First, some full disclosure: I voted for White as mayor of Houston when I lived there. I generally like White, and found him to be a VAST improvement as mayor over his recent predecessors. I am NOT an unqualified fan of Rick (Gov. Goodhair) Perry. I regard him with a healthy degree of skepticism, which I insisted on bringing to the Bill White event. Both candidates richly deserve to be viewed skeptically.
Second, and without any desire to slam the hosts at this TEA Party event, this was undoubtedly the weakest excuse for a "town hall" I can imagine. I have no idea why, but the organizers elected to have this event "moderated" by a guy with some connection to their organization. This translated to the moderator addressing White, with virtually no input from voters except via some note cards bearing questions that were passed to the "moderator". The moderator mangled the questions on the cards, distilled the subject-matter according to his own lights, and generally failed to press White on direct answers to direct questions. In short, it reeked. A town hall should be an open-forum, hurly-burly, give-and-take between people and those who represent...or hope to represent...them. TEA Party people should know this, if anybody does.
As a result of this format, White was able to get away with a lot of evasion, deflection, and filibustering.
Mr. White made a fairly extended opening comment, which was a slick, packaged stump speech in the "aw-shucks, I just want to serve you" mode...which was much to be expected. He has made no secret that he hopes to peel off GOP voters, and he seems to have settled on a few themes he expects will work to that end.
- Local governance is the best governance
- He's a strong backer of the Second Amendment ("owns a pistol")
- Any notion that Houston under White was a sanctuary city is "a myth and a lie"
- Immigration enforcement via an Arizona-type law would damage police function
- Cap and Trade isn't the right solution (which may mean it isn't economically invasive enough)
- In spite of No. 1 (above), he's good with dictating where kids can go to school
White was asked to comment on Perry's remarks that the Arizona law was not a good fit for Texas (with which a LOT of us strongly disagree, BTW). Instead of answering the question he was asked, White took off on his own, pat prepared themes on immigration policy. During his riff, White declared that, "Felons should not get driver's licenses", which I'm sure was a mistake made in his lather to get out his red meat talking points.
Mr. White knows that Texans...especially conservative Texans...want criminal illegals (those with records or who are actively committing crime BESIDES being here illegally) out of our state. So this is one area where he can authentically SOUND tough, and where his record backs his rhetoric...to SOME degree. As Houston's mayor, White was vocal about getting criminal aliens off the street, and actually DID some things effective in that direction. But that is hardly the whole story.
White went on to re-state a theme he has used for years; if we divert police from normal beat functions to make them immigration agents, our public safety will suffer. It is a canard you often hear from the collective, and even some conservatives. It is deductively foolish and false, and a straw-man argument to boot. The Arizona law obviously does not convert peace officers into immigration agents, and their contacts with illegal aliens will come (according to the plain meaning of the law) only as a collateral result of normal police work. I believe Bill White knows this perfectly well, and has always known it.
The idea that allowing Houston police to effectively enforce immigration policy would be too costly and detrimental to good policing is one White has proffered for years. It never held water, and it DOES expose him to criticism as a "sanctuary city" advocate.
This was a hot issue with White. He declared any suggestion that Houston under his tenure was a "sanctuary city was a myth and a lie". This, naturally, peeked my interest. I've learned that when you get a lot of heat in a denial, it is often because the denier is guilty as hell. This became a subject of some research.
What I learned is that Houston has, indeed, been considered a sanctuary city...and authoritatively so...under Bill White. Much more important to me, Houston was effectively a sanctuary city, following a Bill White policy which seems designed to at once give him the patina of illegal alien crime fighter, while at the same time doing nothing to put life in that image, perhaps as a sop to his collectivist race-baiting wing.
White was sufficiently wed to this policy that he risked angering his police department rank and file, which is anathema to a big TEXAS city mayor. White claimed during his presentation that ICE had full access to City Of Houston jail computers, and implied that thousands of illegals were referred to ICE as a result. Statements from ICE officials during his term as mayor refute this.
Without question, we know that there has been a long-standing HPD directive that puts effect into the White meme that good, aggressive immigration enforcement only comes at the expense of good criminal suppression. It would be worthwhile to examine that idea, especially since we see it repeated so often in the current debate on immigration.
Consider this mechanism: a peace officer, in the normal course of his or her duties, makes a fully justified "police contact" with an illegal alien. Perhaps this is in connection with something as innocuous as a traffic stop, or with something as awful as a child molestation. In the course of the interaction, the illegal status of the alien becomes apparent, or is at least reasonably suspected (a HIGHLY defined and developed term of art in criminal law, BTW). Or, in another setting, an illegal alien gets to visit the city jail as a guest, and their status is checked and discovered. How does it REMOTELY cost good crime fighting in either case for the city to ALWAYS refer the illegal alien to ICE? I suggest the opposite is true, and for this reason; illegal aliens are disproportionately likely to commit crime, as compared to other segments of our population.
In fact, I think it deductively obvious that RELEASING an illegal alien from either a custodial stop or actual incarceration is IRRESPONSIBLY EXPENSIVE. We have them; we know or can learn their status; how is "catch and release" anything but a poke in the eye of immigration law...or effective police work? A very good case can be made that the White policy...which is used by other Texas mayors...cost several peace officers their lives.
I encourage you to read through the links I provide. Link to the links they offer, too. I do not vouch for the verity of these resources, especially as some are patently anti-White. I merely cite to them to provide you with a research thread you can follow to learn what you can.
My conclusion on the issue of immigration is that White has been carefully misrepresenting his actual actions while in office, and his intentions if elected governor. I found his remarks disingenuous, especially in light of hard evidence...and my own subjective feeling as I listened to the man.