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].

Criminal Justice

The Case to End Assembly Line Justice for Poor People in Harris County

A case heard by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week could change the landscape of American bail practices.

On October 1, 2016, police arrested Andrew Goodson for carrying a knife just short of 6 inches long, a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. The next day, guards brought him and dozens of other inmates into a large room at … Read More

Criminal Justice

Body Cam Policies in Texas Exacerbate a System Designed to Protect Police, Critics Say

Civil rights advocates worry interpretation of a 2015 body camera law could help cops avoid prosecution as much as it ensures police accountability.

The senator who drafted the sweeping-but-little-noticed body camera law that the Texas Legislature passed in 2015 called his bill a blueprint for other states wanting to establish baseline standards and help fund police departments that hadn’t yet adopted the technology. … Read More

Texas Legislature

Religious Right Takes Bathroom Fight Back to Schools after Defeat at Capitol

After failing to pass a “bathroom bill” at the Legislature, religious-right conservatives target LGBT-inclusive policies at schools.

On Monday, Allan Parker stood outside the San Antonio Independent School District’s David G. Burnet Center and asked everyone gathered to imagine Caitlyn Jenner’s dead body. Not that Parker wants Jenner dead or anything. But, he clarified, just think of … Read More

Ken Paxton
Texas Legislature

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

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

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