Weekly Diaspora: Texas Excludes Low-Income Latinos from Census, Expedites Visas for Wealthy Mexican Immigrants

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Newly released census figures show that the Latino population in the United States surged by 43 percent in the last 10 years, comprising 50 million people. According to New America Media’s Nina Martin, this marks the first decade since the 1960s when the number of Latino births exceeded the number of immigrants. But, the this increase notwithstanding, it seems that a sizable portion of the Latino population may not have been counted at all.

As Claudio Rowe reports at Equal Voice Newspaper / New America Media, officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, are planning to sue the federal government for failing to count as many as 300,000 Texas residents living along the U.S.-Mexico border. The residents, most of whom live in unincorporated subdivisions called colonias, are predominately U.S.-born Latinos (65 percent). Though community organizers spent months preparing families to participate in the census, the federal government failed to mail census forms to 95 percent of colonia residents—allegedly deeming them “hard to count.” The omission could lose the state tens of millions of dollars in social services funding over the next decade.

But that’s not all, as Rowe explains:

Aside from money, census undercounts can drastically affect political representation by triggering the redrawing of electoral districts. So across the nation, inaccurate population figures could affect elections for thousands of government offices over the next 10 years – everything from school board members to state representatives.

Texas redistricting discounts Latino population

In large part because of high Latino population growth, in fact, Texas is set to gain four new congressional districts—and the battle over their geographic make-up has already begun, despite the likely exclusion of several hundred thousand Texans.

Patrick Brendel of The American Independent notes that, while U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith (R) and Joe Barton (R) feud over whether the new districts should favor a particular political party, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) has filed a redistricting lawsuit against state leaders, alleging “that the population numbers being used for the State’s 2011 redistricting process “severely undercounts Latinos.” MALC’s petition adds:

“The creation of redistricting plans for Texas election districts using the defective 2010 census data discriminates against Latino voters and is not legally enforceable.”

Opponents argue that non-citizens shouldn’t be included in the census at all, because redrawing political districts to accommodate undocumented populations dilutes the voting power of actual citizens. How the U.S.-born colonia residents who were excluded from this census fit into that schema, however, remains unclear.

The whole debacle does elucidate one important point, though: Low-income Latinos and undocumented migrants are similarly marginalized by both state and local governments—regardless of their citizenship status.

Texas welcomes wealthy Mexican immigrants, rejects working class undocumented

At the Texas Observer, Melissa Del Bosque reinforces that point when she notes that, while U.S. immigration policy has grown increasingly hostile towards Mexican immigrants in general, the government has been remarkably accommodating toward wealthy Mexican immigrants. She reports that Texas border cities are doing everything they can to encourage Mexican investment in the state, even brokering deals with the federal government to expedite visas for wealthy investors eager to flee Mexico’s security crisis:

“If you are in Mexico City you would call Progreso Bridge and say, this is our credit card number, this is our plane, this is who is on it,” Hernan Gonzalez, the Weslaco EDC executive director, told the McAllen Monitor. “They would already be in a registry … and then the officers would come and clear you based upon when you are going to land.”

By contrast, only 2 percent of the 11,000 Mexicans who have sought asylum from cartel violence gained entry into the United States, according to the Texas Observer’s Susana Hayward. Del Bosque adds that “Mexicans who invest $500,000 or more in a company that creates at least 10 jobs can obtain U.S. residency in a matter of months,” thereby avoiding the growing immigration case backlog in the United States. (As of February 2011, the average waiting period for immigration cases was 467 days—a 44 percent increase since 2008.)

It’s a stark reminder that the escalating furor over immigration reform is as much about class as it is about race, nationality or culture.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: Texas Excludes Low-Income Latinos from Census, Expedites Visas for Wealthy Mexican Immigrants

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Newly released census figures show that the Latino population in the United States surged by 43 percent in the last 10 years, comprising 50 million people. According to New America Media’s Nina Martin, this marks the first decade since the 1960s when the number of Latino births exceeded the number of immigrants. But, the this increase notwithstanding, it seems that a sizable portion of the Latino population may not have been counted at all.

As Claudio Rowe reports at Equal Voice Newspaper / New America Media, officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, are planning to sue the federal government for failing to count as many as 300,000 Texas residents living along the U.S.-Mexico border. The residents, most of whom live in unincorporated subdivisions called colonias, are predominately U.S.-born Latinos (65 percent). Though community organizers spent months preparing families to participate in the census, the federal government failed to mail census forms to 95 percent of colonia residents—allegedly deeming them “hard to count.” The omission could lose the state tens of millions of dollars in social services funding over the next decade.

But that’s not all, as Rowe explains:

Aside from money, census undercounts can drastically affect political representation by triggering the redrawing of electoral districts. So across the nation, inaccurate population figures could affect elections for thousands of government offices over the next 10 years – everything from school board members to state representatives.

Texas redistricting discounts Latino population

In large part because of high Latino population growth, in fact, Texas is set to gain four new congressional districts—and the battle over their geographic make-up has already begun, despite the likely exclusion of several hundred thousand Texans.

Patrick Brendel of The American Independent notes that, while U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith (R) and Joe Barton (R) feud over whether the new districts should favor a particular political party, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) has filed a redistricting lawsuit against state leaders, alleging “that the population numbers being used for the State’s 2011 redistricting process “severely undercounts Latinos.” MALC’s petition adds:

“The creation of redistricting plans for Texas election districts using the defective 2010 census data discriminates against Latino voters and is not legally enforceable.”

Opponents argue that non-citizens shouldn’t be included in the census at all, because redrawing political districts to accommodate undocumented populations dilutes the voting power of actual citizens. How the U.S.-born colonia residents who were excluded from this census fit into that schema, however, remains unclear.

The whole debacle does elucidate one important point, though: Low-income Latinos and undocumented migrants are similarly marginalized by both state and local governments—regardless of their citizenship status.

Texas welcomes wealthy Mexican immigrants, rejects working class undocumented

At the Texas Observer, Melissa Del Bosque reinforces that point when she notes that, while U.S. immigration policy has grown increasingly hostile towards Mexican immigrants in general, the government has been remarkably accommodating toward wealthy Mexican immigrants. She reports that Texas border cities are doing everything they can to encourage Mexican investment in the state, even brokering deals with the federal government to expedite visas for wealthy investors eager to flee Mexico’s security crisis:

“If you are in Mexico City you would call Progreso Bridge and say, this is our credit card number, this is our plane, this is who is on it,” Hernan Gonzalez, the Weslaco EDC executive director, told the McAllen Monitor. “They would already be in a registry … and then the officers would come and clear you based upon when you are going to land.”

By contrast, only 2 percent of the 11,000 Mexicans who have sought asylum from cartel violence gained entry into the United States, according to the Texas Observer’s Susana Hayward. Del Bosque adds that “Mexicans who invest $500,000 or more in a company that creates at least 10 jobs can obtain U.S. residency in a matter of months,” thereby avoiding the growing immigration case backlog in the United States. (As of February 2011, the average waiting period for immigration cases was 467 days—a 44 percent increase since 2008.)

It’s a stark reminder that the escalating furor over immigration reform is as much about class as it is about race, nationality or culture.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Voter Registration Access Under Attack in Texas

Over the last several years, Texas has received extensive attention for its partisan-driven efforts to limit access to the democratic process. This year is no different in the Red state that features a Legislature that is fiercely pushing a controversial photo voter ID law and a voter ID-supportive governor who is also a rumored presidential hopeful. But Texas’ assault on democracy doesn’t just begin with voter ID, it starts with voter registration and the groups that facilitate voter registration between the citizen and the government.

Across the nation, an estimated 28 million citizens rely on community-based voter registration drives to register to vote for the first time or update their registration whenever they move.

According to the 2008 Current Population Survey, nine million citizens reported having registered through a “voter registration drive.” But, “This likely seriously undercounts the total impact of voter registration drives, however, as 9.4 million citizens…reported that they registered ‘at a school, hospital, or on campus’—all locations where voter registration drives are often conducted by civic organizations and student groups,” wrote Doug Hess and Jody Herman in Project Vote report, Representational Bias in the 2008 Electorate.

Another 9.7 million registered to vote through mail-in voter registration applications, many of whom presumably received these applications from voter registration drives or organizations that distributed the forms through the postal or electronic mail.

A number of these citizens are likely underrepresented young and low-income citizens who move more frequently and are required to update their registration more regularly.

However, since 2008, voter registration drives have been placed under an unprecedented amount of scrutiny and restriction that appears to be less about preventing voter registration fraud and more about simply erasing these drives—that millions of Americans rely upon—from existence.

Currently, the Texas House is considering overwrought, unsound bills that would do more harm than good. Rather than focusing on regulating the quality of registration cards submitted to the registrar, these bills focus on the community organization’s employment standards.

House bills 239, 1269, and 1270 would put onerous government regulations on voter registration drives’ ability to manage their own employees in the hiring and firing process. Poorly drafted, HB 239 attempts to prevent an employer from terminating an employee that fails to maintain a minimum standard of performance. In this case, it attempts to make it a felony to fire an employee because the employee does not collect a minimum number of applications. However, since that minimum could be one, the bill in effect requires an employer to continue to pay an employee who is so incompetent that he could not collect one application during a six-hour shift.

Unlike a reasonable rule to eliminate paying canvassers per application to prevent fraudulent activity,HB 239 stops employers from setting basic standards to ensure basic productivity. Further, the bill appears to give dishonest employees legal leverage: by making it a felony to fire an employee for not meeting standards, the government will be making it more difficult to fire any employee, even one suspected of fraud.

Adding to the counterproductive regulations on voter registration drives, HB 1269 and HB 1270 put arbitrary restrictions on who may be a deputy registrar, requiring them to be registered Texas residents, for example. These types of measures restrict the employee pool to the state of Texas only. For national groups that run these drives, this means the best workers in the country cannot be considered, debilitating the effectiveness of a drive.

None of these bills result in substantial benefits to the government that cannot be attained through cooperation with voter registration groups and the application of current laws. Applications submitted by voter registration drives are no more problematic than those from other sources: for example, rejection rates of applications submitted by Motor Vehicle Departments, Public Assistance Agencies, and other sources are often as high or higher than rejection rates from voter registration drives.

House Bills 239, 1269, and 1270 are unwise and counterproductive exercises of the legislative process. They should be soundly defeated, and then a serious dialogue about how to ensure honest and effective voter registration drives can begin.

Growing Republican Strength Along the Rio Grande River?

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The state of Texas is one of the Republican Party’s most valuable strongholds. It adds a good 38 electoral votes to the Republican candidate’s electoral vote; Democrats have not been competitive in the state for at least a decade.

One of the only Democratic regions in Texas lies along the Rio Grande River:


Link to Map of Texas, 2008 Presidential Election

This region is the part of Texas that borders Mexico. It is readily apparent in the map above as the only group of blue counties that President Barack Obama won outside of a major city.

The area is one of the most Hispanic areas in the United States; there are places, especially next to the border of Mexico, where the Hispanic percentage approaches 100%. Some of these people have lived along the Rio Grande for hundreds of years, with roots dating back to when Texas was a part of Mexico.

There are several other distinguishing characteristics. The parts of Texas along the Mexican border are among the poorest regions in the United States. Politically speaking, voter turn-out is very low – perhaps lower than any other part of the country.

When the rest of Texas moved steadily Republican, South Texas swung leftwards for much of the twentieth century. In 1996 the Democratic presidential nominee won almost every single county south of San Antonio, some with over 80% of the vote.

Since then, however, Republicans have recovered their verve. President George W. Bush did incredibly well amongst Hispanics in Texas; in 2004 he even won 86% Hispanic Cameron County in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2008 the Democratic presidential candidate once again posted solid numbers along the Rio Grande. Nevertheless, they ran well behind their 1996 performance throughout the region:

Link to Map of Texas, Voting Shifts From 1996 to 2008

(Note: Edited NYT Image)

Compared to 1988 – a year in which the Democratic presidential candidate suffered a resounding national defeat – the 2008 nominee, despite winning a solid national victory, also failed to improve markedly in the Rio Grande area:

Link to Map of Texas, Voting Shifts From 1988 to 2008

(Note: Edited Center For American Progress Image)

(Note: This image can be accessed here.)

Note that in 2008 Democrats lost Texas by 11.8%; in 1988 they lost Texas by 12.6%.

In the 2010 midterm elections Republicans also made several gains in South Texas, winning two heavily Hispanic congressional districts. The first was the 23rd congressional district, which is 65.5% Hispanic; the second the 27th congressional district, which is 71.6% (!) Hispanic.

Link to Map of Texas Congressional Districts Along Rio Grande River

These patterns are not unique to Texas. In rural south Colorado, for instance, traditionally Hispanic counties have also trended Republican since the 1990s.

Whether the areas of Texas bordering the Rio Grande River will continue moving Democratic or Republican is up-to-question. In Texas, the effects of Mr. Bush’s appeal to Hispanics still are heard; Hispanics in the state are some of the more conservative in the country. The Texas Republican Party has also been relatively moderate on immigration issues. For instance, Republican Governor Rick Perry – a firecracker on other issues – opposes SB 1070.

Needless to say, Republican success at cutting Democratic margins in the counties bordering the Rio Grande would constitute a major achievement for the party.


If a Democrat is ever to win Texas – and none has done so for more than a decade – he or she will need enormous margins there. If Republicans go from 30+% to 40+% of the vote in El Paso or Hidalgo County, it is very difficult to imagine Democrats ever winning Texas.

For more than a decade Democrats have latched onto the Great Hispanic Hope: that growing numbers of Democratic-voting Latinos in Texas will one day turn the state blue. Republican success at winning Hispanics would crush that dream.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Growing Republican Strength Along the Rio Grande River?

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The state of Texas is one of the Republican Party’s most valuable strongholds. It adds a good 38 electoral votes to the Republican candidate’s electoral vote; Democrats have not been competitive in the state for at least a decade.

One of the only Democratic regions in Texas lies along the Rio Grande River:


Link to Map of Texas, 2008 Presidential Election

This region is the part of Texas that borders Mexico. It is readily apparent in the map above as the only group of blue counties that President Barack Obama won outside of a major city.

The area is one of the most Hispanic areas in the United States; there are places, especially next to the border of Mexico, where the Hispanic percentage approaches 100%. Some of these people have lived along the Rio Grande for hundreds of years, with roots dating back to when Texas was a part of Mexico.

There are several other distinguishing characteristics. The parts of Texas along the Mexican border are among the poorest regions in the United States. Politically speaking, voter turn-out is very low – perhaps lower than any other part of the country.

When the rest of Texas moved steadily Republican, South Texas swung leftwards for much of the twentieth century. In 1996 the Democratic presidential nominee won almost every single county south of San Antonio, some with over 80% of the vote.

Since then, however, Republicans have recovered their verve. President George W. Bush did incredibly well amongst Hispanics in Texas; in 2004 he even won 86% Hispanic Cameron County in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2008 the Democratic presidential candidate once again posted solid numbers along the Rio Grande. Nevertheless, they ran well behind their 1996 performance throughout the region:

Link to Map of Texas, Voting Shifts From 1996 to 2008

(Note: Edited NYT Image)

Compared to 1988 – a year in which the Democratic presidential candidate suffered a resounding national defeat – the 2008 nominee, despite winning a solid national victory, also failed to improve markedly in the Rio Grande area:

Link to Map of Texas, Voting Shifts From 1988 to 2008

(Note: Edited Center For American Progress Image)

(Note: This image can be accessed here.)

Note that in 2008 Democrats lost Texas by 11.8%; in 1988 they lost Texas by 12.6%.

In the 2010 midterm elections Republicans also made several gains in South Texas, winning two heavily Hispanic congressional districts. The first was the 23rd congressional district, which is 65.5% Hispanic; the second the 27th congressional district, which is 71.6% (!) Hispanic.

Link to Map of Texas Congressional Districts Along Rio Grande River

These patterns are not unique to Texas. In rural south Colorado, for instance, traditionally Hispanic counties have also trended Republican since the 1990s.

Whether the areas of Texas bordering the Rio Grande River will continue moving Democratic or Republican is up-to-question. In Texas, the effects of Mr. Bush’s appeal to Hispanics still are heard; Hispanics in the state are some of the more conservative in the country. The Texas Republican Party has also been relatively moderate on immigration issues. For instance, Republican Governor Rick Perry – a firecracker on other issues – opposes SB 1070.

Needless to say, Republican success at cutting Democratic margins in the counties bordering the Rio Grande would constitute a major achievement for the party.


If a Democrat is ever to win Texas – and none has done so for more than a decade – he or she will need enormous margins there. If Republicans go from 30+% to 40+% of the vote in El Paso or Hidalgo County, it is very difficult to imagine Democrats ever winning Texas.

For more than a decade Democrats have latched onto the Great Hispanic Hope: that growing numbers of Democratic-voting Latinos in Texas will one day turn the state blue. Republican success at winning Hispanics would crush that dream.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

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