Today we have a message for the president. Texans are hurting from Hurricane Harvey, and it will take us years to recover. While it will be some time before the full damage estimates and economic impact of the storm are assessed, we can be sure that our great state’s recovery will take a long time. But we’re Texans, and we’re not afraid of the hard work ahead of us.
Texas has never seen a storm like Harvey. It is epochal.
On his Texas visit today the president will likely take advantage of some photo opportunities, and speak some self-described perfect words. He will no doubt make promises and try to burnish his presidential image. But the real measure of his response will not be if he appears more presidential, but rather his administration’s accomplishments in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Will that response tackle not only the misfortunes of the affluent in this disaster, but also the misfortunes of those his administration has habitually targeted from its start?
It is difficult to reconcile the forthcoming pledges to rebuild impacted areas of Texas with the president’s pardon of Joe Arpaio as the storm was bearing down on Houston (for ratings, he said), his refusal to close border patrol checkpoints on evacuation routes out of South Texas, his destruction of some of our state’s most treasured natural gems to make way for his border wall, and his imminent repeal of DACA. That’s why we’re showing up for Texas today during the president’s visit.
There has never ever been a natural disaster in the U.S. during which public officials have had to clarify numerous times that those seeking shelter from the storm and flooding will not be deported.
The test is simple. Will this administration start to take the threat of climate change seriously and begin tackling the technological and infrastructure challenges necessary to reduce the impact of future disasters like this one? Will this administration make sure that the poorest communities and communities of color – which suffer disparate impacts of natural disasters – recover from this storm? Or will those communities be offered only platitudes and empty gestures? Time will tell, but the recent actions of this administration make clear its steadfast refusal to extend the same consideration to those communities that it extends to the well-to-do. We are showing up today to make sure the administration knows we will not allow these concerns to be swept under the rug in the usual post-disaster niceties.
We also cannot forget that many other policies this administration pursues have negative impacts on our state, and when combined with the devastation from Harvey, further harm our state and our people.
The proposed border wall means Texans will lose their land through eminent domain, and fragile ecological regions will be decimated; even our own Senator John Cornyn’s recent border “security” bill doesn’t include funding for the president’s vision of this folly.
The nation’s largest inland port, Laredo, is on the front lines of the president’s Twitter war against against NAFTA. In 2015, Texas exported nearly $100 billion in goods to Mexico, and some 382,000 Texas jobs are linked to trade with Mexico. Targeting NAFTA hurts Texans and hurts our economy.
The president’s intention to rescind DACA, which is expected to happen this week, will have a disproportionate impact in Texas. Of the nearly 800,000 young adults whose DACA status has been approved, more than 25 percent of them live in Texas. They may have come to the U.S. as undocumented children through no fault of their own, but they have followed specific requirements to remain in the U.S. legally. As a result, they have graduated from colleges, started Texas businesses, bought homes, and built lives in Texas. For that they are being used to score political points by an administration determined to take a hard line on all immigrants regardless of status. He has used them as scapegoats. He lies about crime statistics to stigmatize a vulnerable group, and to stoke fear and hatred of all immigrants.
Trump’s policies will harm the Texas economy, which will be deeply strained during the long road of recovery from Harvey. We are already gearing up for the budget fights in Congress that could stifle the emergency relief we so desperately need.
Harvey has to be our top priority right now, as we anticipate thousands of evacuees coming to Austin. We have been and will continue supporting the rescuers and aid givers who need our volunteer hours and our financial and material assistance. But today we also need to send a message: Texans are great, resilient people, and we will do all we can to protect our state from policies that harm our residents and their livelihoods.