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Back To School In El Paso In Wake Of Tragedy, “Public Charge” Rule For Immigrants, And Texas Rangers Asked To Investigate Allegations Against Speaker Bonnen

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Mallory Falk/KERA
Nearly 60,000 public school students in El Paso, Texas, begin school on Monday.

Back To School In El Paso In Wake Of Tragedy

On Monday, nearly 60,000 public school students in El Paso, Texas, will start the school year amid an air of mourning, fear and resilience.

The first day of school in El Paso's largest district comes more than a week after a mass shooting at a local Walmart left 22 people dead.

"It's not at all, in any way, a typical start of school," says Juan Cabrera, the superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD). "This is not going to be easy. This is going to be difficult and we are really taking this very seriously."

According to Cabrera, the school district has been contacting families affected by the shooting in order to connect them to support services. No EPISD students were killed, but Cabrera says El Paso is a close-knit community and some students have family members who were directly involved, or know people who were at the Walmart during the attack.

The district says its counseling office has provided teachers guidance for how to support students who were affected by the shooting.

Brendan Smialowski /AFP/Getty Images
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services .

Trump Administration Moves Forward With “Public Charge” Rule For Immigrants

The Trump administration is moving forward with regulations that are expected to dramatically reshape the U.S. immigration system by denying green cards and visas to immigrants who use — or are expected to use — a wide range of federal, state and local government benefits, including food stamps, housing vouchers and Medicaid.

The final version of the so-called "public charge" rule, which has been a top priority for immigration hardliners in the White House, is set to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

Under the rule, green card and visa applicants can be denied not merely for being "primarily dependent on the government for subsistence," as in the past, but if they are likely to need public assistance "at any time."

The regulations also add new requirements for income and financial assets.

The rule is set to take effect in 60 days, but is expected to draw legal challenges from immigrant rights groups and others.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune
Committee Chair Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, at the Texas House General Investigating committee hearing on Aug. 12.

Texas Rangers Asked To Investigate Allegations Against Speaker Dennis Bonnen

The Texas House General Investigating Committee voted Monday to request that the Texas Rangers look into allegations against House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and one of his top lieutenants in the lower chamber.

At issue is whether Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, offered hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan media credentials for his organization in exchange for politically targeting a list of fellow GOP members in the 2020 primaries.

Sullivan, who met with Bonnen and Burrows at the Texas Capitol in June, publicized his allegations against the two Republicans over two weeks ago — and later revealed he had secretly recorded the meeting.

Since then, Bonnen has forcefully pushed back against Sullivan's account of that June 12 meeting and has called on him to release the full audio.

Burrows has not publicly weighed in. Other Republicans who have listened to the recording have said it largely confirms Sullivan's allegations against Bonnen and Burrows.

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