Thanks to B. Rapoport for the generous opportunity to use his column in this journal to offer an update on the work of the Texas Civil Rights Project…. and we appreciate the many others who support the Project, like Sen. Ted Kennedy, who spoke at our 13th Bill of Rights Dinner last December. The Project, founded in 1990, is one of few of its kind in the country, and the only in-house general civil rights litigation and education program in Texas. We have offices in Austin and in the Rio Grande Valley, near San Juan, with a total of fourteen staff. In addition to our legal staff, Jackie Carton and Joy Authur spearhead our development and education efforts. We’ve had to deal with the legal aftermath of September 11, speaking out and writing against the Patriot Act. Wayne Krause, staff attorney of Georgetown vintage, recently settled a suit against American Airlines for a family of Indian origin, whom a captain removed from an airplane because of their Muslim-appearing name. They were en route to a family funeral in Chicago. The settlement includes anti-profiling training and procedures. Wayne also oversees our annual Americans with Disabilities anniversary campaigns, does police misconduct litigation, and supervises the law students from around the country who graciously come to volunteer with us. And, relating to the Patriot Act fallout, the mood of jurors and judges is less receptive to free speech. We’ve had to appeal two protest cases: one in Crawford, President Bush’s backyard, where the local police chief blockaded a caravan on the way to the ranch, and arrested five people; and the other, in Austin, where police used horses to keep demonstrators out of Bush’s sight, when he was in town, visiting at the Governor’s mansion. Human Rights Close to Home by James C. Harrington Sheri Tolliver, another staff attorney and Vanderbilt graduate, handles Title IX litigation and education. She is managing two cases against school districts regarding sexual abuse of young students by teachers and administrators. Sheri recently completed a sports equalization lawsuit in East Texas for high school girls. She also heads up our amicus curiae program, and is involved in children’s rights. For a few years now, we have operated a Violence Against program, staffed by newly-minted Juan Rios, and Jaime Ortiz \(of the es of citizens or legal residents, but who, themselves, do not have legal status. VAWA helps these women obtain legal status, remain in the country with their children, and find work, away from their abusive spouses. In thirteen years, TCRP has handled more than 620 cases, published seven reports about human rights in Texas \(including one on AD COURTESY OF THE BERNARD AND AUDRE RAPOPORT FOUNDATION 5400 Bosque Blvd., Suite 245 Bernard Rapoport Chairman of the Board “self-help” manuals \(on school peer published 200 op-ed pieces/letters, given 90 speeches and talks, conducted community and lawyer training for 22,000 people, and done countless press interviews. Our staff has sued over every kind of misconduct throughout Texas city police, sheriff deputies, Department of Public Safety officers, and Border Patrol agents. Jails in Hidalgo, El Paso, Henderson, Tom Green, Williamson, Bexar, Dallas, and Brown Counties do much more now in preventing inmate suicide, providing interpreters for deaf prisoners, protecting vulnerable inmates from sexual assault, and administering HIV medications. The South Texas Project has worked steadfastly to extend equal rights to farm laborers and colonia residents in the Valley. Under the direction of Oscar Ramirez, the Valley office recently opened new quarters, to better serve Texas’ “third world.” Sr. Moira Kenny, a Mercy sister and paralegal, and Jaime Ortiz have given years there as intrepid advocates. TCRP tries to use litigation and education in support of community organizing. Not only does legal work in that context help solidify the organizing results, it helps empower people to be bolder defenders of justice. This organizing component is critically important these days when both federal and Texas courts, especially appellate judges, are hostile toward civil rights. We must organize on the community level. As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, human rights are local, “where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity, without discrimination: 1That is the task of the Project, and for those who support civil rights. James C. Harrington is Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. TexasCivilRightsProject.org 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 4/23/04
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