Michael Barajas

Michael Barajas is a staff writer covering civil rights for the Observer. Before joining the Observer, he was editor of the San Antonio Current and managing editor of the Houston Press. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. You can reach him on Twitter or at [email protected].

By Michael Barajas:

Ken Paxton
Politics

Supreme Court Decision Means 2018 Elections Could Use ‘Discriminatory’ Maps

The high court’s intervention raises the possibility that next year’s election may feature “intentionally discriminatory” congressional and state House districts.

In a 5-4 decision late Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the latest round in Texas’ marathon redistricting case, raising the possibility that next year’s elections could feature districts that the courts have already found were drawn with … Read More

Arkema Crosby
Environment

Your Right Not to Know About that Exploding Chemical Plant Near Houston

Texas lets companies keep chemical inventories secret, even when their plants become dangerous enough to evacuate the surrounding neighborhood.

Texas allows petrochemical plants to keep chemical inventories secret, even when those plants have become dangerous enough to evacuate the surrounding neighborhood. Why this basic information is no longer public speaks to the absurdity with which Texas, home to the nation’s petrochemical epicenter, regulates the industry. Read More

hurricane harvey
Environment

Dams Meant to Save Houston from Extreme Floods Pushed to the Limit Twice in Two Years

Houston’s aging flood reservoirs have seen two 100-year floods in as many years.

For the better part of a century, the Addicks and Barker dams have held back water that would have otherwise surged through Buffalo Bayou, the flood-prone waterway that snakes through downtown Houston before dumping into the Gulf. This week, for the second time in as many years, a storm has pushed the Addicks and Barker dams to their limit. Read More

Criminal Justice

In San Antonio, Cops Punch Down

Supervisors say a San Antonio cop was justified in punching an unarmed 14-year-old girl in the face.

The San Antonio Police Department’s use-of-force manual encourages officers to “attempt to de-escalate tense situations.” De-escalation apparently didn’t work for officer Gary Tuli, who in late May was caught on a bystander’s video punching an unarmed 14-year-old girl in the … Read More

Criminal Justice

Deputies Go Unpunished for Invasive Cavity Search on Houston Roadside

This month prosecutors unexpectedly dropped charges against Harris County deputies accused of violating a woman during a 2015 traffic stop.

The courts have long ruled that warrantless body cavity searches are, in most circumstances, unconstitutional. Impromptu roadside anal and vaginal probes are prohibited by both state law and policies adopted by many of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies, including … Read More

Human Rights

Houston City Employees are Fighting to Uphold Marriage Equality in Texas

Couples turn to the federal courts after Texas’ highest court ruled against benefits for same-sex spouses of government employees.

Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country, Texas couples are still fighting for marriage equality in court. On Thursday, three married couples from Houston filed a lawsuit in federal court … Read More

Criminal Justice

Meet the Expert Who Helps Texas Cops Justify Extreme Behavior

Gilbert Flores’ hands were raised when two Bexar County deputies shot and killed him. A former cop who’s trained thousands of state police officers explains why he thinks that’s OK.

Gilbert Flores was already taunting the cops when his mother called 911 the morning of August 28, 2015. “My son, he’s gone crazy, I think he’s on drugs, I’m not sure but he’s crazy,” she told the dispatcher. She’d heard … Read More

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