You are here
This week on the opinion page, we consider the pros and cons of the urban rail proposal and determine that it's better than nothing.
In addition, associate editor David Davis Jr. urges us to temper our excitement over the Fisher decision by looking at the enrollment numbers for black students on campus.
Brands is editor-in-chief.
With the Austin municipal elections rapidly approaching, the first to come since the 10-1 Plan converted the at-large City Council districts into district subdivisions, a gaggle of candidates has gathered seeking to throw their hat into the political arena. Nearly 70 men and women are now getting involved in politics at the local level, indubitably a very good thing.
But an unfortunately high number of these candidates are independently wealthy and can thus simply self-finance their own election. In the case of District 10 candidate Robert Thomas, he seems to be trying to do just that by cutting himself a check for $100,000. Candidates willing to put their money where their mouth is are not necessarily a bad thing, but when done in conjunction with little outside support, problems obviously arise.
The city of Austin currently posts an individual contribution limit of $350 for those seeking to donate to candidates. Ostensibly, this is done to get the money out of politics and open up the process to the masses, but the opposite effect has ended up occurring. Since the Supreme Court first held in Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 that limits on self-financing are unconstitutional, candidates have always been free to write themselves checks.
When the process for soliciting contributions from members of the general public is so onerous, as it is in Austin, self-financing simply becomes the easier and more expedient option for those candidates able to do so.
Campaign finance reform is a liberal pipe dream that, to be blunt, is dead. The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. put campaign finance reform on life support, but McCutcheon v. F.E.C. pulled the plug. With corporate super PACs now free to spend nearly unlimited amounts in federal elections, local restrictions only stand in the way. The individual contribution limits need to be nixed, ironically, to ensure the wealthy end their stranglehold on Austin politics.
As politicians scramble to find a solution to the border crisis — at least one that voters will favor in November — the most recent legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, D-TX, has been called a ploy to expedite the deportation process. The Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act has been oversimplified as anti-immigrant, and while it certainly needs to be revised to include provisions for pro bono legal counsel, for example, the overall intent of the bill would undoubtedly ease the crisis. Because of its requirement that all undocumented immigrants be treated equally regardless of country of origin, undocumented minors from Central America would receive a quick screening and probable deportation just as those from Mexico do. The HUMANE Act would send thousands of children back into the arms of poverty and gang violence, but it also fixes inefficiencies in the current immigration system, which is not pragmatic for circumstances at the border.
Current immigration law treats undocumented children from Mexico and Central America differently. When undocumented minors come from Mexico, their fate is determined within a week by an immigration judge. But undocumented minors from non-contiguous countries are transferred into the custody of Health and Human Services. Then, they could be given a court date that may not come for months or even years. The legislation proffered by Cornyn and Cuellar would absolutely expedite the deportation process, but the alternative — having undocumented minors wait for an indefinite amount of time before any action is taken — not only leaves these children unsure about their future, but it also undermines the law. Although the border crisis has been regarded as a humanitarian issue, the government has the responsibility to uphold the law in order to send the message, both domestically and internationally, that our immigration laws are not applied on a case-by-case basis.
Davis is an associate editor.