Today's Fair Shots - June 1, 2017

1-In 2016 Election in Counties With Most Undocumented Residents, 30 Fraudulent Votes Found Out of 23.5 Million

2-ICE Reverses Itself, Says It Did Receive a Complaint on SB 4 Protest

3-State Budget Includes Small Amount of Funding for Migrant Farmworker Housing Inspections

4-Package of Child Protection Bills Signed Into Law; Move to Outsourcing Is Problematic

5-Anti-Union Bill That Counts Non-Participants as 'No' Votes in Union Election Gets Another Run in Congress

1) President Trump's claim that millions of non-citizens voted fraudulently in the 2016 election has never carried a drop of water. But such lies deserve as many definitive rebukes as can be mustered, so a new Brennan Center piece of research detailed by Texas Monthly adds to the weight of authority against Trump's claim and the resulting efforts to make voting harder.

  The problem with the recently approved SB 5 is that it merely alters the method by which voters will be discouraged from casting ballots, based on the false assertion that in-person voting fraud happens on a regular basis. Here's hoping the federal court that overturned the "voter ID" law in Texas sees through the legislative play:

  Since Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote in November, our new commander-in-chief has consistently attacked the legitimacy of popular vote totals that showed his rival, Hillary Clinton, well ahead of him on election day. "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," Trump tweeted in November. Although he has doubled down on the claim in several subsequent statements, offering an estimate of three to five million illegal votes and complaints about specific states, Trump has failed to provide evidence of widespread fraud.

  Myrna Pérez, a Texas native and civil rights lawyer, won't take the president at his word. As head of the Voting Rights and Elections project at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, Pérez has seen states around the country-Texas included-rushing to respond to voter fraud threats. "As someone who's driven by data, as someone who researches elections, as someone who is in the business of making sure our elections represent the voices of actual Americans, I'm very troubled at the policies we see that seem to not have any science or data behind them," Pérez says.

  Pérez, a graduate of San Antonio's Douglas MacArthur High School who now teaches at Columbia and NYU law schools, decided to check if Trump's claims of massive voter fraud had any empirical backing. Her team at the Brennan Center reached out to all 44 counties in the U.S. that are home to more than 100,000 non-citizens. The team also contacted several of the largest and most diverse counties in the three states-California, New Hampshire, and Virginia-where Trump made specific claims of "serious voter fraud." Forty-two counties responded to Perez's queries, including Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, and El Paso counties in Texas. The counties Pérez's team interviewed accounted for over 23.5 million votes in the 2016 election. However, the county elections administrators reported a combined total of only 30 fraudulent noncitizen votes in 2016-about .00001 percent of the votes totaled.

  "Noncitizen voting in Texas, as in the rest of the country, is rare," Pérez concludes. As for the nationwide total of fraudulent votes, she says her methodology doesn't offer a reliable estimate, but that there is no way it's three to five million people. "Not even close," she says.

  Read more:

2) It turns out ICE really did receive a complaint concerning Monday's protest over SB 4, the "sanctuary cities" law, at the Capitol, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

 The federal immigration department had suggested no such call came in, but today reversed course. This doesn't change the equities for Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, the presumed maker of the call, one iota:

  By email this afternoon, Nina Pruneda of the San Antonio office for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said: "After a more careful review of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records we have determined there was a call placed on May 29 at 12:05 PM to the national ICE Tip Line, related to the incident in Texas. This call was logged and a formal report was forwarded to the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in San Antonio, Texas."

  Pruneda responded to a follow-up query a day after sharing a different ICE statement in reply to a question about whether calls had been fielded about the protesters of Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 7. The agency's Tuesday statement said: "ICE is not aware of receiving any calls related to this matter."

  The same day, ABC News earlier quoted unnamed ICE officials saying the same and that while ICE can receive calls to its tip line, it's not typical for ICE to chase after every call. Rather, that information will go towards informing the overall intelligence for immigration enforcement, the network reported.

  Even if ICE did receive a call, ABC News said, the Capitol protest would have likely been off-limits - covered by a"sensitive location" policy preventing ICE from making arrests or questioning individuals at such a protest. Locations covered by the policy include: "During public demonstration, such as a march, rally, or parade," the network said.

  Read more:

3) Besides funding for film incentives, the Austin American-Statesman takes note of another state budget item that carries particular import for working people - a slight increase in funds to allow for a modicum of inspection of farm worker housing.

  As reporter Jeremy Schwartz has stated, Texas barely ever comes down hard on some of the most atrocious excuses for housing imaginable, e.g., boards on top of tires:

 Photo from American-Statesman

Photo from American-Statesman

  Texas lawmakers approved a funding boost for the state's farmworker housing inspection program that will more than quadruple the amount of money regulators spend to ensure housing meets minimum health and safety standards.

  The budget rider, passed as part of the Legislature's adoption of a two-year, $216.8 billion budget Saturday, represents a small victory for lawmakers and farmworker housing advocates who had been pushing to overhaul the state's inspection program.

  While bills aimed at making inspection efforts more aggressive died during the legislative session, the budget rider will ensure that money raised by licensing and inspection fees is funneled back into the inspection program.

  That funding - estimated at $10,250 per year - represents an increase over the less than $2,500 the Texas Department of Community and Housing Affairs spent on inspections in 2015. Previously, money raised through fees ended up in the state's general fund.

  While noting that the funding amount is relatively small, Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, who authored the rider along with Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, said that he and advocates would "put pressure on the agency to use that money and be more aggressive in their inspections and enforcement."

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4) Gov. Greg Abbott today signed a package of four bills aimed at addressing the child protection crisis in Texas, the Texas Tribune reports.

  For the most part, the legislation represents a real effort to make headway on a decades-old problem that comes down to under-funding. State caseworkers have more work on their desks than any human can be expected to handle, and children fall through the resulting cracks.

  The Tribune takes note of the problematic element of outsourcing in one of the major pieces of legislation, SB 11. We hope the Legislature's approach works; it would be indecent to root for anything less. But if something goes wrong, don't be surprised if SB 11 is the problem:

  During the ceremony, Abbott signed:

  •   House Bill 4, which allocates about $350 a month to families caring for abused and neglected children who are related to them

  •   House Bill 5, which makes the Department a standalone agency outside of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission

  •   House Bill 7, which changes how courts work with the state's child welfare agency

  •   Senate Bill 11, which lets the state create a "community-based care" model, contracting with nonprofits to oversee children in foster care and adoptive homes and a relative's home...

  But SB 11 was less well-received by child welfare advocates. The legislation calls for the department to find eight areas in Texas to implement a new community-based care program by the end of 2019. Advocates have said they're most worried about contracted organizations in the program taking over case management duties from the state including overseeing caseworker visits, creating permanency plans for children and making sure children and their families are receiving services. 

  Advocates say they fear those community-based care groups will not have the prowess or capacity to take on this kind of work, particularly when it comes to finding homes for children with behavioral and mental health issues. In addition, advocates have expressed concern that the transition started by SB 11 will lead to child welfare workers losing their jobs.  

  Read more:

5) A virulently anti-union bill in Congress has been revived in the era of President Trump, the New York Daily News reports.

  Known in typically ironic fashion for labor bills as the "Employee Rights Act," which of course means it diminishes employee rights, the measure would count non-voters in union elections as "no" votes, an affront to democracy as well as unions. It would also require unions to hold re-certification elections on a regular basis, presumably with non-participants continuing to count as "no" votes.

  The concept of counting non-participants in union elections has been introduced many times before and has occasionally made an appearance in Texas, even though Congress regulates union elections. The idea never gets any less outrageous.

  Via the Daily News:

 The AFL-CIO was particularly outraged by the provision that said voters who stayed home for union elections would be counted as casting a "no" ballot.

  "If political elections were held in this fashion, virtually no one would have been elected, because the number of people who stay home, leave ballot sections blank or vote for someone else outstrips the number of votes officeholders receive," the AFL-CIO wrote in response to a pro-ERA op-ed.

  The labor organization said the bill was "slanted" against unions and called it a "hit job, not a balanced policy proposal."

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