July 28, 2014
We’re only about six months away from the next regular legislative session, which officially starts on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.
It’s not too early to be thinking about potential legislation. You know, laws to make the great State of Texas even greater. Legislation enhancing our quality of life. Bills creating a legacy of accomplishment.
Here’s a thought: Require public officials to use up-to-date, current photos instead of old pictures from when they were much younger. This progressive legislative thought was ignited when I recently saw pictures of the Governor and Lt. Governor displayed at a state agency.
Really? How old are these? Is every day #ThrowbackThursday?
In fairness, Perry and Dewhurst probably don’t check to see what photos are hanging in every state building. Plus, I can’t really fault a state agency that sucks up to them by hanging youthful memories on the wall. And, let’s face it, those guys have been hanging around a long time. For all I know, the pics were current when they were first put up.
This is the kind of bill that will be hard to pass because it personally impacts aging public officials. Every member has a conflict of interest. Well, I’m a flexible legislator. If my bill fails, I’ll resort to the old rule that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Here’s the Kirk Watson picture you’ll see in perpetuity.
Recently, Texas has seen a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied children from Central America arriving at the U.S. border, resulting in a significant humanitarian crisis. The Department of Homeland Security reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the United States has processed 57,525 unaccompanied children since October 2013. That’s a 106% increase over the entire previous Fiscal Year.
Not surprisingly, our community and folks across Texas are responding with compassion. People are donating time, money, and expertise to help these children in need. My office has been tracking ways to get involved and here’s what we’ve put together:
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) indicates that lots of Texans have asked about becoming foster parents for the many unaccompanied children who recently have entered the U.S. from Central America. DFPS has instructed folks wanting to learn more about this situation and how to become a foster parent to visit the following website: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/unaccompanied-children-frequently-asked-questions.
The Texas Young Democrats have stepped up to organize an Amazon wish list of supplies for the children. You can help by ordering here: http://amzn.to/1sInHdk.
Catholic Charities of Central Texas is assisting by helping assure these children are treated with respect, dignity and compassion, as well as helping them navigate the legal and social services system. They’ve outlined very specific ways people can be helpful. They’re also plugged in with other Catholic Charities chapters across Texas. Here’s their website: http://ccctx.org/ils/unaccompaniedminors/
To read one Texas attorney’s take on the humanitarian crisis along the South Texas border and to learn more about how attorneys can be of assistance, check out the following State Bar of Texas blog post: http://blog.texasbar.com/2014/07/articles/news/a-texas-attorneys-perspective-on-the-unaccompanied-minor-crisis-along-the-south-texas-border/
For those attorneys in the Austin area, American Gateways is doing some great work around training and capacity issues for the specific legal representation of these children. The agency notes that many of these children may be eligible for a form of immigration relief known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS presents a unique opportunity for pro bono attorneys to gain experience working with both the Travis County family courts and U.S. immigration. In order to meet the anticipated increase in demand for assistance with SIJS cases, American Gateways will be partnering with Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas to provide training and mentoring for pro bono attorneys interested in taking on these cases. Here’s more information on that upcoming training:
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for Unaccompanied Minors: In collaboration with the Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, American Gateways will be holding a training for pro bono attorneys interested in representing minors in their application for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). The training will be hosted by the law firm of McGinnis Lochridge and Kilgore and will take place on Wednesday August 20, 2014 from 11:00AM until 1:00PM. The training will offer a basic overview of both the family court and immigration components of the SIJS process. The address for the training is: 600 Congress Ave #2100, Austin, TX 78701
The Texas Chapter of National Association of Social Workers has some great content on their website. I encourage you to check it out: http://www.naswtx.org/news/181328/NASW-Response-to-Humanitarian-Crisis-at-the-Border.htm