Today's Fair Shots - May 31st, 2017
"Matt Rinaldi looked into a House gallery full of Americans exercising their first amendment rights against SB 4 - Americans of all ages and all ethnicities - and he only saw 'illegals.' Let me be clear, this was a personal attack on me as a son of Mexican immigrants."
--Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, discussing an announcement by Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, that he had called ICE on the big protest yesterday against SB 4, the "sanctuary cities" law.
The Texas AFL-CIO video on the subject of SB 4 is setting federation records on social media. Check it out:
1-'A New Low in Politics'
2-OSHA Keeps Its Most Powerful Weapon Against Unsafe Working Conditions in Holster
1) The other shoe dropped on the outrageous sequence of events that took place on the Texas House floor amid a loud and highly on-target protest against SB 4 in the Capitol on Monday.
As noted here at the conclusion of the 85th legislative session and in the news pages across Texas, Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, told Hispanic lawmakers that he had called ICE on the protesters. This set off a scuffle and reportedly resulted in threats of violence.
There may be elements of he said-he said in the accounts of what happened next, but from a political standpoint, Rinaldi's announcement that he called ICE was breathtakingly vile and appeared calculated to incite Hispanic lawmakers. The Department of Public Safety has been fully capable of handling any over-the-line activity by protesters in the Capitol over many years and by all accounts, yesterday's SB 4 protest was loud but entirely peaceable. Calling ICE (and reportedly also suggesting that Italian immigrants loved America more than Hispanic ones) said way more about Rinaldi's character than any vote he could ever cast in the Legislature. It was despicable and richly deserving of consideration in the 2018 election.
Today, NBC News reports, there is even doubt that Rinaldi actually got through to anyone on Memorial Day. There certainly were no reported arrests of protesters, some of whom were union members.
NBC's Victoria Defrancesco called the action "a new low in politics":
Freedom of speech. It's a pretty big deal; that's why it's the First Amendment of our Constitution. But according to one Texas legislator the First Amendment doesn't apply to you if you look Latino.
On the last day of the Texas legislative session hundreds of protesters filled the Capitol to protest the recent signing into law of SB4, a measure that goes into effect this fall. Activists were dressed in red, waved banners and chanted their opposition to the law. It was boisterous, but nothing that the Legislature hadn't seen before. It was, pure and simple, an exercise of free speech.
But Dallas County Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi seems to have an uninformed view of the Constitution. Rinaldi, a supporter of SB4, didn't like what he was hearing from the protesters so he called immigration authorities.
Rinaldi sent out a statement saying he made the call.
Several members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus recounted that Rinaldi, "came up to us and said, I'm glad I just called ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to have all these people deported."
On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an e-mailed statement "ICE is not aware of receiving any calls related to this matter."
There was no way for Rinaldi, or anyone else, to know who was undocumented or not. The crowd was overwhelmingly Latino and that was enough for the lawmaker to assume the need for a round up and mass deportation.
Siccing ICE on people who annoy you, now that's a new low in politics. What Rinaldi did is especially troubling in light of the signing into law of SB4, which allows individuals to be questioned about their citizenship status while detained, including during traffic stops. The new law of the land in Texas, which takes effect Sept. 1, encourages racial profiling.
However, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbot (sic), the law would not allow for Hispanics to get detained inappropriately. As reported by the Texas Tribune, the governor stated that, "there are laws against racial profiling, and those laws will be strictly enforced."
Read more: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/opinion-calling-immigration-latinos-protesting-sb4-racial-profiling-n766036?cid=sm_npd_nn_fb_lt
2) In These Times posted an update on the Trump administration's policy of not letting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration publicize actions they take.
OSHA is woefully underfunded to the point where routine inspections are a pipe dream. Not letting the agency speak when it finds dangerous working conditions is a recipe for disaster:
In the four months since President Trump took office, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued four news releases announcing penalties for job safety violations.
By the end of May last year, it had issued 199.
The recent reticence has spurred six U.S. senators, all Democrats, to ask what's up at OSHA. In a letter to OSHA's parent agency, the Department of Labor, the six lawmakers are demanding a review of the agency's "decision to cease public notification of major findings."
Under previous Democratic and Republican administration, OSHA has used announcements of major enforcement actions, and the threat of bad publicity, to combat health and safety hazards.
"For employers, they serve as a reminder to implement require[d] safeguards, which in turn could save workers' lives," stated the letter, signed by Massachusetts' Elizabeth Warren, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, Minnesota's Al Franken, Washington's Patty Murray, Connecticut's Christopher Murphy and Pennsylvania's Robert P. Casey Jr. "For employees, they serve as an impetus to report wrongdoing, thereby protecting themselves and their coworkers."
The shift in tactics was first reported by FairWarning in early March. At that point, OSHA had failed to announce a single enforcement action since the Jan. 20 inauguration.
In April, OSHA finally broke its silence, announcing penalties of $1.475 million against Atlantic Drain Service of Boston related to last October's deaths of two workers in a trench collapse.
Yet by then, according to the senators' letter, OSHA had already assessed more than 100 fines greater than $40,000-the threshold for public disclosure during the Obama Administration. A FairWarning review of records for the last year of the Republican administration of George W. Bush also revealed a steady stream of enforcement news releases...
Jordan Barab, the No. 2 OSHA official in the Obama Administration, said that the $40,000 threshold had proven a smart strategy for boosting workplace safety.
"Attorneys have told us that their clients don't care about low OSHA fines; what really scares them is getting mentioned in a press release," he said in an email. Such announcements also show workers "that OSHA is on the job and what their rights are."