Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Music: Chris Pérez never saw it coming. “All I ever wanted to do was play guitar,” he told the Current. “I never thought I’d be the subject of an interview... By Enrique Lopetegui 8/28/2013
8 Cultural Gems on the North Side

8 Cultural Gems on the North Side

City Guide 2014: “Outside the Loop” is used as a pejorative by Downtown-centric cool kids, but oases of culture can be found in the sprawling suburbs of the North Side.... By Dan R. Goddard 2/24/2014
Free Things to Do: Kid-friendly

Free Things to Do: Kid-friendly

Free Guide: It’s almost summer, which means that your government-subsidized free daycare (aka public school) goes on hiatus thanks to an archaic allegiance to a rural agriculture economic system that hasn’t been in play for decades. What to do with the wee ones whining 5/21/2014
Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Arts & Culture: In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love (out March 6), Selena's widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once... By Enrique Lopetegui 3/7/2012

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Lamar Smith chimes in on immigration… again.

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Low-risk, non-violent immigrants released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers?! Cue the outrage from Congressman Lamar Smith in 3, 2…

"Spending cuts are no excuse for releasing thousands of criminal and illegal immigrants into our streets," SA's GOP rep told the E-N last week. "The (Obama) administration is either incompetent and unable to prioritize spending, or reckless. Neither is acceptable."

News broke last week that ICE released "several hundred" low-risk detainees from its detention centers nationwide to brace for the federal spending cuts that kicked in Friday amid partisan gridlock. ICE says none of those released have been convicted of violent crimes.

Conservatives like Smith, rightly or wrongly, have claimed the Administration overhyped the consequences of so-called sequestration, issuing dire predictions when the cuts could be spread out in less damaging fashion. Ironically for Smith, though, ICE is cutting exactly where it makes most sense — releasing immigrant detainees that don't need to be incarcerated.

Over the past decade, money spent to jail immigrants has skyrocketed as the system grew from about 7,500 to 33,000 detention beds, costing taxpayers around $5.5 billion, even though cheaper options exist. Gary Mead, ICE's man in charge of arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants, told the Current last year that ICE spends, on average, $122 per day to detain someone while alternatives, like the agency's ankle bracelet monitoring program, top out at around $15 per day.

Still, immigration policy has focused almost solely on detention. ICE last year opened its Karnes County "civil detention" center, a multi-million dollar facility run by private prison company GEO Group specifically designed to house the lowest-risk detainees, like border crossers and asylum seekers who would pose little to no flight risk if put in less-costly monitoring programs.

Texas actually offers the feds another model for how to handle the immigrant detention system. In September, the Current wrote about how Scott Henson, the state's much-followed criminal justice guru who blogs at Grits For Breakfast, moderated a panel of experts and immigration reform advocates at Austin's LBJ school. The panel included former GOP state Rep. Jerry Madden, who prior to this session chaired the House Corrections Committee. Madden insisted the feds could save money following Texas' path: by limiting detention of low-risk, non-violent offenders.

Fiscal reality turned around Texas' incarceration rates, pushing state leaders to opt for "right-on-crime" strategies (like curbing probation time, funding alternatives like DWI and drug courts) instead of hemorrhaging a billion dollars to build more prisons.

ICE, until now, could spend as much as it wanted on immigrant detention. On his blog, Henson wrote that the sequester forces Congress to prioritize spending, proving there are cheaper options for keeping tabs on undocumented immigrants while they wait for the backlogged immigration courts to process their cases.

Smith may chide that the Obama Administration is "incompetent and unable to prioritize spending." But as Henson aptly put it, "prioritizing spending is precisely what's going on here … for once."

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