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:

ice, houston, immigration
Criminal Justice

‘A Watershed Moment’ for Bail Reform in Harris County

Advocates for criminal justice reform say this week’s settlement in Harris County’s bail lawsuit could reverberate far beyond Texas.

Bail reform isn’t a particularly controversial plank of the broader movement to end mass incarceration. In fact, it was a Republican jurist, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who in 2017 warned the GOP-dominated Legislature that strict bail policies … Read More


Finger-Wagging, but No Oversight, for Texas Redistricting

A federal court delivers a stern warning but no relief despite Texas’ long history of deliberately discriminatory voting laws.

Even though Texas lawmakers deliberately discriminated against minority voters the last time they drew congressional and state district lines, the Texas Legislature will create new maps in 2021 without the safety net of federal oversight. A panel of three federal … Read More

In this June 22, 2017, file photo, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a news conference in Dallas. Special prosecutors who've spent nearly four years trying to bring Paxton to trial on securities fraud charges are facing another setback, throwing the case into new uncertainty. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, refused to reconsider a 2018 ruling that effectively denied special prosecutors nearly $200,000 they say they're owed. Prosecutors have threatened to quit if they're not paid. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
Criminal Justice

Ken Paxton Wants ‘Ultimate Home Field Advantage’ in Felony Case

Paxton, it seems, would rather watch his case implode from the comfort of his own backyard.

A couple of years ago, the private lawyers hired to prosecute the three felony charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton came up with a nickname for the clique of North Texas surrogates and supporters trying desperately to quash his … Read More

person alone on a swingset

Will Texas Keep Fighting Foster Care Reform?

More than three years ago, a federal judge handed down court orders to reform Texas’ foster care system. And for more than three years, state lawyers have fought against those orders.

It’s been more than three years since a federal judge ruled that Texas dumps some of the state’s most vulnerable children into a foster care system “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm.” Following a 2015 trial … Read More

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