There’s much flurry in the Lone Star State about possibly locating your HQ2 here. Some Texas cities are among the 238 North American locations that have submitted proposals, hoping you will locate there. The proffered Amazon carrot is the potential of 50,000 jobs; the quid pro quo is financial incentives from the applicants.
However, no matter how sweet a city’s offer might be, I respectfully urge you not to locate in Texas because of the state’s stiff anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant climate.
The current hostility toward Hispanics and immigrants is part of a long, pervasive, and poisonous history that has infected Texas since its beginning. But, unlike other areas of the country, Texas is not trying to undo its past, but to double down on it.
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Particularly culpable are our “unholy trinity” of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton. Rather than trying to build Texas into a solid racially, ethnically and culturally diverse society, they thrive on division.
Here are four examples for you to consider. They are hardly the actions of the “friendly” state.
First, Texas passed a voter ID law to make it more difficult for people to vote. After decades of minority groups struggling to win the franchise, Texas politicians are trying to take it away again. A federal judge has ruled the Legislature deliberately passed the law to disenfranchise minority voters.
Second, not only do the politicians try to keep minorities from voting, they gerrymander virtually any district, whether congressional or local school boards, to make sure minorities can’t elect their own representatives. Some of Texas’ congressional districts are so bizarrely drawn they make the notorious 1812 Massachusetts “gerrymander” seem like coherent art. Here, too, the federal courts found our Legislature engaging in conscious discrimination.
Third is the infamous Senate Bill 4, which the governor signed in the dark of night, over the strong remonstrance of the Hispanic community.
SB 4, Texas’ “show me your papers” law, which a federal court has temporarily blocked, is the worst discrimination law any state has passed in recent times. It opens the door wide to racial profiling and has already begun to drive immigrant victims of crime, spousal abuse and human trafficking underground, doubly victimizing them. It will break up families, deporting parents of U.S.-born kids — no matter how long people have lived here or how hard they have worked to better Texas as decent law-abiding people.
The hard-right, gerrymandered Texas Legislature passed SB 4 over the widespread objections from local law enforcement agencies and the business community. Police believe SB 4 will discourage immigrant victims of crime or witnesses from contacting them, thus making the community less safe.
SB 4 prohibits local authorities from adopting policies that prevent police officers from asking people about their immigration status. The law strips local authorities of their right to decide when it is appropriate to report unauthorized immigrants to federal authorities.
Finally, as all this were not enough reason for Amazon to skip over Texas, Attorney General Paxton jumped on his anti-immigrant bandwagon and threatened to sue the Trump administration to end the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which happened.
DACA protects young unauthorized residents brought to the country as children before 2012 from deportation and allows them a renewable two-year work permit. Paxton would deport them, even though they really have no homeland other than this country. He would expel them from college and take away their gainful employment as teachers, lawyers and the like.
Amazon should follow the example of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The 15,000-member organization of attorneys and law professors canceled its three-day convention in Grapevine next year. The event will relocate outside Texas because of the “dangerous, destructive and counterproductive” SB 4. About 3,000 people attend the convention.
No doubt there will be hand-wringing about this request and strong cuss words. Cities and others will argue this is misguided and shortsighted, that bringing HQ2 to Texas will benefit everyone, including Hispanics. It’s the old worn “a rising tide lifts all boats” maxim. But for Texas’ political leaders it is really more of a “lift all yachts” desire.
Until state officials jettison SB 4, halt their war on immigrants and pay heed to the voices of law enforcement, business associations and the Hispanic community, Amazon should locate its second headquarters elsewhere.
James C. Harrington, a human rights lawyer, is founder and director emeritus of the Texas Civil Rights Project.