Monday, May 07, 2007

No, Chairman Swinford, they're not Byrne grants!

Chairman David Swinford was dead wrong to tell the Texas House that new federal money contemplated in HB 13 would go through the Edward Byrne grant program. That money is spent through the Governor's Criminal Justice Division, not Homeland Security, for drug war and law enforcement purposes and, he's correct, the Governor spent some of it last year on border security.

But Rep. Culberson's bill creates a new grant program that's separate from the Byrne grant program, in a different section of the federal code. Culberson's legislation would allow the US Attorney General to give grants directly to county sheriffs, bypassing the Governor's office.

Swinford based his analysis on a letter from Congressman Culberson which correctly mentions that Gov. Perry gave Byrne grant money to border sheriffs last year. (Of course, Culberson claimed credit.) But the letter said Culberson intends for new money to come through "first responder grants" being contemplated by the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. (I've got a copy of the letter but I'm having trouble uploading it.)

Chairman Swinford's a good guy, but he doesn't understand his own bill.

UPDATE: Efforts to move homeland security functions to DPS failed, though some new restrictions were placed on the so-called Fusion Center. HB 13 overwhelmingly passed around 8:40 after 2.5 hours of debate, though it seems to me like a pyrrhic victory, one based on misunderstanding and pork barrel politics more than any identifiable security strategy.

I would say something about my hometown representative Leo Berman's rabid spiel about "illegal aliens" after the bill was finished, but it left me pretty much speechless. Thankfully his nativist views are clearly in the minority in the House.

MORE: Vince liveblogged the HB 13 debate and also comments on Leo Berman's personal privilege speech. The Texas Observer blog has more on Berman's Beef and says the truth was AWOL in the HB 13 debate. (Actually I think the truth was excused by the chair to attend to pressing business in the district.) Kuff has another press release on HB 13 from Jessica Farrar, one of only a handful of no votes on the bill. Just to have said it, the state of Texas owes Jessica Farrar and her staff, particularly the lovely and talented Lillian Ortiz, a debt of gratitude - I don't like HB 13 as written, but with members like Berman running around squawking about "aliens" causing leprosy and plague (no ... really!), it would be a much worse bill if Farrar hadn't stepped up to the plate and taken a major league cut at it.


Anonymous said...

So the state of Texas thinks that it can accomplish what the federal government has never been able to do - gain control of the border? Let's see, there are about 5000 border patrol agents along the Texas/Mexico border, extrememly well equipped, with air support and intelligence capabilities and an almost unlimited jurisdiction...the border patrol can enter private property without a warrant or permission. Border Patrol salaries are also high, especially for the Texas border, and they get the top pick of law enforcement applicants.

Border sheriff's, on the other hand, have some of the lowest salaries of law enforcement officials. Consequently, sheriff's deputies are probably the lowest skilled and worst equipped of all law enforcement agencies. There is also pretty high turnover and lots of political pressures...sheriffs are often forced to work on campaigns.

There is no doubt that the border sheriff's need more money, more equipment and more training. There is no doubt that the sheriff's are a crucial part of law enforcement along the border. But anyone who thinks that throwing $100 million at the immigration/drug problem is going to do anything about either issue needs their head examined. The feds have been throwing BILLIONS at the problem for years and have literally nothing to show for it. Nothing wrong with Texas beefing up law enforcement on the border, but let's not make the same mistakes that the feds have been making for decades.

Jaime Kenedeño said...

Who is Ed Byrne?

Jaime Kenedeño said...

Byrne Grants come from the WIA'

Three harmless little letters.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ed Byrne was a NYC cop killed by drug dealers in the 80s. In '88 when Dukakis was about to lose to George Bush I, the Dems didn't want him to make them all look soft so they passed this grant program. Byrne's parents gave Bush I their son's badge at the signing ceremony. The grants are supposed to be used for drug war purposes and it's the fund where the Tulia and other now-defunct Texas drug task forces were financed from.

I'ts worth mentioning GW Bush wants to END the Byrne grant program entirely, and Senators Cornyn and Hutchison have both supported him on that in the past - that's part of what makes Swinford's whole confused spiel so weird to me.

Jaime Kenedeño said...

Ed Byrne Fine Furniture of Kingsville, Texas.

Very Close ties to LBJ and the FCC.

When the Byrne Grant first raised it's head, I looked into it to see if I could find any info. The only info I found was a little obituary of a woman who worked there.

I knew immediately who he was having grown up in South Texas. Never heard of the New York Cop. Also, the byrne grants are for Texas or the Nation?

I thought they were for Texas and if that is so then the Grant is probably not named after a New York Cop.

I could be wrong.

Does Tim Nowell still control the Byrne Grant?

This Grant has been used to politically prosecute "voter fraud" IMO wrogfully prosecute.

I live along the corridor from the Valley. See them shaking down people everyday. People need to stand up and refuse sea4rches without a warrant. Driscoll Texas is bad.