Saturday, April 10, 2021

Ridding South Texas of DPS part of forgotten populist agenda for the region

Many Democrats were surprised in November when their candidates lost ground in Texas border regions, but Grits was not: The party has no substantive agenda either to entice voters in rural areas or to address the unique challenges facing the sprawling mass of increasingly urban voters in the Rio Grande Valley.

Here's a topic state candidates could run on: From the Rio Grande Guardian, "Heavy DPS Presence in Starr County is Unnecessary." Starr County Judge Eloy Vera articulated populist criticisms of DPS' presence that would no doubt resonate with most border residents who don't profit from it:

Drive along U.S. 83 and they are parked every 100 or 200 feet, he said. Unless there is a speed chase they have nothing to do but write tickets for motorists with tail lights not working, the judge said.

“Our people are complaining that they are getting stopped and getting cited. So, even though that was not the purpose of DPS being down here, and I was assured that they were not going to be stopping people and giving a lot of warnings, that is what is happening,” said Vera, pictured above. “I think a lot of our people are being cited.”

Debtors-prison practices, including the state's Omnibase program which uses arrest warrants to collect debt, turn this over-policing into a de facto, year-round warrant roundup:

“The other problem this causes is on the warrant side. If someone has a warrant, and this is by statute, they (DPS) pick them up and they take them to the jail and that is putting a burden on our jail. Now, we don’t have beds for paying inmates because we have a bunch of ours.”

Vera said he wanted to reiterate that he is pro-law enforcement.

“I guess in a nutshell we certainly appreciate the law enforcement help that we are getting but again they must stick to what their mission is and that is to curtail drug and human trafficking. If someone has a lightbulb that is not working, there is not need to cite them or anyone else, in my opinion.”

For those who don't live in the region, these criticisms fly in the face of glowing praise from politicians for DPS' presence we routinely see in the press. DPS and the Governor will always be able to find locals to sing their praises because a small minority of people profit from their presence. But for average folks, it creates more problems, reported the Guardan.

The one good thing about having so many state troopers in Starr County, Vera said, is that they fill up the local restaurants and hotels.

“Our restaurants and hotels and those people, they love it because it is more business for us. But the average citizen that is barely making it, it is a big burden for them.”

These are not isolated sentiments:

McAllen Mayor Dim Darling has also spoken about the recent influx of DPS troopers to the Rio Grande Valley. Appearing on a Zoom conversation with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar that was hosted by the Texas Tribune, Darling shook his head and rolled his eyes when asked a question about DPS.

“I’ve always said they need social workers not DPS. And we have a lot of DPS officers. If you ride around near Chimney Park and all that, I feel sorry for them. Sitting out there and there really is not much for them to do from the standpoint they do not have jurisdiction,” Darling said.

Chimney Park in Mission is on the banks of the Rio Grande.

“If you really want to do it, at least maybe split it half DPS and half social workers. The social work could get done by the people that know how to do it and send the Border Patrol back out to protect the border like they want to do and they are paid and trained to do,” Darling said.

“It is just ridiculous. If you talk to the average Border Patrol person, they are miserable, they are not doing what they are supposed to do. They are not trained to take care of kids. They are not social workers.”

It's been long acknowledged DPS border deployments have had little impact on drug trafficking. Meanwhile, DPS has pulled all these troopers from the rest of the state, contributing to DWI enforcement statewide declining despite large population increases during this period, after their border deployment began. Here's a graphic from the 2020 Office of Court Administration Annual Statistical Report depicting the decline:

So there's your political messaging: DPS over-polices border communities, resulting in ratcheting up debtor's prison practices along the border, while reducing DWI enforcement elsewhere and making all Texans less safe. Hell, I've even got theme music for the debtor's prison angle:

It's been years - maybe since Carlos Truan, God rest his soul, was state senator from the Valley - since I've heard politicians talking about a populist agenda to benefit South Texas. In recent years, the debate's all been about preventing imaginary terrorists from sneaking across the border. But for a Democratic statewide candidate, it wouldn't be hard to find a justice-reform-and-infrastructure agenda that would excite South Texans: Scale back DPS' presence; build a new, job-creating South Texas port and another international bridge to take traffic pressure off the Houston port and I-35. Tack on Medicaid expansion, and bada bing, bada boom, there's an agenda that would speak to South Texas voters.

You're welcome, Gov. McConaughey.


Gary said...

Purely selfish, but since I don't live in those regions they can keep the DPS, don't miss then where I live.

Long Long Time Ago said...

Democrats didn’t lose ground in South Texas, they held their ground. There were being attack by Half Truths & Fake News from the Far Far Right...
But the Tejano people perservered, even though, we aren’t united politically, we are united culturally. But all Tejanos want border security, and to stop Crime and Drugs. So even building a 25 foot high coyote urinal appealed to some of them, and that’s why they became single issue voters.
DPS agents can get transfer to whatever section they want. If they look miserable, it’s because that’s their “Stay Frosty” look. I’m from South Texas, and I’ve never heard anyone say we need less law enforcement.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Long Long Time Ago, if you're in S. Texas, maybe ask some of your pols like the county judge and mayor quoted in this blog post if they're hearing differently from others. Sounds like from their comments that your sentiments aren't prevailing.

Debbie said...

You missed a big, terrible piece of this phenomenon. DPS's forays into South Texas (and West Texas) in the last few years have been a disaster for undocumented people (who are integral members of the community and comprise a large percentage of the population in border cities including Rio Grande City and Roma, in Starr County). Many of DPS's stops during 2016 to 2018, when I reported on them, appeared to be pretextual, staged to ferret out undocumented people. During the Trump administration these stops resulted in mass deportations. With Covid, and now under the Biden administration, I don't know what's currently happening. I've just asked for DPS records for the past year, to see if anything has changed. Meanwhile, see this:

Long Long Time Ago said...

People who enter the United States “illegally” are breaking the law.
Right, Wrong or Indifferent it breaking the law. There is no going around that fact. If an FinCen agent finds drugs, is that officer of the law suppose to ignore that and say that’s not my jursdiction, that an the ATF department? The reason why undocumented people crimes are limited to some agencies is for political issues. No one wants to see family separated and “special interest groups” lobby heavy on this issue.
I do see now a multi-agency response either by the state or federal, but it is much needed. When it comes to undocumented people, I feel much like you do. I empathize with their situation, and we should do everything we can to help them. But we have legal means of guest worker status, asylum and citizenship, that thousand of foreign nationals do everyday. What Undocumented people do is undermine our laws and those foreign nationals who did it the correct way. Who knows how many Foreign Nationals get denied to come to the United States because of Undocumented People, who have jumped the line in front of them.

Long Long Time Ago said...

Grits for Breakfast:
Local elections are won by friends of friends of friends of politicians. I don’t know how many times, I’ve gotten call from my friends asking to come out to the polls to vote. It a popularity race, you hardly hear any real issues discuss, unless some real corruption is discovered, but then that’s not a disqualification for some people. Politicians and judges keep their seats for a really long time. Elections are won by the slimmest of margins, you only need two hundred votes to really swing an election. And it’s the same people voting every election, so you the politicians and judges know who to go too. With that said, yes there is a huge discord with the politicians and the people of south texas. Has been that way for all my time...