It is an open secret in El Paso that Veronica Escobar is planning to run for the 16th Congressional District being vacated by Beto O’Rourke in 2018. Escobar is playing coy because under Texas law she must resign her county judge position to run for office. However, the Texas law allows her to run for office and keep her taxpayer funded paycheck if she waits to officially announce until January her intent to run. Escobar has kept her paycheck by stating that she is “considering” running for Congress instead of officially announcing.
Another contender for the seat is Dori Fenenbock who launched her campaign raising about $290,000 in political contributions according to her campaign.
Besides continuing to take a taxpayer-funded paycheck while pretending to consider running for office, Escobar is the perfect example of a politician misusing the plight of immigrants for her political career.
Since El Paso is on the border with México and it is Democrat-controlled in a Republican-dominated state, most political observers are likely to assume that El Paso is one of the Texas “sanctuary cities” that the Texas governor has promised to do away with. El Paso officials send mixed messages when it comes to their tolerance for immigrants, both documented and undocumented.
However, the fact is that El Paso is not a Texas “sanctuary city” and according to some immigrants, the city is not immigrant friendly. Currently there is an ongoing controversy about the county’s jail contract with the United States Marshal’s Service for jailing federal prisoners. County Commissioner Vince Perez is arguing that the County loses money by jailing federal prisoners.
Perez’ has produced an analysis demonstrating that the County is losing money on the federal contract. Perez’ analysis also demonstrated that most federal prisoners at the County jail are undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation.
During Monday’s county government discussion about terminating the federal contract to save money, Veronica Escobar argued that the County should keep jailing undocumented immigrants for “moral” reasons. Escobar argues that jailing undocumented immigrants at the County jail gives them access to legal representation.
On the surface the argument sounds valid, after all Escobar argues the she supports the “legal defense for those who can’t get it anywhere else” alluding to the notion that immigrants jailed in El Paso have better access to legal representation.
The problem, though, is that unlike California, which has allocated taxpayer funds to pay for representing immigrants targeted for deportation, El Paso County does not pay legal fees for undocumented immigrants facing deportation.
Instead, the County houses the immigrants at the local jail and gets paid by the federal government to keep them there until they are deported. Additionally, the County’s Sheriff and the County have officially certified themselves as fully complaint with federal government detainer requests for immigrants jailed at the county jail.
The Vince Perez jail study demonstrated that the County jail’s revenues for the jail are dependent on the federal contract. According to the Perez study, 250 county employees would have to laid off if the County were to terminate the federal contract.
That is the underlining driver for the money-losing contract, the federal funds that enter the County’s coffers, even though the County loses money each year on the agreement.
Laying off 250 County employees will make it more difficult for Veronica Escobar to run for Congress next year. As a result, Escobar supports losing money to keep from having to layoff County employees.
However, what is much worse is that Veronica Escobar does this on the backs of the immigrants she allows to be jailed in her community while she pretends that she advocates for them.
Veronica Escobar has been dependent on taxpayer-funded paychecks for many years now. Her husband, Michael S. Pleters, was appointed an Immigration Judge on June 16, 2017. Pleters was assigned to the El Paso Processing Center. Pleters, like his wife, has been living off taxpayer monies since at least 1994.
While Veronica Escobar argues that she supports the immigrant population in the city, her husband, Pleters, signs the orders that deports them back to their home countries.