Tag Archives: Greg

UFC 264: Tai Tuivasa knocks out Greg Hardy and celebrates with a ‘shoey’

Tai Tuivasa ensured the fans had a night to remember before the UFC 264 clash between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier as he delivered a stunning knockout, then celebrated with his trademark toast to the fans.

Australian knockout artist Tuivasa faced fellow heavyweight contender Greg Hardy on the main card of UFC 264 in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

And the fun-loving heavyweight had the crowd grinning from the moment his walkout music hit the speakers in the T-Mobile Arena.

That’s because, unlike the usual fighter choices of rap, R&B or heavy metal, Tuivasa opted to dance his way to the octagon to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” as the crowd sang along and danced in the stands as he made his way to the cage.

Once he stepped through the cage door and prepared for battle, the Aussie faced a formidable foe.

Former NFL player Hardy had been marked out as a potential contender of the future, but Tuivasa had no respect for the American’s athletic credentials as he immediately set about dismantling his opponent with leg kicks and heavy punches.

But, just as Tuivasa seemed to be settling into his work, Hardy clipped the Australian with a solid right hand that had Tuivasa on wobbly legs.

Spying his moment to move in and score a first-round finish, Hardy stepped into range, looking to land a knockout blow.

But, with the crowd expecting Hardy to close the show, Tuivasa exploded and connected with a huge left hand that sent Hardy crashing to the canvas.

It was a stunning knockout, but Tuivasa was far from finished entertaining the crowd.

After the knockout, Tuivasa climbed the cage and sat atop the fence, where he was passed a can of beer, which he proceeded to pour into a training shoe before downing it to huge cheers from the 20,000-strong crowd inside the T-Mobile Arena.

Tuivasa said after his victory that Hardy’s decision to stand and bang with him was a bad choice.

“Ah man, he wanted to bang with me,” he told Joe Rogan after his win.

“I’m not the right guy to bang with. Pick another bloke!”

And he elaborated further backstage as he talked through his knockout finish.

“I’m 28 years old and that’s my ninth fight in the UFC,” he said.

“I think I’ve got another 10 or 12 years in me. I think in the next year and a bit I want to try and have a run for the gold. I’m in this to feed my family, but I’m only 28. Who knows?

“I wanted to hit him. After I saw him afterwards, he had a few bumps and bruises. He deserved them.

I knew I could take care of Greg Hardy. He got what he deserved.

It’s about maturity. He hit me and I felt a bit wobbled. The old me would have put my head down and thrown the fists. I took a couple of steps back and gathered myself.”

Gov. Greg Abbott downplays electric grid concerns as Texans are told to conserve

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday downplayed concerns about the reliability of the Texas electric grid while millions continue to be told to conserve energy because of unexpected outages and demand.

“Everyone who has been trying to make a big deal about the power grid over the past two days, I have found were the same people who called me a neanderthal when I opened Texas 100%,” Abbott said during a press conference on his plan to build a wall along Texas’ southern border with Mexico. “They were hoping that there would be a power failure.”

While the request from ERCOT that Texans reduce their energy consumption during peak times — 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. — through Friday caused many to see flashbacks of February’s extreme winter storm, Abbott said the announcement was the first example that communication has improved since then.

He added that reforms made by the state legislature to the electric grid – like requiring electricity providers to prepare for extreme weather – will take time to implement.

“I can tell you for a fact, as we’re sitting here today, the energy grid in Texas is better today than it’s ever been,” Abbott said.

This image shows the inside of ERCOT’s control room located in Taylor, TX. The control room operators monitor energy levels inside Texas’ power grid around the clock. (Courtesy: ERCOT)

ERCOT briefed members of the Texas House Wednesday morning about the issues facing the grid this week. The unexpected failure of thermal generation plants, less wind power generation than projected, and higher demand for power led to the call for conservation, according to state Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, who was on the call.

Howard said the state legislature took important steps to improving the electric grid in the legislative session that concluded last month but said lawmakers have yet to address fluctuating market prices and the need to weatherize natural gas providers.

Less than a week before ERCOT would issue its conservation warning, Abbott announced that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”

“We have much more to do and just about anybody else who’s been involved with this will say that,” Howard said.

Terry Hillis, a retired Leander man, typically stays out of politics – he’s locked in on ERCOT developments.

“For anyone to stand up and say, ‘well, we really don’t have a problem,’ it’s crazy! Of course we have a problem,” he said.

Author: John Engel
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Gov. Greg Abbott: Texas businesses will be forbidden from requiring proof of vaccination

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is now open 100% — without any restrictions or limitations or requirements on businesses.

In a Monday tweet, Abbott — who has fiercely pushed for opening businesses during the pandemic — said he would sign legislation prohibiting businesses in the state from requiring COVID-19 vaccine “passports” or any other information.

Abbott said back in April that he wouldn’t allow government-mandated proof of vaccination cards in order to travel.

“Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” he said in a video posted online. “We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”

Abbott has recently been the subject of nationwide attention, due to other bills he’s signed into law this legislative session: namely one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas “heartbeat” bill, prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat — which can be as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

‘Vaccine passports’

While the concept of a “vaccine passport” may be new to most Americans, such documents already exist.

The “passport” to prove yellow fever vaccination is technically called a certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP), according to Frommers. It’s been around since 1959 and is commonly referred to as a “Carte Jaune,” or “Yellow Card.”

The certificate is required to be shown at border crossings, especially when travelers are coming from places where yellow fever is common.

Travelers out of South America, Africa, India and Asia all likely have to show their ICVPs, Frommers says.

Arguments in favor of “vaccine passports” include ensuring travel safety and helping encourage travel to skittish customers. Arguments against include violations of privacy and of personal freedom.

Some countries are already requiring such documentation, including Israel, which requires a “green passport” — to verify that someone has been vaccinated and/or recovered from COVID-19.

Author: Russell Falcon
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Exclusive one-on-one interview with Gov. Greg Abbott about failed voting bill

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — In an exclusive interview with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, he told ABC13’s Melanie Lawson that his team is sorting through thousands of bills that are waiting for his signature.

The first question had to do with his decision to call a special session. It came in the wake of a walkout by Democrat lawmakers in the final hours of the regular session. By leaving, they kept the Republican majority from a quorum or without enough members to pass laws for stricter voting.

SEE ALSO: Texas’ GOP leadership already at odds over plans for special legislative session

“What do you say to critics who say this makes voting much harder for minority and older voters, and even the disabled?”

Abbott responded by saying that there’s been a lot of “confusion and uncertainty” about the proposed voting bill, and that it actually allows for “more hours to vote.” He went on to say, “if Senate Bill 7 or the election integrity forum bill passes, there will be more hours, not fewer in comparison to current Texas law. But Melanie, also know this, the hours that are allowed in the state of Texas are far more than so many other states – let’s just compare it to the president’s home state of Delaware, where they have zero days of early voting, we have more than 100 hours more of early voting than what they have in Delaware.”

He added, “people should not say that Texas is being discriminatory by the abundant hours that we provide for early voting.”

The governor did make one concession about continuing the practice in Black churches of taking their members to early voting on Sundays, saying, “last night, I agreed that one modification to the way the bill was drafted, would be to increase the voting time period on that one Sunday for early voting, and I think you will see that in the final product.”

I asked him about his plans to call two special sessions this year, including one in the fall to address redistricting and federal funding on COVID-19.

When asked on whether he still plans to withhold pay to Democrat lawmakers who walked out and whether that will hurt legislative staffers more than lawmakers, he wouldn’t give us a definitive date.

“Those are decisions that will be made in the coming days,” he said. “(I) would ensure that lawmakers do have the ability to restore payment for the legislative branch of government.”

What’s happening with the state’s power grid and what can be done to prevent another crisis like we had in February, when so many Texans were left without power and dozens lost their lives?

Lt Governor Dan Patrick has said he wants to use part of the special session to work on helping to fix the grid system, and to assist power customers to deal with exorbitant bills. But Abbott said the issue was “addressed very substantially during the regular session,” and claims that “the Texas power grid is far better today than it’s ever been in the history of the state.”

SEE ALSO: Will lawmakers really change the Texas grid?

“(I’ve) added accountability for ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, in charge of the grid, as well as additional accountability for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC),” Abbott said. “Second, we impose what’s called weatherization, which includes winterization in the wintertime and summerization in the summertime, to make sure that all of the entities involved in transmitting and processing power in the state will be weatherized so that they wouldn’t shut down in a winter storm like what we had this last time.”

Abbott said that “during the winter storm, downtown Houston lights remained on, as well as the hospitals remained on. However, because of the shutdown, they actually shut down power generating facilities in the state of Texas, and because they were not protected from the grid shutdown, that actually prolonged the shutdown. That will not be permitted and no power generating facilities will be shut down in the future.”

Finally, he said, “we have enforcement mechanisms in place to enforce penalties for those who do not comply, and I can tell you today, we have more power generating capacity than ever before.”

When asked about whether this would help customers with their bills and not just aid the power companies to upgrade, he said, “so part of what was done during the session absolutely will help power customers and reduce their bills. Is there more that we can do? Yes there is, and am I in favor of doing more, yes I am.”

Follow Melanie Lawson on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: Melanie Lawson

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Permitless carry legislation on its way to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's desk

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Before the Texas House would vote late Sunday night to finally approve legislation to allow the permitless carrying of firearms, state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, delivered an emotional speech about promises he said were not kept by state leaders after violence struck his community on Aug. 3, 2019.

Moody described visiting a school cafeteria with Gov. Greg Abbott where families of victims of the Walmart shooting that left 23 dead and 23 more injured waited for news.

“When the doors were closed, I heard lots of promises. I haven’t heard them since,” Moody said. “That’s the room I sat in that day. None of you shared that experience.

“One day, a tragedy will come to your community. I pray that it doesn’t.”


The Texas House approved an agreement between House and Senate negotiators on House Bill 1927 that allows Texans over the age of 21 to carry a firearm without any license or training. The Senate followed suit Monday afternoon, sending the legislation to Abbott’s desk.

Under the legislation, individuals with a misdemeanor or felony conviction for unlawfully carrying a firearm would have those convictions expunged from their record. Someone convicted for felony unlawful carrying of a weapon would be able to own a firearm again once their conviction is expunged.

David Coale, a Dallas-based appellate attorney, said expungement is never as easy as flipping a switch.

“Some more procedures are going to be needed — those are going to depend on where the person is located, what the state of the records are, and what else is going on in that person’s case besides the one particular conviction,” Coale told KXAN.

Since the House and Senate approved different versions of the permitless carry legislation, a conference committee was appointed to work out an agreement. In the agreed-upon version, a peace officer could disarm a person any time they believe it is necessary for safety reasons, a provision called for by law enforcement advocates.

“Ultimately, this bill restores a right to Texans that, to my knowledge, has not existed prior to 1871,” state Rep. Matt Schaefer, a Tyler Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said on the floor.

A spokesperson for Abbott fought back against the suggestion that state leaders didn’t follow through on their promises to respond to the violence in El Paso.

“Following the horrific shootings in El Paso and Midland/Odessa, Governor Abbott took decisive action, directing state law enforcement to enhance anti-mass violence measures through eight executive orders and supporting DPS’ safe gun storage campaign,” said Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary. “The Texas Safety Action Report recommended the Legislature consider several items. Many of those have been taken up by the Legislature this session, including bills that would codify actions taken by the Governor and the Office of Court Administration following the report.

“The Governor will continue working with the Legislature and taking action, as laid out in the recent Texas Homeland Security Strategic Plan, to protect all in the Lone Star State.”

Author: John Engel
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Ken Paxton tells The New York Times he doesn’t support Greg Abbott for reelection

Author: Patrick Svitek
This post originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Texas lawmakers allow Texans to purchase alcohol to go from restaurants

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Author: Sami Sparber
This post originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Gov. Greg Abbott says he’ll sign bill believes Senate is “making progress”

Author: Patrick Svitek
This post originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Texas coronavirus cases haven't surged since Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask order. Experts warn it's too soon to celebrate.

More than a month has passed since Gov. Greg Abbott ended virtually all statewide restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Nationwide, new coronavirus cases are on the rise as new variants of the virus spread. And about four-fifths of Texans are not yet fully vaccinated.

But at least for now, the most dire predictions of a new major wave of cases in Texas have not come true, prompting a mix of theories from public health experts.

Those experts caution that a major increase in cases could still come and it may still be too early to tell whether Abbott’s decisions to lift the statewide mask mandate and allow businesses to fully reopen could prompt a new wave of infections. Still, daily new cases and the positivity rate have leveled off over the past month, while deaths and hospitalization have gone down substantially.

Experts point out that vaccination is ramping up, many businesses are still requiring masks and there are unique factors impacting individual metrics — like a drop in demand for testing that is driving down raw case numbers.

They also emphasize that, especially at this point in the pandemic, a stabilization of such metrics, or even a modest decline, is not exactly cause for celebration.

“I think we could’ve been even lower at this point in time,” if not for Abbott’s latest decisions, said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, an infectious disease specialist at UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School in Houston. “The fact that we’re sort of stable is not necessarily good news — because we’re stable at a very high level. It’s like everybody saying you’re at a stable cruising speed — but at 100 miles per hour.”

Abbott’s decision to end most statewide restrictions went into effect 35 days ago, on March 10. The seven-day average for daily new confirmed cases was 3,020 on that day; it was 2,456 on Tuesday. The seven-day average of the state’s positivity rate — the ratio of cases to tests — was 6.24% on March 10; it was 5.89% on Monday. (The latest positivity-rate figures are considered preliminary and subject to recalculation as more test results come in from the date in question.)

Deaths and hospitalizations, which lag new cases, have seen steeper drops since March 10. The seven-day average of new daily deaths was 187 on March 10; it was 64 on Tuesday. There were 4,556 Texans hospitalized with the virus on March 10; there were 3,002 on Tuesday.

The four key metrics are way down from peaks earlier in the year, when the state was seeing daily new caseloads approaching 20,000, a positivity rate that went above 20%, hospitalizations that topped 14,000 and weeks of more than 300 deaths per day.

At the same time, vaccinations have climbed steadily as the state has expanded eligibility, opening up to everyone age 16 and older on March 29. The percentage of fully vaccinated Texans more than doubled from March 10 to Monday, when it was 1 in 5 Texans.

“Overall, it’s great news,” said state Rep. Chris Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman who has been critical of Abbott’s decisions throughout the pandemic. “I’m very glad that so far the governor’s decisions have not resulted in an increase in cases.”

“Clearly the massive investment in vaccines and the improved distribution of vaccines across the country since President Biden came into office is having a tremendously positive impact on protecting people from COVID-19,” Turner added.

Despite the numbers in Texas, it has been an open question as to how long it takes after the lifting of restrictions to see a spike in the data. The incubation period for the virus — the time between when someone is exposed to it and when they start showing symptoms — is believed to be two to 14 days, and not everyone immediately stopped wearing masks and visiting fully reopened businesses on March 10.

Meanwhile, the rise of more transmissible variants across the country has added another threat. Average daily infections rose by almost 7% nationwide over the past week as officials race to vaccinate people as quickly as possible. Those efforts might be hampered in the short term after Texas paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so federal health authorities could review six reports of blood clotting among 6.8 million doses nationwide.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was asked in a TV interview last week about Texas’ numbers and gave an uncertain response about what was driving them at the moment. Speaking with MSNBC, he said “it can be confusing because you may see a lag and a delay because often you have to wait a few weeks before you see the effect of what you’re doing right now.”

“We’ve been fooled before by situations where people begin to open up, nothing happens and then all of a sudden, several weeks later, things start exploding on you,” Fauci said. “So we’ve got to be careful we don’t prematurely judge that.”

Until recently, Abbott has been restrained in openly touting the Texas trend lines, instead focusing much of his celebratory public messaging on vaccination progress.

“We absolutely are not declaring victory at this time,” Abbott told Fox News on Sunday. “We remain very vigilant and guarded and proactive in our response, but there’s simple math behind the reason why we continue to have success,” he added, citing the combination of increasing vaccinations and the “acquired immunity” among Texans who have already had the virus and recovered from it.

However, Abbott went on to make a dubious claim: that the state is “very close” to herd immunity, or the point at which enough people have been vaccinated or have already become infected — and recovered — to protect the rest of the population. Abbott said that despite acknowledging in the same response that he does not know what the herd immunity threshold is for the virus, an uncertainty echoed by the public health community.

Fauci has said herd immunity against the coronavirus could require as much as 90% of the population to be vaccinated. Ostrosky said “classically in epidemiology, we talk about herd immunity in the 60 to 80% range.”

In any case, experts agree that Texas is not anywhere near herd immunity. As of Monday, just 20.1% of Texans had been fully vaccinated and 9.72% had tested positive for the virus. There could be overlap between the two groups — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who had the disease get a vaccine.

In the meantime, though, public health officials are keeping a close eye on the core metrics and whether they creep up as more Texans take advantage of the end of the mask mandate and businesses reopening at full capacity. Ostrosky acknowledged that so far, the numbers are “not what we were expecting.”

“The question is how come and the answer in my mind is vaccines,” Ostrosky said. “I think we’re making really good headway with the vaccination program. We were sort of aggressive moving through the stages [of eligibility].”

“I think our saving grace was the vaccines despite the not-so-good choices that some of our fellow Texans are making” with regard to practices like masking, Ostrosky added.

Jaquelin Dudley, the associate director of the LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease at the University of Texas at Austin, said the underreporting of previous cases could be masking the extent to which the state’s population is already immune. Combined with the vaccination effort, “we’re definitely impairing the ability of the virus to spread” at this juncture in the pandemic, she said.

She and other experts also cited anecdotal evidence that most businesses, especially in the state’s major metropolitan centers, are still requiring masks despite the lack of statewide mandate.

“I think it’s too early to drop mask mandates, and that’s really been left up to the individual businesses,” Dudley said. “Certainly the places that I know of are still requiring masks, and I’m sure that’s helping.”

One of the strongest arguments to keep wearing masks is the rise of variants, Dudley said. There are currently five “variants of concern” in the United States, according to the CDC, which is studying how effectively current vaccines address them.

When it comes to steeper drops in deaths, Dudley said she thinks the state has “just got a lot better about treating the infection” after confronting the pandemic for over a year.

Ben King, a clinical assistant professor and epidemiologist at the University of Houston College of Medicine, said the downward trend in both deaths and hospitalizations could reflect Texas’ prioritization of the highest-risk population — the elderly — for immunization.

Both Texas and Florida made national headlines late last year for bucking CDC guidance and prioritizing older people over essential workers in their vaccine rollouts. And Abbott further prioritized older Texans with his Save Our Seniors initiative, which has deployed National Guard troops to help vaccinate homebound seniors. Over 100 counties have taken part in the the program, which has been underway for six weeks.

There are also simple statistical truths behind the latest numbers. Since earlier this year, the number of tests administered has dropped, and with it, the number of cases identified. The falloff in testing is not for a lack of supply, according to experts, but due to an apparent lack of demand as Texans fatigued by the virus see less of a need to get tested in the pandemic’s final stages.

While the positivity rate has remained stable, experts said the end of the pandemic is especially not the time to let up on testing. King said Texas’ plan to provide state-licensed summer camps with COVID-19 rapid antigen tests is “exactly the way we need to be thinking.”

“We want to see testing go way up, but we also want to see cases go way down,” said King, who agreed with Ostrosky that any flatlining of metrics at this point is “not what we need.”

“We have to be crushing [the curve] at this point,” King said. Abbott’s latest decisions “could be just stretching out the flatness of the curve, which just makes it harder to get to zero, which is obviously what we all want.”

Experts also point out that the changing of seasons could be keeping the numbers relatively low. As the weather gets warmer, people are gathering more outside — and not inside, where the virus is more likely to spread.

The experts, though, are pleading with the public to still take the pandemic seriously, even as the numbers look good and the statewide restrictions fall further in to the rearview.

“If we don’t focus — and all we’re asking for is two more months … — we’re really gonna lose all that ground we gained,” Ostrosky said.

Disclosure: UTHealth and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Patrick Svitek
This article originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Advocates back Gov Greg Abbott’s call

After Gov. Greg Abbott[2] gave a fiery press conference outside a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in San Antonio on Wednesday, advocacy groups said they supported his general message.

The Republican governor had called for more oversight and an immediate investigation into reports the state had received of sexual abuse inside the facility holding more than 1,300 children.

But some who have demanded improved conditions in such facilities for years said they couldn’t help but question the governor’s timing and motivations. Abbott largely remained silent despite reports of widespread abuse[3] in migrant shelters during former President Donald Trump’s administration. And while he has pledged to reform a handful of state agencies with long histories of abuse, problems continue to dog the agencies he oversees.

Now that he’s speaking out in the early days of a Democratic presidency, some said they couldn’t help but view his comments through a political lens.

“Gov. Greg Abbott has zero credibility on this or any other issue related to protecting human life,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar[4], D-El Paso, at a press conference on Thursday. “We saw Gov. Abbott’s failure to protect his own citizens during the freeze. We saw Gov. Abbott play politics with COVID.”

At the press conference Wednesday evening, Abbott said complaints about sexual assault[5] at the Freeman Expo Center in San Antonio were reported early Wednesday to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The governor said he did not know the identities of those who alleged assault, nor could he provide many details about the accusations. He said he was concerned more than one child may have been assaulted. He also said that the Texas Department of Public Safety will investigate the allegations.

But he was clear about who he felt deserved the blame: the Biden administration.

“In short, this facility is a health and safety nightmare,” Abbott told reporters Wednesday. “The Biden administration is now presiding over the abuse of children.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn[6], R-Texas, on Wednesday echoed Abbott’s concern and called on the U.S. Health and Human Services inspector general to investigate.

“Unaccompanied children that arrive at our border have already endured dangerous conditions at home and a treacherous journey to get here,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The fact that any child would experience abuse in the care of the U.S. government is despicable.”

Abbott and many other Texas Republicans have repeatedly criticized the Biden administration as it struggles to address an increase in migrants being apprehended near the U.S.-Mexico border. Almost all single adults are being immediately expelled under a pandemic health order issued by Trump that Biden has kept in place, although the current administration is allowing in unaccompanied minors and some families to await their immigration court hearings in the U.S. But Democrats are also loudly questioning where the compassion was less than two years ago under Trump’s watch, when apprehensions hit near-record figures despite his crackdown on the border.

And while the allegations of abuse Abbott highlighted were disturbing, they were by no means rare. Thousands of accusations[7] of harassment and sexual abuse have been leveled against government-run migrant shelters in recent years. From 2014 to 2018 — a time that included the Obama and Trump administrations — the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of HHS, received more than 4,500 complaints, including instances of inappropriate touching, staff members watching minors bathe and showing children pornography.

After Wednesday’s news conference, Abbott toured the facility. Renae Eze, an Abbott spokesperson, accused the Biden administration of “[rolling] out the red carpet for what turned out to be a dog and pony show.” She said in a statement that staff at the facility provided no information about the allegations of abuse and “abruptly cut off a doctor” who began to provide information about children with COVID-19.

“Because the Biden Administration has failed these children, the state of Texas is taking action,” Eze continued. “Texas Rangers and DPS have begun their investigation into the very serious complaints about the treatment of these unaccompanied minors and will not stop until they’ve uncovered the real truth and these children are safe.”

Rebeca Clay-Flores, a Democratic Bexar County commissioner, said she accompanied Abbott on the tour of the facility. She pushed back on Abbott’s characterization of the shelter and said that the children are happy and the facility is well-staffed. Abbott on Wednesday claimed that children were not being fed, but Clay-Flores said that the federal government has contracted with three catering companies to provide three meals and two snacks a day. She called the announcement of the abuse allegations “really great political timing.”

“Regardless of your political party or your nation of origin, children should not be politicized,” Clay-Flores told The Texas Tribune. “You want to talk about a dog and pony show? Politicizing children is a dog and pony show.”

An HHS spokesperson in a statement declined to comment on specific allegations, but said the Office of Refugee Resettlement “has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate sexual behavior at all [unaccompanied child] care provider facilities and acts quickly to address any alleged violations of policy, including initiating employee disciplinary action, termination, or reporting to appropriate investigative entities, such as law enforcement agencies and relevant licensing bodies.”

The Freeman Expo Center housed 1,370 unaccompanied teens as of Monday, KSAT-TV reported[8]. It has the capacity to hold up to 2,500 children, according to HHS.

Escobar told reporters at a news conference Thursday that “any allegation around children always should be taken seriously and should be thoroughly investigated.” But advocacy groups shared her skepticism about what Abbott was trying to accomplish.

Jonathan Ryan, CEO of RAICES, a nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants, said in a statement that “the only reason why Abbott is now acting like he cares about the children in these facilities is for political reasons.” Still, he doubled down on calls for increased oversight of child detention facilities.

“What the governor wants is for the Biden administration to stop allowing children to seek home and safety in this country,” Ryan said. “That is not the solution to the challenge we have in front of us. We must ensure the children are released as soon as possible and be reunited with their families in the U.S.”

Edna Yang, co-executive director of the nonprofit immigrant legal services provider American Gateways, told the Tribune that all allegations of abuse should be investigated. She declined to speculate on the motivations behind Abbott’s announcement, but said that if the governor and other state leaders are truly concerned about the wellbeing of immigrants, “there are definitely things that our state leaders can do to protect immigrants now who are suffering in our state.”

Yang pointed to a Texas House bill[9] that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver licenses. The bill has not yet received a committee hearing.

“There are lots of things like that that can be done to actually protect immigrants here and ensure that their rights aren’t being violated,” Yang said.

Meanwhile, advocates for children have long called for more actions to prevent the abuse of children in the care of the state. Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas, two justice and legal organizations, in October filed a complaint[10] with the U.S. Department of Justice against the Texas Juvenile Justice Department that alleged “grievous violations of children’s constitutional rights.”

The problems at the agency predate Abbott’s tenure as governor. The agency has undergone a series of major reforms that successfully shrank the number of kids in the state’s lockups and led to the closure of seven facilities. But the complaint alleged widespread sexual assault at the remaining facilities.

“How many years is it going to take until we’re going to realize that we need to throw everything out and start over?” Brett Merfish, director of youth justice at Texas Appleseed, said.

In addition, the embattled Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has struggled to implement a long list of court ordered reforms that stem from a decadelong lawsuit[11] over abuse and neglect in the state’s foster care system. In 2017, Abbott signed a bill to overhaul the foster care system. Still, problems have persisted.

In February, the federal judge overseeing the case again chided[12] state officials for failing to take sufficient corrective action. That same month, Abbott promised to do “exactly”[13] what the judge ordered to fix the situation.

Earlier this year, the state had a backlog of more than 400 investigations into reports of abuse open for longer than 30 days. Only 38 had valid extensions.

“We should all be working together on this, and in that spirit, I’m going to tell you that this is not compliance,” U.S. District Judge Janis Jack said in a February hearing.

Disclosure: Texas Appleseed has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here[14].

References

  1. ^ Sign up for The Brief (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ Greg Abbott (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ reports of widespread abuse (www.propublica.org)
  4. ^ Veronica Escobar (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ sexual assault (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ John Cornyn (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ Thousands of accusations (www.pbs.org)
  8. ^ KSAT-TV reported (www.ksat.com)
  9. ^ a Texas House bill (capitol.texas.gov)
  10. ^ filed a complaint (www.texastribune.org)
  11. ^ decadelong lawsuit (www.texastribune.org)
  12. ^ again chided (www.texastribune.org)
  13. ^ promised to do “exactly” (www.dallasnews.com)
  14. ^ list of them here (www.texastribune.org)

Shawn Mulcahy