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Texas is suing the Department of Justice (DOJ) in federal court for blocking the implementation of a state voter identification law—passed to deter and detect election fraud—the Obama Administration claims discriminates against minorities.

The Texas Legislature passed the measure in 2011 and six months ago it was submitted to the DOJ for approval. More than a dozen states—including Kansas, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin—have similar laws that require voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls and the Obama Administration has launched a campaign to challenge them all.

Liberals claim the laws are discriminatory because many minorities are too poor or too ignorant to get a valid identification—provided free in most states that have passed voter ID laws—that proves they are who they say they are. In fact, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who chairs the Democratic National Committee, says voter ID laws are a “full-scale-assault” on minority voters designed to “rig” elections for Republicans.

With that said, the administration is utilizing the DOJ as a political tool to challenge voter ID measures like one already upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in 2008. In that case SCOTUS upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, ruling that the state’s interest in protecting the integrity of the voting process outweighed the insufficiently proven burdens the law may impose on voters. “There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters,” the nation’s highest court said in its decision.

This hasn’t deterred the DOJ’s mission to eliminate voter ID laws. In the Texas case, the agency must approve the measure because the Federal Voting Rights Act prohibits changes to election laws in certain states without federal clearance. The Texas Secretary of State’s Office has been waiting for the DOJ preclearance since last July, but the feds continue stalling, essentially blocking the law’s implementation.

Among the stall tactics employed by the DOJ is requiring Texas to provide extensive information before ruling one way or the other. For instance, the state must tell the DOJ the number of registered voters by race and Spanish surname in possession of a driver’s license or other form of photo ID. It must also provide the number of registered voters with Spanish surnames who don’t have a driver’s license.   

In its complaint, filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Texas says it doesn’t record citizens’ race when they register to vote so it is unable to determine the racial makeup of registered voters who lack state-issued IDs.  “Indeed, the very reason Texas refuses to maintain racial and ethnic data on its list of registered voters is to facilitate a colorblind electoral process, and Texas adopted this race-blind voter-registration policy shortly after the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” the complaint says.

State officials are asking the court to approve its voter ID law, assuring that the measure will not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or color, nor will it deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote because he is a member of a language minority group.

Appellate Court Reverses Decision by District Court Dismissing Judicial Watch Lawsuit Filed by Houston Police Sgt. Joslyn Johnson, Widow of Police Officer Murdered by Illegal Alien

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Washington, DC — September 13, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled in favor of Judicial Watch client Houston police sergeant Joslyn M. Johnson, the widow of a fellow police officer murdered by an illegal alien. The three-judge panel reversed a decision by the district court. Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit against the City of Houston’s illegal sanctuary policy will now continue (Johnson v. City of Houston (No. 10-207343)).As noted by the appellate court, under The Houston Police Department’s (HPD) illegal alien sanctuary policy “HPD officers are forbidden from notifying federal authorities that they have encountered a known illegal alien unless they arrest that person on a ‘separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor).’” Moreover, Houston’s sanctuary policy also prevents police officers from obtaining immigration information from a number of federal government databases. (The policy only allows police officers to check the “wanted” status of an illegal alien from a single federal database that tracks illegal aliens who have been convicted and deported for “drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, or serious violent crimes.”)
The lawsuit filed on September 21, 2009, claims that Houston’s sanctuary policies harm Sergeant Johnson’s ability to communicate with federal immigration officials.Officer Johnson “does not seek to detain or arrest persons in order to inquire about their immigration status,” Judicial Watch noted in its original complaint. “Rather plaintiff [Johnson] seeks to use her professional judgment to determine when it is appropriate to contact ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to inquire or provide information about a person’s immigration status if, in the course of carrying out her duties and responsibilities as a law enforcement officer, she has reason to believe a crime may have been committed.”The district court dismissed this lawsuit, ruling that Sgt. Johnson was precluded from bringing the lawsuit because the court had previously dismissed a separate lawsuit over the death of her husband. The appellate court reversed this decision, ruling that the lower court had incorrectly determined that Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit was essentially “duplicative” of her previous lawsuit and had therefore already been adjudicated.“This is a tremendous victory for Judicial Watch’s client Sgt. Joslyn Johnson, who will finally get her day in court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The City of Houston demonstrates the horrible harm that is caused by illegal alien sanctuary policies. We look forward to the opportunity to try to end Houston’s lawless sanctuary policies that place law enforcement officers and the citizens of Houston at risk.”On September 21, 2006, Sgt. Johnson’s husband, Officer Rodney Johnson, was making a routine traffic stop when he was shot and killed by Juan Leonardo Quintero-Perez, a previously deported Mexican national who had reentered and was living in the U.S. illegally. After reentering the U.S. illegally, Quintero-Perez had multiple interactions with the HPD before shooting and killing Officer Johnson, including at least one arrest for driving under the influence and citations for failing to stop and give information following an accident and driving with a suspended license.

Texas legislators have colluded with the governor to conceal public records associated with his extensive travel schedule by adding a secrecy clause to an unrelated education bill.The unscrupulous move comes as the Republican governor, Rick Perry, expands his travel schedule to explore a 2012 presidential run. Many of the trips are unrelated to state business (he’s meeting with party leaders and fundraisers in California this week) and several local media outlets are embroiled in a nasty legal battle to obtain the travel vouchers of Perry’s security detail.Two lower courts have ruled that the information should be public record and Perry has appealed the decisions to the Texas Supreme Court. In the meantime, the two-term governor had his lawmaker buddies help him out by enacting a measure to keep the information secret until it’s no longer that relevant.They did it by amending an existing school finance bill that passed in the Texas House and Senate this week. The last-minute addition will keep details of travel vouchers submitted by Perry’s Department of Public Safety security team secret for 18 months after trips are completed. By then Perry could be the nation’s commander-in-chief.One state senator (Republican Robert Duncan) justifies the new measure in a local newspaper by saying that it provides “a more balanced approach” than legislation that would have kept records permanently out of public view. Perry claims that releasing his security team’s taxpayer-funded travel expenses would compromise his safety.

Did Houston’s Illegal Alien Sanctuary Policy Enable a Previously Deported Illegal Alien Prostitute to Operate a Sex Trafficking Scheme Right under the Nose of the Houston PD?

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Washington, DC — June 20, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today it has obtained documents from the Houston Police Department detailing a shocking sex trafficking operation run by illegal aliens, including a former prostitute, Maria Rojas, who had previously been deported. The documents indicate that police officers responded to service calls to the business co-owned by Ms. Rojas on 60 occasions, and were well aware of the criminal activity taking place at these establishments, but apparently did not check the immigration status of any of the arrestees or Ms. Rojas. Houston, Texas, has in place an illegal alien sanctuary policy, Houston PD General Order 500-5, which prohibits police officers from inquiring about the citizenship status of any person.
On February 17, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced the indictment of Maria Rojas and her brother, Jose Luis Rojas, on sex trafficking conspiracy charges. They and eight co-defendants were also charged with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Maria Rojas, who was deported following a 1999 arrest for prostitution, was charged with illegally reentering the country after deportation.The indictment alleges that Maria and Jose Luis Rojas ran a sex slave trafficking ring since at least August 1999. The scheme involved luring young women into the country illegally from Mexico with false promises of employment, then forcing them to work as prostitutes at La Costeñita Bar and El Club Restaurante in Houston. Maria Rojas and Javier Guevara Belmontes (a legal resident) co-owned the locations. The remaining defendants were illegal aliens who served as managers or employees of the businesses.Judicial Watch filed an open records request with the Houston Police Department (HPD) on March 8, 2011, seeking documents related to police contacts with the individuals named in the indictment and police activity at the locations related to the conspiracy. Documents produced to Judicial Watch from the HPD show law enforcement officers responded to service calls at the businesses co-owned by Maria Rojas on average once a month over a five-year period and to a residence co-owned by Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes on an additional eight occasions:

  • Police documented 48 calls for service to La Costeñita between 2006 and 2011. Nine of these events involved vice squad investigations and/or arrests for prostitution, and during this time frame 12 individuals were arrested for prostitution. There were 17 cases of assault (including three shootings and a stabbing). There was one cocaine possession arrest (in May 2008) and one armed robbery arrest (in December 2007).
  • There were 12 documented police calls for service to El Club Restaurante between 2006 and 2010. These included four burglaries, two assaults and a shooting.
  • Between May 2006 and November 2010, Houston police responded to the residence of Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes eight times. On three occasions, police spoke with and documented a complaint by Jose Luis Rojas. On November 1, 2010, Jose Luis Rojas reported an armed robbery by six unknown assailants. Three weeks later, Jose Luis Rojas reported receiving a telephonic death threat.

According to the Houston Chronicle, police officers were well aware of the illegal activity taking place at the La Costeñita location:

So notorious is the bar that undercover Texas alcohol investigators long ago documented its seedy intricacies: an escape hatch, a hidden passageway leading to decrepit and gated houses of prostitution described as “horse stalls.” Federal, state and local agents learned by name and face many key characters who operated La Costenita and made repeated — but only partially successful efforts — to stop them. 

Despite the repeated visits to these establishments, Maria and Jose Luis Rojas continued to operate their sex trafficking operation unfettered for approximately a decade. A simple check with ICE about Ms. Rojas, any of the arrestees or the young girls forced into prostitution, would have indicated their illegal status, and might have led to the earlier termination of the sex slave trafficking ring.However, Houston is a de facto sanctuary city because of Houston PD General Order 500-5. The order, signed by former chief Sam Nuchia in January 1990, states in part that “officers shall not make inquiries as to the citizenship status of any person, nor will officers detain or arrest persons solely on the belief that they are in this country illegally. Officers will contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regarding a person only if that person is arrested on a separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor) and the officer knows the prisoner is an illegal alien.”“Sanctuary policies in Houston allowed young women to be victimized by illegal alien sex traffickers. Houston and other sanctuary cities undermine the rule of law and thwart control of our borders. And they lead to the brutal crimes associated with human trafficking. So while the Obama administration goes after Arizona for furthering our nation’s immigration laws, it ignores cities like Houston that think they don’t have to obey laws concerning illegal immigration,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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