off the handcuffs. Whoever is crafting the rhetoric for these two Democratic nonpartisan municipal officials really needs to rework that comparison, which keeps falling flat.


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Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX