I haven’t forgotten this blog. I was just too busy to write over the last two months. Things have settled down a little now, so you can expect some more blog posts in the near future. In my hiatus, the airwaves have been abuzz with Arizona’s new immigration laws, and the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. For Houston, the two stories have more to do with each other than you might think.
The BP disaster should be treated as a harbinger of things to come – namely, the end of oil as the driving force in Houston’s economy. Public sentiment was already shifting away from oil – and the spill in the Gulf will only accelerate that. The stakes for Houston are almost as high as the stakes for the Gulf. If we don’t guard ourselves, we risk becoming Detroit. It’s not just about building a diverse economy (though that’s a big part of it). According to this blog post by David Frum, a political commentator and a speech writer for George W. Bush, we also need to push the arts and education in our City. Most of all – we need to make sure that Houstonians of all backgrounds can live together in peace.
Houston should avoid the temptation to pass illegal immigration laws like Arizona did. Our Nation needs to secure its borders, and Washington DC is doing a very poor job at it. But Houston also needs to be very careful for the safety and trust of everyone who lives here. We need to find a middle ground between Sanctuary City policies (which don’t work), and Arizona’s laws. I suggest Jamiel’s Law, an idea which has been proposed in Los Angeles. Rather than opening the door to inquire about the immigration status of everyone who looks or acts like an illegal, Jamiel’s law would limit it to gang bangers. Cities already keep lists of known gang members. Jamiel’s Law would allow local police to check the immigration status of people on those lists. If Jamiel’s Law came to Houston, we could check our sex offender lists, too – and parolees. Because Jamiel’s law is limited to people who are in gangs, it is a much more targeted approach than what they’re doing in Arizona. It could just be the middle ground we need.
Houston should fare well when oil goes into decline. We already have a diverse economy and strong education and arts in Houston. Texas is the biggest producer of wind power in the United States, and many of those companies are based right here in Houston. We have one of the largest conglomerations of hospitals in North America. We have the third most theater seats of any City in North America. And we have top-ranked universities including Rice University, and the Baylor College of Medicine. But we’ll be even better if we tread very carefully on immigration law.