POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Refugee Dumping s Several Valley refugee groups, led by the Rio Grande Valley Defense Fund, have called for a congressional investigation of Immigration and Naturalizaturning the area into “one big alien detention center.” The groups charge that INS agents are currently releasing some 20 to 30 Central American refugees into the region on their own recognizance every day. “They are literally dumping these people on the street corner with no place to go,” says Jeff Larson, a lawyer with the refugee defense organization, Proyecto Libertad. “They’re saying they can’t leave the Valley without some kind of reassurance that they’ll return for the hearing. As far as INS is concerned, that means that they have to have immediate family to relocate with, and that person has to be willing to find an attorney who will take the case and assure the government that he or she will come back when the time comes for the hearing.” According to Larson, the INS could not have picked a worse place to release so many refugees. The Rio Grande Valley, he said, simply cannot support them. “This area consistently has one of the worst employment rates in the country, if not the worst, and it has the least available social services in the state. “The reason INS is dropping these people on the streets is because there isn’t enough room in the detention camps. That’s how bad it is.” v A federal hearing on the Army Corps of Engineer’s controversial Wallisville Reservoir ended in early December, some twelve years after an injunction was issued halting construction on the project. Sponsored locally by the city of Houston and the Trinity River Authority, the reservoir was nearly threequarters finished in 1973 when U.S. District Judge Carl 0. Bue ruled the Corps had conducted a faulty environmental impact study. Eight years later, a comprehensive re-study of the 19,700acre project was released, predicting fish and wildlife losses of $1 million annually. In 1983, Congress approved a scaleddown version of the reservoir that reduced the original design to 5,600 acres. However, in preparing the draft legislation for Congress, the Corps referred to a 1982 “supplemental report” that, contrary to its 1981 study, concluded the project would actually benefit fish and wildlife. Environmental groups argue that the revised figures rely on the same research the Corps used in their 1981 report, which was never coordinated with fish and wildlife agencies. One Corps witness, planning chief William G. Wooley of the Galveston district, testified that the Corps wanted to show benefits with the smaller project so the chief of engineers could approve it without going through the full-scale congressional review required for new projects, according to Houston Post reporter Harold Scarlett. Judge Bue is expected to make a final decision some time early this year. v Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower has announced the grand opening of his statewide re-election campaign headquarters at 605 W. 18th St. in Austin on January 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. Medium as Message V An attempt by Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire to bring the reality of farmworker conditions home to Washington bureaucrats didn’t get far in Congress. Proxmire had drafted an amendment to the Labor Department’s appropriations bill that would have prohibited funds for new toilets and hand-washing facilities in the Labor Department until they acted on a field sanitation law for farmworkers. An aide to Proxmire said the amendment was pulled down and Proxmire was advised to bring the matter before the appropriate committee in the form of a bill. Labor Secretary Bill Brock decided on October 18 that all states should promulgate field sanitation standards within the next 18 months. The department is now waiting to see how the states act, before dealing further with the question of federal standards. Texas has had a field sanitation rule since the summer of 1983. A spokeswoman at the Labor Department said Proxmire’s amendment was taken as a tongue-in-cheek measure, but “we understood the message they were trying to send.” V The anti-homosexual political cam paign that festered in Houston during the November mayoral and city council races seems to have dried up, at least for now. Steven Hotze, who led the Campaign for Houston and the “Straight Slate,” told the Houston Chronicle recently that the slate “was a one-time thing.” Although the issue of gay rights issue polarized the city during its referendum against discrimination based on sexual preference, defeated by a 4-1 margin, it failed to mobilize voters in the mayoral election. The group didn’t manage to unseat Mayor Kathy Whitmire or any of the eight incumbent city council members, primarily because it didn’t address the broader issues of the campaign. Dr. Richard Murray, a University of Houston political science professor, said the slate’s message “didn’t appeal to blacks, Hispanics, and many white middle-class voters the demographics of the city don’t lend themselves to that type of campaign.” V A $900 million increase for new safety inspections announced in November by owners of Comanche Peak nuclear power plants raises the total cost overrun to a whopping $3.78 billion. With the new delay, the $5.46 billion albatross should be primed for commercial operation some time around mid1987 a mere seven years off schedule. V What with the host of pending federal investigations, the sundry penalties for misconduct, and, only this month, an indictment that includes the corporation and four present and former executives, you might be tempted to assume that General Dynamics is in a heap of trouble. Not to worry. According to the Washington Analysis Corp., a private research group that monitors monthly military contract awards, General Dynamics has won $6.6 billion worth of Pentagon contracts in the first ten months of 1985. That is more than double the value of the contracts awarded the corporation during the same period in 1984. The research group predicts that General Dynamics will have supplanted McDonnell Douglas as the nation’s largest military contractor by the end of 1985, according to a report by Richard Halloran in the New York Times. Political Intelligence is reported by Jeff Ruoff and Richard Kallus. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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