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:

Speedy Roo, the mascot of the payday loan lender Speedy Cash, in an Austin advertisement.
Politics

Payday Lenders Are Working Hard to Keep Texas the ‘Wild West’ in Trump Era

Payday lenders in Texas have sued to block federal rules that advocates say are desperately needed to protect borrowers in a state that has failed to regulate the industry.

Texas is often called the “Wild West” of predatory lending, an anything-goes wonderland where payday and auto title loan businesses can charge low-income people vertigo-inducing fees whenever they desperately need a cash advance to, say, keep the lights on or … Read More

bail, galveston, aclu
Criminal Justice

Galveston Lawsuit Is Writing on the Wall for Other Counties that Haven’t Ended ‘Wealth-Based Detention’

The lawsuit is now one of several across Texas seeking to end the practice of keeping people in jail just because they’re poor.

Last summer, the ACLU of Texas warned that Galveston County operates an unconstitutional bail system. In a letter to county officials, ACLU staff attorney Trisha Trigilio told county officials that holding defendants for days without counsel or a meaningful bail … Read More

dallas, secret bail bond, civil rights
Criminal Justice

Bail Lawsuit Accuses Dallas County of Violating Poor People’s Rights in Secret Hearings

“Dallas must open these hearings so that a bright light can be shed on the devastating, mass violations of civil and human rights that are happening in the jail every day.”

Bail Lawsuit Accuses Dallas County of Violating Poor People’s Rights in Secret Hearings “Dallas must open these hearings so that a bright light can be shed on the devastating, mass violations of civil and human rights that are happening in … Read More

border patrol, shooting, hernandez
Border

Courts: Police Can Shoot and Kill People As Long They Are Across the Border

Civil rights groups fear the courts are surrendering the judicial oversight necessary to rein in one of the nation’s largest police forces.

On June 7, 2010, while on patrol near the bridge connecting Juarez to El Paso, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. fired his gun into Mexico and struck Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca below his left eye, killing the unarmed … Read More

Criminal Justice

AG Opinion: Texas Cops Under Investigation Can Watch ‘Any’ Body Cam Footage Before Answering Questions

Some fear the policy will let officers get their story straight about questionable police encounters before putting anything on record.

If a Texas cop outfitted with a body camera shoots someone, they get to review not only their own footage but that of every other body cam-wearing officer at the scene before answering questions about it. Thanks to a Monday … Read More

Criminal Justice

Texas Prison System Sheds Men, Swallows Even More Women

Report says rise in incarcerated women hints at disparities in the male-dominated criminal justice system.

More than 10,000 of the 12,500 women in Texas prisons have children waiting for them back home. Not only are incarcerated women much more likely to be parents than men, most of them aren’t in prison for a violent offense, … Read More

bexar county, da race, marijuana
Civil Rights, Elections 2018, News

San Antonio, Dallas Primaries Could Usher in Prosecutors Who Promise a More Equal Criminal Justice System

Reformers have targeted Texas primary races where candidates promise bail reform and jail diversion.

South Texas can create a curious kind of conservative-leaning Democrat, but bizarre behavior by Nicholas “Nico” LaHood during his first term as Bexar County District Attorney puts him in a league of his own. LaHood called Islam “horrifically violent” on … Read More

Civil Rights, News

Oscar-Nominated Documentary Highlights the Routine Brutality of a Texas Traffic Stop

Breaion King’s arrest was quotidian to police, life-altering for her and reveals the chasm between police and the people they’re supposed to protect and serve.

“I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?” That’s what an irritated Sandra Bland asked the Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who pulled her over for failing to use her turn signal on July … Read More

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