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:

Human Rights

Where the Bodies are Buried

In 1910, East Texas saw one of America’s deadliest post-Reconstruction racial purges. One survivor’s descendants have waged an uphill battle for generations to unearth that violent past.

In 1910, East Texas saw one of America’s deadliest post-Reconstruction racial purges. One survivor’s descendants have waged an uphill battle for generations to unearth that violent past. – by Michael Barajas July 15, 2019  A twisting, tree-lined road carried … Read More

Julian Castro, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks to supporters during a rally in San Antonio, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

How Julián Castro’s ‘Decade of Downtown’ Reshaped San Antonio

The presidential hopeful has branded himself as an affordable housing visionary. But his record in San Antonio on this issue is more complicated.

In January 2010, eight months into his job as mayor, Julián Castro delivered his vision for San Antonio to the city’s business and political elites. Inside a packed ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Hotel downtown, Castro vowed to create thousands … Read More

A military handler wears a Ray Allen dog trainer bite suit. The suit Donnelly wore weighed 75 pounds.
Criminal Justice

Death of Dog Trainer Highlights Strenuous Heat and Working Conditions at Texas Prisons

Seth Donnelly was one of the many inmates Texas prison officials use as prey for dog hunts. He died from heatstroke after collapsing on the job in Abilene.

Seth Donnelly desperately wanted to get out of the kitchen. Ever since the 29-year-old got his HVAC certification in prison, he applied for maintenance jobs — highly sought-after assignments in lockup — but a dumb tattoo always seemed to get … Read More

LGBT Rights

Fort Worth Professors Fight to End Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination Against LGBTQ Couples

Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin sued after a government-funded Catholic group blocked them from fostering refugee children. A court ruling this month allows their case to go forward.

In 2017, Catholic Charities of Fort Worth reached out to Fatma Marouf, a law school professor at Texas A&M University. Marouf, who directs the school’s immigrant rights clinic, seemed like a natural ally for the Catholic group, the only organization … Read More

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.
Criminal Justice

‘A Mockery of Public Trust’: Bexar Sheriff Cleans House, Angers Deputies’ Union

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar is feuding with his deputies' union in the midst of a bout of scandals.

Javier Salazar has bounced between scandals since he took over the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in 2017. During his first year, the department drew national attention after deputies gunned down a woman wielding a metal pipe they’d mistaken for a … Read More

Ken Paxton
Criminal Justice

The System Works for Attorney General Ken Paxton. Again.

A court decision this week could be the coup de grâce that finally ends the attorney general’s four-year-old felony case.

The criminal justice system humiliates, maims and destroys some people. For a sick grandmother dependent on Social Security, traffic tickets can result in repeat trips to jail. A homeless, transgender woman accused of shoplifting from a department store can spend … Read More

A "Save America Vote Republican" sign in Marquez.

Texas Republicans Poised to Make Voting ‘Harder, Scarier and More Confusing’

SB 9’s passage out of committee Friday sets the stage for a heated debate over voting rights in the waning days of the session.

A bill raising criminal penalties for certain election-related offenses and imposing new voting restrictions cleared a major hurdle Friday, setting the stage for yet another floor debate over voter suppression at the Texas Legislature. On a party line vote, the … Read More

elsa alcala, texas defender service, death penalty
Criminal Justice

The Dissenter

Texas’ highest criminal court turned Elsa Alcala into one of the state’s most prominent death penalty critics.

Elsa Alcala began her legal career in the Harris County DA’s office, joining a prosecutorial machine famous for cranking out death sentences. Three decades later, she’s a prominent critic of the death penalty. Alcala, a Republican, says serving as an … Read More

sandra bland
Criminal Justice

Four Years Later, Sandra Bland’s Arrest Continues to Sow Distrust in Law Enforcement

New reporting shows that Sandra Bland recorded her infamous 2015 arrest. Authorities never told her grieving family.

After Sandra Bland’s death in the Waller County jail became a national scandal, former Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia struggled to justify her ugly roadside arrest. While Encinia had only stopped Bland for a simple traffic violation … Read More