Beyond City Limits
The Detention Watch Network has launched an interactive online map of U.S. immigration detention center locations. According to a DWN press release announcing the launch, these locations are typically "shrouded in secrecy with isolated and remote facilities scattered across the country. ... It is heartbreaking to see families struggle to find a loved one in detention." The map provides clickable access to more than 350 centers that detain both documented and undocumented immigrants after apprehension by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. DWN released its first such map in April 2007, and it proved useful to detainee families, the media, and Congress, according to the DWN. The improved second edition offers a "visual representation of the immigration detention world" with a separate page for each center including visitation information. DWN says ICE has increased work-site arrests sevenfold since 2002; a new ploy is to charge detainees with "identity theft" to more readily deport them. The map will help families and attorneys find detainees as well as "educate the public ... about this hidden system," said DWN coordinator Andrea Black. Near Austin, the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Taylor has gained notoriety for jailing children. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/dwnmap for more. – Patricia J. Ruland
President George Bush met this week with leaders of some of the world's wealthiest countries for the annual Group of Eight Summit in Hokkaido, Japan, where they addressed aid to Africa, rising food and oil prices, and global climate change – and agreed to "consider and adopt" the goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 50% by 2050. The agreement represents both a step forward from last year, when leaders agreed only to "consider" cutting emissions, and a step back: Last summer, the agreement would've cut emissions to half of what they were in 1990; now, the baseline has been moved to the current, significantly higher emissions levels. – Nora Ankrum
The Texas Democratic Party is considering reforming the "Texas two-step," the complicated process of using both a primary and caucuses to select presidential delegates to the Democratic National Convention. The Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Party Convention/Caucus System held its first meeting July 7 at the Austin Community College Health Science Building to hear invited testimony from party Chair Boyd Richie. Putting the confusion that surrounded this year's process down to the extraordinary turnout, Richie suggested moving the precinct conventions from the night of the primaries to the following weekend and increasing protections against incorrect or fraudulent paperwork being submitted. But others back more radical solutions: At the party's state convention on June 7, reformers proposed completely ending caucuses. Delegates overwhelmingly rejected the proposal, preferring instead to give the committee time to complete its public consultation process, which will include meetings open to the public. Richie echoed that decision on Monday and added, "No matter what this committee finally decides to recommend, it is vital that we get as much input as possible." – R.W.
Voters in West Texas' House District 81 will get to vote twice for their state representative in the Nov. 4 election. Incumbent Rep. George "Buddy" West, R-Odessa, died on June 25, leaving the seat vacant and triggering a special election. But West had lost a primary challenge from Tryon Lewis, who faces Libertarian Elmo Hockman in the general election. Now Gov. Rick Perry has set the special election for the same day as the general election. The winner of the special election will hold the seat until the beginning of the next legislative session on Jan. 13, 2009, when the winner of the general will take over. Depending on who files, this could mean two different candidates win the same seat on the same ballot on the same day. This is not unprecedented: In 2006, Shelley Sekula Gibbs won the special election to finish U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's term, but she was not on the ballot for the general election, which was won by Democrat Nick Lampson. Filing for this special election runs until Aug. 29. – R.W.
A draft 2008 Texas State Energy Plan was issued last month by the Governor's Competitiveness Council, a group of Gov. Rick Perry-appointed industry leaders, public- and higher-education officials, and state regulatory agency reps. Assuming "Texas consumers will bear significant costs should the federal government decide to impose draconian, costly carbon regulation," the plan recommends forming "a private-public partnership among industrial and large commercial energy customers, petroleum and [electric] generation companies, chambers of commerce, [state regulatory agencies] to educate the public on the cost of carbon regulation to Texans." While the plan's backward stance on climate change was blasted by greens, as was its call for "large amounts of coal-fired generation," enviros praised certain recommendations, like offering state incentives on solar power for low-income housing, expediting approval for beefier power lines to serve West Texas wind farms, raising energy-efficiency goals while increasing funding for customer education, and rapidly deploying "smart meters" that give customers peak energy-usage info. Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson led the council; in mid-June, he announced he'd resign his state job to join Luminant, formerly TXU Corp., among the state's largest miners and burners of coal. Read the full report at www.governor.state.tx.us/gcc. – Daniel Mottola