Council Candidate Wolfthal Says Monitor Conditions Of Detained Migrants In Houston--It's Been Asked Before
Leah Wolfthal is a candidate for Houston City Council At-Large #1.
Ms. Wolfthal sent out a campaign e-mail about immigration detention centers in the City of Houston.
Here is what she said:
"Immigration reform and the quality of life of undocumented Houstonians isn’t a popular issue for politicians to talk about these days. At least one “detention center” (i.e. prison for undocumented immigrants) is in operation within the city of Houston’s geographic boundaries, and three others are nearby (two in Conroe and one in Livingston). The detention center in Houston currently jails 515 people, the majority of whom have either literally no criminal history other than entering this country without permission, or only non serious charges like traffic violations or trespassing (see 2019 stats for this center). These 515 people are part of Houston families, communities, longing for reunification. A local nonprofit advocacy organization, HILSC, noted that about 70% of immigrants detained did not have legal representation, and that such representation makes a significant difference in the outcomes of their cases (2020). HILSC also noted that human rights conditions at these centers need monitoring and improvement; multiple allegations of rape have produced no accountability, for example. This is not okay."
It's good that a candidate for Houston City Council is saying these things. The well-being of any person in Houston is an appropriate subject for Houston City Council.
Ms. Wolfthal's call for awareness about conditions impacting migrants was a consistent demand of the many protests at the 419 Emancipation Southwest Key youth immigration detention center. This place was also called the Baby Jail.
I attended many of those protests and organized some as well. These protests were between 2018 and 2021.
We asked elected Houston and Harris County officials to monitor the place and report publicly on what they saw.
The elected officials showed up briefly at first. Then no more. You could not get them to show up or talk about it.
Who did show up at the protests were the police. A few times there were also officers from the Texas state police. A lot of money was wasted over-policing those protests.
It is this experience that partly informs the Houston Democracy Project.
Candidates and elected officials tell you they care and they'll be all over an important issue.
But it is easy for them to ignore your calls and then send a lot of police when you protest.
It is misguided to think issues of democracy won't be handled the same way in Houston. Is there any incumbent member of Houston City Council you see showing leadership in opposing the many terrible actions of the Texas legislature, or being a meaningful part of opposition to the anti-democratic state takeover of HISD?
Ms. Wolfthal is no doubt sincere and I hope she follows up on her pledge if elected.
But the best way to get elected officials to do what they should, is to have strong rank and file advocates for important issues.
The Houston Democracy Project is calling upon candidates for Houston municipal office in '23 to take up the fight to protect and expand democracy.
Please support the effort.
I'm Neil Aquino