Texas governor punishes veterans

Texas Governor Rick Perry recently told a Mexican American civil rights group that he was cutting $300,000 in funding that it needs to operate a job training and employment services program for veterans. Perry’s decision appears to be retribution for the group’s public opposition to a Republican redistricting scheme.

Perry’s office on July 11 told the American GI Forum that it would no longer be receiving federal pass-through funds to provide workforce services for veterans through its National Veterans Outreach Program (NVOP).

The funds embargoed by the governor are part of a grant from the U.S. Labor Department. Since the 1970s every Texas governor has passed along a portion of these discretionary funds to the GI Forum for its NVOP. Perry’s decision will result in the closure of NVOP offices in Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin.

This summer, the GI Forum was in the forefront of the battle to stop redistricting in Texas, a fight that is still underway. The Republicans want to redraw congressional boundaries to send five to seven new right-wingers from Texas to the U.S. Congress.

Forum members led protests to stop this racist attack at two hearings held in the border cities of McAllen and Brownsville on June 26 and 28. The hearings were a sham. The redistricting maps had already been secretly drawn up by the Republicans, but they needed to go through the motions of holding phony hearings so they could show in future court proceedings that they sought input from minority communities.

At Brownsville, Forum members took over the hearing to expose it as a fraud. Democratic legislators had boycotted the hearing, leaving only two Republican legislators to hear testimony. As they sat on the stage listening to testimony, unable to conceal their lack of interest, one of the legislators whined that the vets, most of whom are in their seventies, were intimidating supporters of redistricting.

Two weeks later Perry cut off funding for NVOP. Shortly thereafter, the five Mexican American Democratic congressmen from Texas held a press conference to denounce his actions. Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez of San Antonio, according to the Quorum Report, a political newsletter out of Austin, asked, “What in the world possessed the governor to suddenly withhold the funding for this important veteran’s program?” It certainly wasn’t NVOP’s performance.

“These patriots work for our veterans,” Rodriguez said. “They work hard, and they work well to provide effective job training for veterans who served our country in uniform. The Governor of Texas has given the GI Forum funding for their outreach programs since the 1970s. It is wrong to cut it off now, especially for political reasons.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org