Aaron Franco

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Capital Tonight: Dewhurst Explains Details of National Guard Deployment

Gov. Rick Perry is calling for military backup to deal with the border crisis. The governor joined other state leaders Monday in announcing the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we sat down with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to learn more about what role the troops will play, how the operation will be funded and the legal basis for the deployment.

IMMIGRATION ANSWERS

While state Republicans are praising the move, others are calling it a “militarization” of the border and an unnecessary step. We spoke to Denise Gilman of the UT Law School’s Immigration Clinic, who says legal — not military — resources are needed more.

ON THE AGENDA

Plus, a high-profile activist gets reprimanded by the Texas Ethics Commission. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg gave us the background on that story and more.

Democrats, Business Leaders Respond to National Guard Deployment to Border

Minutes after Gov. Rick Perry announced the details of a plan to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, Texas Democrats and border-area business leaders responded with criticism.

In a press release, the Texas Democratic Party characterized Perry’s decision as political posturing.

“Local law enforcement, elected officials, and faith and community leaders in the Rio Grande Valley have expressed concerned about militarizing the border, the need to create a short-term humanitarian solution, and solving the long-term need for comprehensive immigration reform. Today, Governor Rick Perry ignored those voices. While those in the Valley are working hard to care for thousands of children in need and demanding we fix our broken immigration system, Governor Perry is continuing his routine of photo-op politics to further his Presidential aspirations.”

Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running to replace Perry as governor, said that National Guard troops weren’t necessary. Instead, she said the real need is for additional law enforcement personnel and reiterated her call for a special session to discuss extra funding for local law officials dealing with the surge of immigrants.

“If the federal government won’t act, Texas must and will.  However, we should be deploying additional deputy sheriffs to the border like local law enforcement is calling for rather than Texas National Guard units who aren’t even authorized to make arrests. Therefore, I reiterate my call for Governor Perry to immediately convene for an emergency legislative session to provide the resources to get additional law enforcement personnel on the ground immediately.”

Meanwhile, a group of business leaders in the Rio Grande Valley area is expressing concern about what effect the presence of National Guard troops will have on the local economy. They sent out a press release asking the governor to reconsider.

“Adding a military presence to our communities will only create an inaccurate image that our safe and viable border region in the Rio Grande Valley is dangerous, and that the problem is not presently being managed, which is not the case. This erroneous impression can harm our attempts to recruit new businesses. We respectfully ask the governor to rescind his orders to send the National Guard to the border.”

The group is made up of business leaders of the Rio Grande Valley and the Rio South Texas Economic Council. They pointed out new reports from the White House, which show that the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border has dropped from 355 per day in June to about 150 children apprehended in the first two weeks of July.

Gov. Perry Details Cost, Scope of National Guard Operation at Border

The governor has revealed more details of a plan to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border, to act as a “force multiplier” for Department of Public Safety officers already there.

Gov. Rick Perry says the move, dubbed “Operation Strong Safety,” will cost approximately $12 million per month. Major General John Nichols of the Texas National Guard says troops will be authorized to detain people if necessary, but that he expects them to play a “deter and defer” role, meaning they will deter criminal activity and defer arrests to DPS officers.

DPS Director Steve McCraw said the focus of the operation is to combat crime driven by drug cartels, including homicide, sexual assault, robbery and extortion.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said his office is consulting with the governor’s office and the National Guard about “legal issues related to the deployment.”

The move is in response to the more than 50,000 immigrant children who have been detained at the Texas-Mexico border since October. Many of them are from Central America and come here unaccompanied by their parents.

 

Capital Tonight: One-on-one with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

It’s been six weeks since Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst lost his bid to be re-elected to an unprecedented fourth term, but the longtime incumbent is not sitting idly by after his primary runoff loss. He is now focused on the current border crisis.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke with the Lt. Gov. Dewhurst about the state’s response to the border crisis, new appointments to key committee positions and his plans for the rest of his time in office.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

Political strategists Ted Delisi and Harold Cook weighed in on the border crisis and reflected on some of the campaign spin surrounding Sen. Wendy Davis’ fundraising totals.

MALAYSIAN PLANE

A Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 295 people was shot down over Eastern Ukraine Thursday.
Both the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia rebels are denying any responsibility, but the current conflict in the region is prompting questions about how and why the plane went down. We checked in on the latest on that story.

Capital Tonight: Policy and Personalities Kindle Fight over UT Leadership

While the issue of UT President Bill Powers’ future is now known, another part of the UT system’s ongoing leadership puzzle remains: What will happen to Regent Wallace Hall?

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we checked in on the committee currently drawing up articles of impeachment against Hall. Plus, we spoke to Thomas Lindsay, who heads up the Center for Higher Education for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, to get his take on the UT power struggle.

IMMIGRATION MAZE

We’ve heard the debate over the thousands of immigrant children at our doorstep, but what about the backlog of more than 300,000 who are already here? Our John Salazar focused on one immigration courtroom to learn more about the legal maze that determines whether they stay or go.

FUNDRAISING BREAKDOWN

Plus, Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report joined us to evaluate how both campaigns in the governor’s race are measuring up.

Capital Tonight: Lawmakers Respond to President’s Plan for Immigrant Kids

Lawmakers in Washington are pushing back against the president’s request for funding to deal with the surge of immigrant children, and suggesting ideas of their own.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the response to the president’s plan for nearly $4 billion in emergency funds, and we outlined a bipartisan proposal from Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar.

PERRY VS. PAUL

Gov. Rick Perry is still in the national spotlight. This time, he’s trading blows with Rand Paul over foreign policy. Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report weighed in on the fight over Iraq, isolationism and even eyewear.

CANDIDATE CONVERSATION

And the Texas Railroad Commission has tightened up its policy on media access. Has the agency overseeing the state’s oil and gas industry gone too quiet? We spoke with the Libertarian Party candidate for railroad commissioner, Mark Miller, to get his take.

Capital Tonight: Texas Democrats Renew Call for Obama to Visit Border

With rolled up sleeves, the President leaned on the podium and asked the audience to choose hope over cynicism during his only public speech in Austin Thursday. Then, he went on to lambaste House Republicans for nearly half an hour over what he called partisan politics in Congress.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, looked at the highlights of the president’s speech, including his handling of two protesters calling for immigration reform.

FOCUS ON THE BORDER

While the president hoped to turn the conversation toward the economy, plenty of elected officials in Texas are happy to keep talking about border issues. We heard what state leaders in town for an education conference had to say. Plus, Congressman Henry Cuellar explained his recent criticism of the president in a one-on-one interview.

REGENTS RESPOND

While most of the focus was on President Obama Thursday, many here in Texas are still tracking the ongoing tension surrounding UT Austin President Bill Powers. UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa accepted Powers’ resignation only yesterday, meaning the head of UT’s Austin campus will be staying on until June 2015. But that doesn’t mean things are completely resolved. We checked in on the fight over UT leadership.

Powers to Remain UT Austin President until 2015

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers will likely keep his job until 2015, according to a statement from the head of the UT System, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

Last week, word leaked that Cigarroa had asked President Powers to offer his resignation before a Thursday meeting of the UT Board of Regents or be fired. Cigarroa had suggested he leave in October of this year.

Powers sent a letter in response, offering to stay on until June 2, 2015 so he can see through some of the long-term initiatives he’s started. Cigarroa accepted that offer this afternoon. Powers has led UT’s flagship university since 2006, but has often found himself at odds with the governor-appointed regents. Cigarroa has described his own relationship with Powers as “fractured” and lacking trust.

Cigarroa says the UT Board of Regents will start searching for Powers’ replacement next month. That process will include faculty, students and at least two current presidents of other UT campuses, along with at least one member of the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents was expected to consider Powers’ employment at a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

One member, UT Regent Wallace Hall, is under investigation from a legislative committee for what some have called a witch hunt to oust Powers.

You can read Cigarroa’s full response below.

Statement from Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. regarding UT Austin President Bill Powers

Today UT Austin President Bill Powers submitted a letter of resignation, effective June 2, 2015, and I have accepted it.

President Powers, who has led great advancements for the University, has expressed a desire to remain in his position long enough to complete several important initiatives, lead the University through the upcoming legislative session, and allow for a smooth transition to new leadership. I honor his commitment to UT Austin and agree that this is the best course forward.

Next month, Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster plans to initiate an exhaustive national search process that will utilize a search advisory committee to assist in the selection of UT Austin’s next president. The committee will include representation of faculty, deans, students and community representatives of the University, as well as at least two current presidents from UT institutions and at least one member of the Board of Regents.

There is no doubt that UT Austin is the crown jewel of public higher education in Texas. As chancellor, I have done everything in my power to provide UT Austin with the resources it needs to reach even higher vistas, to ultimately achieve its goal to be recognized as the finest public research university in America. I believe that is a goal well within our sights.

President Powers is an admired leader who, as I’ve said before, has advanced the University in many ways. He is concluding a record-breaking $3 billion capital campaign, has worked with the UT System and the Board of Regents in the past year to establish the Dell Medical School and to launch construction of a $310 million Engineering Education and Research Center – which together will be a major catalyst for UT Austin to achieve the ranking and recognition it deserves – and he has earned the reputation as a national leader in higher education.

It is, however, time for an orderly change in leadership. While ultimately productive, the past years have not been without struggle and, at times, conflict and controversy. There was no single incident that prompted my decision to ask President Powers for his resignation last week, but a long history of issues with communication, responsiveness and a willingness to collaborate.

I truly believe that it is time for a fresh start and a chance to build a strong relationship. We will all be successful if we keep the future of UT in our hearts and minds. I sincerely thank the UT Austin faculty, students, staff and the UT System’s Faculty Advisory Council for their important input over the past week.

San Antonio Mayor Castro Confirmed as Housing Secretary

In a rare show of bipartisan support for an Obama appointee, the Senate voted to confirm San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Castro was named as the president’s pick for the position back in May. He had a warm reception the following month in the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, where he was introduced Sen. John Cornyn, a fellow Texan.

Many political watchers have named Castro as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016, should Hillary Clinton decide to run. Julián and his twin brother Joaquin are both seen as rising stars in the Democratic party, and the new job will give the San Antonio mayor some of the national political experience considered necessary for a potential running mate.

In a statement released after he was confirmed, the president applauded the Senate’s bipartisan support.

“Julián is a proven leader, a champion for safe, affordable housing and strong, sustainable neighborhoods.  I know that together with the dedicated professionals at HUD, Julián will help build on the progress we’ve made battling back from the Great Recession — rebuilding our housing market, reducing homelessness among veterans, and connecting neighborhoods with good schools and good jobs that help our citizens succeed.”

Castro will replace Shaun Donovan as housing secretary. Obama has picked Donovan to become White House budget chief.