Are illegal aliens benefiting from the 2009 stimulus package?

On Monday, March 09, 2009, a local classical radio station in Dallas headlined its morning rush-hour report claiming that 300,000 illegal aliens would benefit from the current Senate stimulus bill being debated in Congress.  The source for this information was a report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
The CIS report claims that 15 percent of construction workers are illegal aliens.  It also estimates that the Senate Stimulus bill under consideration would create 2 million new construction jobs.  “Thus, if no effort is made to bar illegal immigrants from these jobs, it is extremely likely that about 300,000 will go to illegal immigrants,” the report claims.  The report then criticizes the Senate bill for not requiring the use of the “E-Verify” system as its companion House bill has required.

The CIS report has been criticized by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) as a “stimulus for fear.”  The IPC reports that CIS uses a formula from the Federal Highway Administration that states that for every $1 billion spent on federal highway construction, the result is “10,300 construction oriented jobs.”  IPC argues that CIS has misapplied this formula because it was designed specifically for federal highway construction and not for the many broad initiatives in the 2009 Economic Stimulus.  Additionally, IPC notes that this formula was generated prior to the economic downturn and that the current economic conditions have caused many illegal aliens to return home.  Moreover, the term “construction oriented jobs” is very broad and includes positions not historically held by illegal aliens e.g., managerial and supervisory white-collar positions.  IPC also argues that E-verify is not the “silver bullet” that it is portrayed to be and has many database errors.  You can read their report here: Stimulus for Fear (pdf)

A closer examination reveals that the CIS report chooses its words carefully: “if no effort is made to bar illegal immigrants from these jobs, it is extremely likely that about 300,000 will go to illegal immigrants.”  This is vastly different than reporting as a fact that the “stimulus will benefit 300,000 illegal aliens.”  The fact is no one knows how many undocumented aliens will be working on projects directly or indirectly associated with the 2009 stimulus package.

Until next time, consider the facts, examine your sources of information and remember to keep “separating the wheat from the chaff.”

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Gravel, sand, and charcoal…That’s it.  That’s all it takes to give people clean water.

OK, well, you have to have water tanks, rebar, and concrete to create stands for the water tanks, and piping to transfer the water from tank to tank, but, at any rate. . . gravel, sand, and charcoal. These are the materials used in the filters to give people clean water.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, it actually is, and that is a good thing since villages need to be able to sustain this technology on their own. 

Water Passes Through (pdf)

The basis of this filtering system is slow-sand filtration because it does not require electricity or special chemicals.  It only requires periodic maintenance and can produce a 90-99% bacterial reduction when maintained properly. Slow-sand filters perform this work by harnessing natural processes.

As water flows down through the sand in a filter, a biological layer forms in the top couple inches of the sand. This biological layer absorbs—or eats, if you will—organic and bacterial matter present in the water. This is good, because much of the organic and bacterial matter present in surface water (or river water in this case) is what makes people sick. By removing this bacteria, there is a much greater chance of keeping people well.

Unfortunately, a sand filter is not enough. The river water is terribly dirty and would clog up the sand filter too quickly. Therefore, the water must be pre-filtered using gravel. The water is piped to the bottom of a water tank filled with gravel and then allowed to rise up through the gravel. The gravel, with its rough sides, acts as a gathering place for the dirt and suspended materials in the water. Once these clumps become large enough, they fall to the bottom of the gravel filter.  The cleaner water is then piped from the top of the tank and sent through two other gravel tanks making the water clear enough for the sand filter to be effective.  Each gravel tank is fitted with a large back flush valve at the bottom so that the dirt that has settled can be flushed out.

So, this is the process. The water is pumped from the river to the top holding tank—this is the only time electricity is used; the rest of the time gravity does the work. Next, the water flows through three gravel tanks and our slow-sand filter as described above. Then, before entering the final holding tank, the water passes through charcoal, absorbing any poisons or chemicals present in the water. Once through the charcoal, the water is ready to picked up and used by villagers. 

This water filtration system works amazingly well and becomes a solid way to give people clean water.

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Church & State

HB 492 (pdf) by Rep. Zerwas (R-Katy) aims to expand the outreach capacity of faith- and community-based organizations to serve Texans in need of basic social services. HB 492 would achieve this goal by helping to improve the infrastructure of faith- and community-based organizations and by forging stronger partnerships between those organizations and state agencies. The bill provides a framework for awarding grants to organizations to be used for building capacity to provide charitable services. The bill also establishes governmental liaisons, an interagency group, a non-profit task force, and an advisory committee that will all function to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of faith- and community- based organizations and improve the collaboration between state agencies and these organizations.

This bill is the latest version of a bill the CLC has supported and worked on a version of this bill for the past several sessions.

On Tuesday, March 17, the CLC registered support for SB 184 (pdf) by Sen. Watson (D-Austin) in a hearing of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.  This bill, often referred to as the “no regrets” bill, would direct the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to compile a list of strategies for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in this state. SB 184 requires that the strategies either result in net savings for consumers or businesses or can be achieved without financial cost to consumers or businesses.

Though some individuals continue to dispute the affects of greenhouse gases on global warming, SB 184 looks at the issue from a financial standpoint, rather than a purely environmental one. The strategies laid out by the TCEQ would save money for individuals and businesses over the long term, offsetting any immediate short-term costs.   As the federal government moves forward with environmental regulations, this bill will help prepare the State of Texas for any new measures enacted by federal legislation. After hearing from the bill author and members of the public, the committee left the bill pending.

Regulation of Youth Recreational Facilities

The CLC was recently contacted by our friends and colleagues with Baptist summer camp programs concerning a bill they were afraid would have negative consequences for camps and churches. The intent of the bill, HB 2740 (pdf) by Rep. Bolton (D-Austin), is to provide regulations and a state licensing requirement for overnight recreational youth facilities that parents might reasonably assume had some state oversight but do not under current law. Several individuals and organizations representing already licensed summer camps of all types were concerned that the bill would actually impose undue burdens on their operations. Specifically, they were concerned that the requirements of the bill would apply to non-summer seasons when they function primarily as retreat facilities. At this point in the process the author of the bill has agreed to consider changes that should resolve the most critical concerns.  The bill has been referred to the House Human Services Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. The CLC will continue to monitor this bill and work with our camping program partners to insure the bill would not adversely affect summer camps.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
During the last legislative session the legislature passed a strong compromise bill that reinstated drastic cuts made to Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2003, which caused over 201,000 children to fall from the CHIP rolls between 2003 and 2007.
Rep. Sylvester Turner (D, Houston) authored HB 109 (pdf) that rolled back the recent changes and made it easier for qualifying families to apply for and receive health insurance for their children.
However, for the 81st Session, there is still much more work to be done. A new ranking of Americans’ overall health compiled in December 2008 shows that Texas has dropped from #37 to #46, due to the state’s high level of child poverty and the skyrocketing number of uninsured Texans.

On Thursday, March 19th, The House Committee on Human Services held a public hearing and heard testimony on a number of bills with the goal of improving the health of children in this state. The bills seek modifications to both CHIP and children’s Medicaid. The list of bills before the committee includes bills that would create special buy-in Medicaid programs for children with disabilities, extend children’s Medicaid coverage to 12 months and several bills attempt to extend CHIP coverage to families making 300% of the federal poverty level (some with conditions and larger buy in investments from parents.)

A new website covering the Texas Legislature recently published a thorough examination of the prospect of expanded gambling in Texas.  Gambling in Texas – a Four Part Series by James Bernsen is worth a read for anyone looking to be better educated on the issue.

Friday, March 13 was the last day to file stand alone bills for the 81st legislative session. As with every session there have been numerous bills related to gambling filed. By our count there are 75 this session.

At this point no major gambling bill is set for a hearing but several are sure to get hearings soon. It is important to remember that provisions expanding gambling in this state may also be amended on to any with at similar subject at any time during the session. The following is a breakdown of the bills filed by subject matter. 

14 Identical Gambling Bills filed in both the House and Senate (28 Total)

     5 – Relating to Eight-Liners
     2 – Relating to Lottery Commission
     2 – Relating to Racing Commission-Horse and Dog Tracks
     2 – Expansion- Casino/Video Lottery at Tracks
     1 – Expansion- Indian Casinos
     2 – Possible Vehicles/Non-Substantives

38  Individual Gambling Bills filed in the House

     3 – Relating to Eight-Liners
     5 – Relating to Lottery Commission
     2 – Relating to Racing Commission-Horse and Dog Tracks
     1 – Relating to Interim Gambling Study
     12 – Relating to Bingo
     6 – Expansion- Casino/Video Lottery at Tracks
     6 – Expansion- Indian Casinos
     2 – Expansion- Poker
     1 – Expansion- Keno

9  Individual Gambling Bills filed in the Senate

     4 – Relating to Eight-Liners
     3 – Relating to Lottery Commission
     1 – Expansion- Casino/Video Lottery at Tracks
     1 – Possible Vehicle

Criminal Justice
On Monday, March 16th the CLC appeared before the Subcommittee on Criminal Procedure of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in support of HB 788 (pdf)  by Rep. Thompson (D-Houston). The bill would create the Texas Innocence Commission as an independent body outside of the judicial, political and criminal justice system. The nine member commission would have the responsibility to 1) study all post conviction exonerations, 2) ascertain errors and defects in each case, 3) identify errors and defects in the criminal process generally, 4) develop solutions and methods to correct those defects, 5) identify procedures and programs to prevent future wrongful convictions and finally to 6) make any necessary policy recommendations to the governor and the legislature. The CLC provided the following testimony: 

 Established in 1950 the CLC speaks to and with Texas Baptists on matters of ethics, public policy and citizenship. We’ve long advocated for a criminal justice system that protects our citizens, pursues justice, and values offenders as fellow human beings worthy of a chance for rehabilitation. For several sessions now we have supported the creation of a Texas Innocence Commission. A wrongful conviction is a tragedy that is too often repeated. An innocence commission is a simple but effective step to insure that this tragedy occurs as seldom as possible. An innocence commission will help to protect the presumption of innocence that is the foundation of our system. It will help protect the public by insuring that the guilty are off the streets and reassure the public’s trust in the criminal justice system. An innocent commission will help the state learn from past mistakes by proposing improved procedures and will be one more mechanism that will aid in the pursuit of justice. The Christian Life Commission is happy to support HB 788 (pdf) by Rep. Thompson and urges passage.

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GALVESTON – Sitting on the grass in front of a pile of rubble, Tamara Brooks works quickly, quietly, carefully knocking the mortar off each brick. She chips away all day with a hammer and chisel, cleaning the bricks chip by chip. Full Story »

In the first overseas mission trip for Dallas Baptist University’s soccer and volleyball teams, students won the hearts of orphans there. Full Story »

Addiction is a difficult disease.  It affects many people and the family members who love them.  There’s not an easy answer to recovery.  For most people, it’s a journey of therapy, group meetings, structured support and a walk with God.  Central to the 12 steps is the idea that the addict most turn their life over to God.  Recovery does not just happen; it takes a surrender to God and acknowledgement that one is trusting in Him to carry the load.

Recovery is also experienced through group work.  The following are some group resources that you can contact that can help folks struggling with addictions.

Celebrate Recovery:  www.celebraterecovery.com

AA-Alcoholics Anonymous:

      Austin:  512-444-0071

      Dallas:  214-887-6699

      Houston:  713-686-6300

NA-Narcotics Anonymous:  800-747-8972

Gamblers Anonymous:  888-424-3577

Sex/Love Addicts Anonymous:  800-477-8191

We are excited to announce that the Christian Life Commission Substance Abuse Ministry is now producing podcasts

      ::  Podcast

      ::  Other Resources

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Our assumption is that if we encounter an act of injustice we will recognize it—that we will know it when we see it—and as a witness to injustice, we will be aghast.  We may trust instant recall about Jesus’ admonition to love God and neighbor as ourselves and envision acting as the Good Samaritan.  We will reach out across racial lines and respond with a corrective vigor, even if short of super-hero status, and act proactively to redress the grievance of injustice.

We may carry images of “spiritually good Christian” stories, believing our response to injustice would reflect images of comic book super heroes prepared to recoil.  It is worth asking then, when was the last time you sprang into action on behalf of racial injustice?  
What is racial injustice, you ask? Not noticed any lately?  We may not know it when we see it, after all.  

Racial injustice doesn’t happen in ways that grab our attention, because our attention has been tutored into skipping the hard parts. Let’s face it; most of us have been trained and are quite skilled at being blind to injustice.  We just don’t see it.  And when we do not see it, we fall short of Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In the recent DVD Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism, the voices and experiences of a variety of leaders explore honestly the ways in which we can begin to tutor our blind eyes into sight through biblical prompting and the willingness to face our weaknesses. This isn’t someone else’s history; it is our own.

In Beneath the Skin, Javier Elizondo, describes the common experience of race relations as the “tourist approach”.  We tour each other’s cultural and racial neighborhoods for brief periods, he says, without really making ourselves at home.

In her novella, The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros writes about her childhood fears upon leaving her safe Hispanic neighborhood as a metaphor for this experience: "All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes."

What surprise I felt to learn that Hispanic people did that in MY own neighborhood.  Could that be so?  Yes, and she speaks of my own white Christian neighborhood.  The scripture and ministry of Jesus show us that we need to come stay a while – long enough to see with solidarity the injustice that a person of color might sense and experience.

Reconciliation, if it is to happen at all, must come as a consequence of white Christians responding seriously and with action.  Too often when white Christians speak of forgiveness and reconciliation, words are a handy substitute for doing the hard work of experiencing human solidarity with blacks, Hispanics and other ethnic groups. As popular as the phrase “racial reconciliation” has become, it is only a sounding brass and tinkling symbol without sturdy acts of racial justice.
In the recent movie Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood is a widower who holds onto his prejudices despite the changes in his Michigan neighborhood and the world around him. He is a grumpy, tough-minded, and unhappy old man who is drawn against his will into the life of a Hmong family.  He steps up to protect them from the gangs that infest their neighborhood. Before he is able to cross the lines of race, he has to stay awhile with the unfamiliar and awkward culture of his neighbors. Their generosity is embarrassing; his response is unexpected. Eastwood is picture of a white American in the process of building solidarity with unfamiliar lives. And, his acts of justice lead to reconciliation.
Acting on justice rarely begins as a group experience. It takes individual people who will speak up—sometimes on matters of injustice that others may not even see.  That can be uncomfortable yet,  I am reminded of Jesus asking, when surrounded by a crowd, “Who touched me?” He was able to connect, in solidarity and compassion.  He responded to the woman’s faithful plea for help even when the crowd was oblivious to her need.  What kind of un-blinding do we need?

In our own meetings and in our own churches routine experiences marginalize people of color. When asked, people of color report:  Minority participants are invited to be present, but never recognized to speak; Minority participants are greeted cordially by Anglos, but not engaged in conversation: A minority church is discounted because their offering is only a small amount of total offerings; The promise to a minority group is not realized even after months of diligent work; Minority colleagues are ignored by their counterparts; Ignorance of culture is considered an excuse for insensitive behavior, rather than an opportunity to learn; Other language speakers are invited, but no translator is provided; Racial division is evident at meals and breaks.
On the final section of the Beneath the Skin DVD, the Ethics Daily spokespersons offer Five Ways Forward toward racial justice and racial reconciliation.  These steps may be lonely ones at first, but they are signs of a worthy Christian witness for our world–for those willing to reach out and become true brothers and sister in Christ:

      1.  Talk about racism – What stories do you have? When have your experienced
           or inflicted racism?

      2.  Make new friends – Be intentional; go outside your community in Jesus
           name.  Cross over into your own Samaria.

      3.  Act for justice – If you steal my pen and apologize, but you still have my
           pen, what use is the apology? Go beyond words.

      4.  Be courageous – Little risks are not little; they transform us and God can
           use us.

      5.  Be reconciled – We need to act like the reconciled people that Christ has
           already made us to be.
It is time to catch up to God’s vision for the church. Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism. Reference: Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), pp.389- 403.

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