Thursday, June 21, 2007

DeLay Aftershock: Houston Won’t Fund Day Labor Hall

It’s not quite blowback, so I’ll call it an echo, or better yet, a Texas-style aftershock.

It was back in the early campaign season of 2006 when Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, then on Houston’s City Council, needed a headline. She was trying to get her party’s nomination to succeed Tom DeLay as a write-in on the November ballot. How does a dermatologist get on the news?

So she looked in the Republican manual of politics in Texas, and under the section entitled “Fear Mongering” she found her solution.

By bashing Mexicans.

Houston had a Day Labor Center in it. City funds were paying for it. It was a haven for day laborers to congregate and be available for hiring by local contractors and others. And it was a target for anti-immigrant groups who said that the center was just a big neon sign that said “Welcome to the USA. Come here to work, then go and hide”.

Coincidently just in the news around that time was the killing of Officer Rodney Johnson, a Houston city policeman, by Juan Leonardo Quinterno, a Mexican national illegally residing in Houston.

All Shelley had to do was to connect the dots from cop killers to day laborers to day labor center and she had what she needed to get her to DC: an issue that got her some headlines in Texas.

Sekula-Gibbs stayed on point with this issue all through the election. However, the day labor center remained open for business.

Not any more.

The Houston City Council voted not to fund the center in the next fiscal year. So the center will close its doors, leaving day laborers no alternative but to hang out at the traditional corners where trucks will stop by to pick them up as in the days before the day labor center.

So now everyone is that much safer.

City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado says that she will work to restore funds for the labor center. Quoted in the Houston Chronicle, Alvarado said, “These certainly do serve a valid purpose. It's a safe, secure, controlled environment where people can go and look for work instead of hanging around on street corners and disrupting communities.”

So now, according to Councilwoman Alvarado, everyone is not that much safer.

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