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Travis County

Fight To End Abusive Deportation Program Continues In Travis County


by: Omar Araiza

Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 10:30 AM CDT


Austin residents block the Travis Co. jail as part of the effort to convince Sheriff Greg Hamilton to opt-out from S-Comm.
While immigration reform is at a standstill in Congress, many immigration advocacy groups across the country are doing whatever possible to help alleviate the harm done by the continued enforcement of our broken immigration system, many focusing on easing the senseless amount of deportations forced under the administration.

Immigration advocacy leaders in Travis County belonging to Grassroots Leadership, Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the Texas Civil Rights Project, are fighting to put an end to the locally enforced Secure Communities program (or S-Comm), a federal program that recruits local police as immigration enforcers.

As many as 19 undocumented residents of Travis County are deported every week since the program began in 2009. The vast majority are initially stopped and jailed because of minor offenses, such as traffic violations, and are forced to face deportation by ICE without even meeting the agency's criteria of a "Level 1" priority.

Read more about the efforts to end S-Comm in Travis Co., as well as what BOR readers can do to help below the jump.

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Candidate Brigid Shea's Son and Husband Initially Denied Ballots Early Voting Today


by: whughes880

Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 00:20 PM CST

After initially being denied a ballot, Brigid Shea's son Eamon Umphress, took advantage of the start of Early Voting and cast a ballot with his mom and dad in the Democratic Primary this morning. This marks the first election Eamon has been able to vote in since turning 18 and registering to vote late last year. In an unusual turn of events, both Shea's husband John and Eamon were initially denied ballots, being told they weren't registered to vote when a scan of their DPS issued ID's did not bring up their voter registration information. This incident has been reported to the Travis County Voter Registrar, Dana Debeauvoir, who is investigating it.

In response to her son being denied a ballot, Shea asked if the poll workers would mind checking again. "I registered him (Eamon) and I hand carried the application form to the voter registrar office myself. I know he is registered." After hand entering Shea's son and husbands information, poll workers located the records in question and provided ballots.

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Shea Applauds Travis County's Support for LCRA Emergency Drought Order


by: whughes880

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 04:25 PM CST

Brigid Shea applauded the Travis County Commissioners Court vote today to support a reduction in the amount of water released downstream from the Highland Lakes. TCEQ is taking testimony today on LCRA's plan to require more water in the lakes before releasing flows for downstream agriculture uses.

Shea has been a leader on water issues in Travis County for the past 25 years. In the last year, she has convened a broad coalition of lake interests and environmental leaders to find solutions to our water problems.

Shea, who is running for Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 2, said:
"Water conservation is the least expensive and most effective way to stretch our water supplies and respond to our changing climate. But it's not enough to only conserve water.  LCRA also needs to reexamine how much water they release for agricultural uses and the bays and estuaries."

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It's Time for a Sobriety Center in Travis County


by: Andy Brown

Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 07:33 PM CST

Did you know that there is a better way to address mental and behavior health in Travis County?  I recently took trips to Houston and San Antonio to see first-hand how these Texas cities are mitigating the high cost of public intoxication arrests-many of which involve the homeless or mentally ill.

Accompanying me on these trips were United Way and Caritas board member Dan Graham, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition executive director Ana Correa, Austin Interfaith Leader Ofelia Zapata, Austin/Travis County EMS Association president Tony Marquardt, and Ending Community Homelessness Coalition Board Member Tim League, -all of whom, like me, are passionate about this matter.

More below the jump.

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Arrested Activists Call on Travis County to Implement Progressive Immigration Policy


by: Chris Ledesma

Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 11:58 PM CST

(Travis County has an extremely high rate of deportations for non-violent offenders. Thanks to Chris Ledesma for covering the recent protests of this policy outside the Travis County jail.   - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

Photo by Arielle Lewis-Zavala

This Monday, six immigrant rights activists were arrested as part of an action blocking an entrance to the Travis County jail. The activists, along with immigrant advocacy groups, are targeting Travis County's high rate of deportations, especially of non-criminals, linked to participation in the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program.

Under the Secure Communities Act, local law enforcement authorities coordinate with the federal government in theory to identify and deport immigrants with violent offenses. In practice, thousands of those stopped for minor traffic offenses and other infractions have their immigration status checked when detained, and if found in violation, are funneled into private, for-profit detention centers and held until deportation. This has been devastating to hardworking immigrants and their families, separating parents from their children or vice versa in traumatic scenarios playing out across the US.

Nearly 20 counties in 3 states have halted their cooperation with S-Comm without repercussion and activists are calling on Travis County and Sheriff Greg Hamilton to do the same.

Read More below the jump about the action and why a progressive community should embrace progressive immigration policy.

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Sierra Club Endorses Brigid Shea


by: whughes880

Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 00:50 PM CST

Adding to an already impressive list of endorsements, the Sierra Club announced their endorsement of Brigid Shea in the race for Precinct 2 Travis County Commissioner. Shea has an extensive track record on environmental issues, including starting the Texas chapter of Clean Water Action and spearheading the Save Our Springs initiative, the strongest water protection ordinance passed by citizen initiative in the country.

"Brigid has a strong environmental record," said Roy Waley, Vice Chair of the local Sierra Club. "We make our endorsements off of environmental criteria. We look at a lot of different things when evaluating a candidate, but we make our endorsement off of the environmental criteria... We agree with [Brigid] on a range of issues and we know that the good environmental policy that she is going to pursue will be good for everybody."

Shea is proud to have earned the Sierra Club's endorsement. "I think preserving our environment has helped our economy flourish. It is one of Austin's calling cards that we as a community have been smart enough to protect our beautiful environment; you don't hear people saying that about Dallas or Huston. I am deeply honored to have earned the endorsement of one of our nation's most prestigious environmental groups. As Commissioner I will remain committed to ensuring Travis County protects it's natural beauty and resources for future generations."

Disclaimer: The author is paid to work on Brigid Shea's campaign

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Sierra Club Backs Sarah Eckhardt for Travis County Judge


by: Nick Hudson

Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 04:48 PM CST

Sierra Club Endorses Sarah Eckhardt for County Judge
Influential organization joins other progressive groups in backing more experienced candidate

Austin, TX-- Today the Sierra Club endorsed Democrat Sarah Eckhardt for Travis County Judge, joining the Laborers International Union of North America, Faith Action for Women in Need, Capital Tejano Democrats, and Yeller Dawg Democrats in supporting her campaign. Sierra Club is the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States.

"Eckhardt's experience with county government—along with her positions on environmental issues—makes her our preferred choice for the County's top office,” said Sierra Club Vice Chair Roy Waley.

Eckhardt's father, legendary environmentalist and Democratic Congressman Bob Eckhardt, instilled in her a deep appreciation for our natural beauty and heritage and our responsibility to protect it. As County Commissioner, Eckhardt continued the family legacy of public service by working to protect finite natural resources.

"I was honored to have Sierra Club's endorsement when I ran for Travis County Commissioner in 2010, and I am just as honored to get their endorsement now," Eckhardt said. "Sierra Club members are on the front lines of the fight to protect our water, air, and open spaces. I look forward to turning their proud history of activism into public policy that serves all the people of Travis county."

A Democrat, Sarah Eckhardt is the only candidate in the race for County Judge with a proven record of winning key environmental victories. Sarah worked to complete the Balcones Canyonland Preserve and brought more trails, parks, and open space to Travis County. She opposed allowing more trash to be dumped in eastern Travis County, helped pass tough water quality standards, and held corporate polluters accountable by helping secure a 3.5 million dollar settlement to clean up Hamilton Pool after it had been illegally polluted. As Travis County Judge, Eckhardt will work with Sierra Club and environmentalists to continue protecting Travis County's natural beauty, finite resources, and heritage.

Sierra Club's endorsement of Sarah Eckhardt underscores that she is the most qualified and experienced candidate and will best protect our environment and natural resources.

"Eckhardt promises action on major issues facing this rapidly growing county,” continued Waley. “She favors a modernized transportation system for more efficiency with less pollution. She will provide leadership needed to protect our vulnerable water supply. She recognizes the global climate problem is real, and wants county government to help out by purchasing more renewable 'green' energy.”

Sarah Eckhardt followed in the footsteps of her father, Congressman Bob Eckhardt, and became a public interest attorney after graduating from The University of Texas School of Law in 1998. Eckhardt has served the public for 15 years. In the County Attorney’s Office, she secured protective orders for domestic violence victims. Eckhardt won a seat on the County Commissioners Court in 2006. She lives in Central Austin with her husband Kurt, who is also an attorney, and her two children, Hank and Nadine. She is an adjunct professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Visit the campaign page on the web at saraheckhardt.com and facebook.com/saraheckhardt

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Disclaimer: The author is paid to work on Sarah Eckhardt's campaign.

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Sierra Club Backs Sarah Eckhardt for Travis County Judge


by: Nick Hudson

Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 04:48 PM CST

Sierra Club Endorses Sarah Eckhardt for County Judge
Influential organization joins other progressive groups in backing more experienced candidate

Austin, TX-- Today the Sierra Club endorsed Democrat Sarah Eckhardt for Travis County Judge, joining the Laborers International Union of North America, Faith Action for Women in Need, Capital Tejano Democrats, and Yeller Dawg Democrats in supporting her campaign. Sierra Club is the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States.

"Eckhardt's experience with county government—along with her positions on environmental issues—makes her our preferred choice for the County's top office,” said Sierra Club Vice Chair Roy Waley.

Eckhardt's father, legendary environmentalist and Democratic Congressman Bob Eckhardt, instilled in her a deep appreciation for our natural beauty and heritage and our responsibility to protect it. As County Commissioner, Eckhardt continued the family legacy of public service by working to protect finite natural resources.

"I was honored to have Sierra Club's endorsement when I ran for Travis County Commissioner in 2010, and I am just as honored to get their endorsement now," Eckhardt said. "Sierra Club members are on the front lines of the fight to protect our water, air, and open spaces. I look forward to turning their proud history of activism into public policy that serves all the people of Travis county."

A Democrat, Sarah Eckhardt is the only candidate in the race for County Judge with a proven record of winning key environmental victories. Sarah worked to complete the Balcones Canyonland Preserve and brought more trails, parks, and open space to Travis County. She opposed allowing more trash to be dumped in eastern Travis County, helped pass tough water quality standards, and held corporate polluters accountable by helping secure a 3.5 million dollar settlement to clean up Hamilton Pool after it had been illegally polluted. As Travis County Judge, Eckhardt will work with Sierra Club and environmentalists to continue protecting Travis County's natural beauty, finite resources, and heritage.

Sierra Club's endorsement of Sarah Eckhardt underscores that she is the most qualified and experienced candidate and will best protect our environment and natural resources.

"Eckhardt promises action on major issues facing this rapidly growing county,” continued Waley. “She favors a modernized transportation system for more efficiency with less pollution. She will provide leadership needed to protect our vulnerable water supply. She recognizes the global climate problem is real, and wants county government to help out by purchasing more renewable 'green' energy.”

Sarah Eckhardt followed in the footsteps of her father, Congressman Bob Eckhardt, and became a public interest attorney after graduating from The University of Texas School of Law in 1998. Eckhardt has served the public for 15 years. In the County Attorney’s Office, she secured protective orders for domestic violence victims. Eckhardt won a seat on the County Commissioners Court in 2006. She lives in Central Austin with her husband Kurt, who is also an attorney, and her two children, Hank and Nadine. She is an adjunct professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Visit the campaign page on the web at saraheckhardt.com and facebook.com/saraheckhardt

###

Disclaimer: The author is paid to work on Sarah Eckhardt's campaign.

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Travis County Gun Range Ordered To Shut Down After Stray Bullets Hit Home Business


by: Joe Deshotel

Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 03:30 PM CST

The City of Creedmoor in Southeast Travis County joined neighbors of "The Gun Ranch" in a lawsuit that has at least temporary shut down the gun range after stray bullets penetrated the home office of Karla Gray. The Gun Ranch opened to the public the day after Christmas, and the Gray family contends the range is noisy and potentially deadly.

Gray showed local media broken glass and bullet holes that damaged company files that were at the desk of one employee that fortunately had not been sitting there at the time. Gray is also concerned because her children play around the home and have heard stray bullets whiz by while playing in the yard.

The owners of the Gun Ranch say they intend to fight the lawsuit, even though the City confirmed that the property is only zoned for residential and agricultural use and not commercial activity.

See what the Gun Ranch owner had to say in his defense about the stray bullets...

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Brigid Shea's Campaign Releases Fundraising Information


by: whughes880

Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 00:05 PM CST

Continuing her call to end politics as usual, Travis County Commission Candidate Brigid Shea announced she had raised another $100 thousand in the latest fundraising period, some of it coming from former political opponents. Since the start of the campaign Shea has raised more than $200,000 from over 450 donors.

"From the beginning I've said this campaign is a big tent. My contributors range from former political opponents to environmentalists and many in between. With so many important issues to work on in the community, we can't afford to let ourselves be divided over personal disagreements. It's crucial we have a civil dialogue and pursue opportunities to work together," said Shea.

Former political opponent Mark Littlefield, who worked for Mayor Leffingwell's re-election campaign, has lined up behind Shea. "Even though I opposed Brigid when she ran for Mayor, we have made peace. I think Brigid's ability to set past differences aside is part of why she is such a good leader and why I am supporting her, even volunteering on her campaign."

Disclaimer: The author is paid to work on Brigid Shea's campaign

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