National Crime Victims Rights Week

Congressman Ted Poe TX-02

This month we observe National Crime Victims Rights Week. I have been an advocate for victims since my early days as a Harris County prosecutor. One of the first things I did when I arrived in Washington was to establish a bipartisan Victims Rights Caucus to advocate on behalf of victims in our nations capitol. The consequences of devastating crimes stay with the victim for the rest of their lives. Long after the headlines change, the victims stories read the same.

One such story that affected me personally and has made its way through my career as a prosecutor, judge and Congressman was the murder of 14-month-old Kevin Wanstrath. The case had all the twist and turns of a high-sensational television movie and was the subject of many a magazine article and even a book. But despite the media circus that surrounded the case, it was the senseless murder of Kevin that really hit home for me. He was the same age as my son, Kurt. Kurt is a big ole strapping boy now and yes, I still call him my boy. At times I look at my son Kurt and wonder what could have happened and how Kevin could have turned out. I keep Kevins photograph in my office in Washington, it has been on every desk in every office I have ever had since the murder.

In July of 1979, greed led to the murders of three innocent people. Markham Duff-Smith plotted the murder of his adoptive sister, Diana Wanstrath, her husband, John, and their 14-month-old son, Kevin. On a warm weekday about springtime, two killers posing as real estate agents forced their way into the Wanstraths home and shot John and Diana in the head. Then Kevin, a 14-month-old baby, was shot in the head as he was cuddled up with his favorite teddy bear.

There was little or no evidence of who done it. The Medical Examiner ruled that Diana killed her husband, Kevin and then herself. But through the relentless persistence of two Houston police officers that wouldnt give up, Johnny Bonds and Dan McAnulty, the case was broken, a murder-for-hire plot was revealed and I was assigned to prosecute the killers.

Duff-Smith and triggerman Allen Wayne Janecka were sentenced to death, both have been executed. The third accomplice, Walter Waldhauser, Jr., received three 30-year consecutive sentences, but was paroled after serving only nine years. Waldhauser continued to wreak havoc on society. He changed his name to Michael Lee Smith and was eventually sent back to prison for Life for swindling terminal ill AIDS patients out of all their money. I testified at his sentencing.

As a prosecutor and a judge for 22 years, I handled over 25,000 felonies. I have seen criminals from all walks of life. Markham Duff-Smith was from a wealthy family, the finest upbringing. He and Janecka have had to stand before their maker and account for their crimes, one day Waldhauser will as well. But it is families that are left behind that are really serving the life sentence. Too often in this country we have become the land of excusable conduct. We blame crime on everyone and everything but the criminal. The victims are the real people whose lives were stolen from them by the vicious violent acts of others.

National Crime Victims Rights Week is a time for us to reflect on the priorities in our lives. For me, it is one of the obligations I took on as your Representative in Congress to stand up and advocate for victims, to do what is right, and to be your voice and the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves.

As a nation we are not judged by the way we treat the rich and the important folks, we are judged by the way we treat the innocent, the weak, the unfortunate, the elderly and the children.

When my office began receiving calls regarding the closure of the Regional Encoding Center (REC) in Beaumont, my staff immediately went to work to inquire if the impending bad news was in fact true. My staff attempted to obtain information from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) regarding the alleged REC closure, none of the high level postal representatives admitted to being aware of plans to close the facility. It appears the decision to close the REC occurred with little or no notice to the community.
Yesterday my office began receiving calls regarding the closure of the Regional Encoding Center (REC) in Beaumont. My staff immediately went to work to inquire if the impending bad news was in fact true. When my office attempted to obtain information from the US Postal Service (USPS) regarding the alleged REC closure, none of the high level postal representatives admitted to being aware of plans to close the facility. It appears the decision to close the REC occurred with little or no notice to the community.

Iraq Surrender Bill

April 13, 2007

 

Iraq Surrender Bill

Congressman Ted Poe TX-02

Recently, Congress was given a choice to stand with our military and finish the job in Iraq or nickel-and-dime the War on Terror to death. I voted against the Iraq Surrender Bill and I will not barter my position. I will not betray our troops for 30 pieces of silver or $3 billion of squealing pork.

The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 218-212 that went down party lines. I support the President in his promise to veto this bill if it makes it back to his desk. Approval of this bill sends a message of defeat to our troops and victory to our enemies. If this bill were to become law, it means we abandon Iraq at an arbitrary time no matter the situation; retreat even if it means defeat. It means we quit while our troops are in the field; peace at any price.

The bill was loaded with squealing pork to buy votes from Members of Congress. It is irresponsible to include non-relevant funding to gain support for a bill meant to support our men and women fighting a war, and I do not believe that this blatant bribery attempt is lost on the American public. In an effort to buy support for the Iraq Surrender Bill, House leadership tacked on $283 million for milk subsidies, $25 million for spinach growers, $74 million for peanut storage fees, $120 million for the shrimp industry, and $20 million to repair frozen farmland. Again, I will not barter my position. Our troops safety is not for sale.

War is not for politicians to fight, it is for generals, for brave young men and women who value freedom so much that they leave their families and children at home to put their lives on the line to ensure all Americans keep the liberties we so often take for granted. The United States military has the finest generals our world has ever seen and I trust in them to make the decisions on the battlefield that will lead us to victory. They do not support an arbitrary retreat date. To do so would mean our soldiers sacrifices were made in vain and we would abandon the Iraqi people as they are so desperately struggling to recover from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and tasting freedom for the first time in their existence.

Critics of this war have labeled it a quagmire, another Vietnam. Until last week, until politicians voted to interfere in the funding of an ongoing war, this was nothing like Vietnam. We must remember our history. Congress cut off money for our troops in Vietnam and started bringing them home, leaving those there to fight without adequate support. And, we know the results of Vietnam. This Congress is doing the same in Iraq, trying to force another Vietnam. All of us want the war to be over and are eager to have American warriors return to the United States, but we cannot leave Iraq until we stabilize the country and have the Iraqis take care of Iraq.

I was in Iraq, the troops there told me that they needed more help. Lets fulfill their request give the generals and the troops what they need for our mission to succeed.

Stonewall Jackson had the same problem with the Confederate Congress and told them, send more troops, not more questions.

I was there the day they held their first free elections, the Iraq people want us there and we simply cant throw up the white flag of surrender because politicians and bureaucrats are preoccupied with power. The troops in Iraq need our total commitment, not total defeatism. Ronald Reagan put it best Men cry peace, peace, but there can be no peace as long as there is one American somewhere dying for the rest of us. Thats just the way it is.

Keep on a-comin

March 23, 2007

 

Keep on a-comin

Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

One of Texas most notable Texas Rangers, Captain W. J. McDonald, was famously quoted as saying, No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin." Those words were spoken nearly a century ago and have evolved into the Ranger creed. There was a time in the Lone Star State when these words rang true. But the recent charges brought against Texas lawmen by the United States government have put that creed to the ultimate test. The conviction of former Edwards County Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez sent a message to all those outlaws south of our border to keep on a-comin.

Gilmer Hernandez was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison, three years of supervised probation, a $5,000 fine and has to pay approximately $5,000 in restitution to the injured illegal. Hernandez was convicted in December 2006 for violating the civil rights of an illegal who was injured when the Suburban in which she was being smuggled in attempted to flee a traffic stop made by Hernandez. Deputy Hernandez followed the letter of the law and the incident was investigated and cleared by the Texas Rangers. It was at the arrogant insistence of the Mexican government that the US Attorneys office stepped in and filed charges against him.

Gilmer grew up dreaming of being a Texas Lawman. He worked his way through high school, helped support his family, and achieved his dream of becoming a Deputy Sheriff in his hometown of Rocksprings, Texas. Life was going pretty good for Gilmer, he had his dream job, was engaged to the love of his life, Ashley, and was surrounded by friends and family. But all that came crashing down in minutes when a stolen Suburban driven by a Coyote and loaded with illegals failed to follow the law. Gilmer did his job that night and because of that the US Government made him into the criminal.

Gilmer should not spend one day in prison. Because of lawmen like Gilmer, our country is a safer place. But because of overzealous prosecutors, our government is sabotaging their fight to win the war on our borders. Gilmer Hernandez made $21,000 a year protecting an area the size of Rhode Island. He was not in it to be rich, he was in law enforcement to protect the good folks of Edwards County. His job, his life with Ashley, now his wife, and baby daughter Alektra, was all Gilmer ever wanted. While he sits in prison and misses his daughters first steps, her first words, her first everything, the people that entered our country illegally and broke numerous laws remain free right here in the United States. As a father of four, three of which are daughters, there is no greater punishment than to take a daughter from her daddy.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. This is a pattern established by the US Attorney in the Western District of Texas. This is the same bunch of prosecutors that went after former Border Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. The people we have asked to protect our border are the peace officers. They have sworn an oath; they wear the badge. They are all that stands between us and the lawless. We as a country of laws and justice cannot allow our government to fail them or the outlaws will keep on a-comin.

 

In the United States governments latest attempt to kowtow to Mexico, they have rolled out their plan to open our highways to Mexican trucks. The next sound you hear will be the rumble of thousands of Mexican trucks streaming across our southern border. The U.S. Government has agreed to allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to send trucks on the highways and byways of America.

The Department of Transportation announced their pilot program recently and it has raised serious concerns from Members of Congress on both sides of the isle. I, for one, have little confidence in Mexico to follow our letter of law. Their reputation for doing so is not too good. Presently, Mexican trucks may only go 20 miles inside the U.S. border. Under this year-long pilot program, 100 Mexican companies will have unlimited access to haul international cargo throughout the United States. What does the United States get out of it? Not much. American trucking companies will later, supposedly, be allowed to operate in Mexico. There is no guarantee of this, however. As of now their government doesnt allow American trucks in their country.

The U.S. Government says they will inspect the trucks for safety and inspect the drivers as well. The have hired additional inspectors to implement this plan, at the taxpayers expense of course. There are already 6,000 trucks a day crossing in each direction just between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico; and only a fraction of these are inspected. With Laredo being the largest point of entry from Mexico, Texas will bare the brunt of this ill-advised new plan.

It is impossible and unrealistic to believe that we can inspect each and every Mexican truck for safety. The dangerous part is there is no telling what could be in them, whether it is legitimate cargo, contaminated food, narcotics or humans. Not to mention, Mexican trucks are not up to the standards of the U.S. trucking industry. The Department of Transportation also contends that Mexican trucks will have to meet all U.S. safety and transportation standards. The regulations require all Mexican truck drivers to hold a valid commercial drivers license, carry proof they are medically fit, comply with all U.S. hours-of-service rules and be able to understand questions and directions in English. Now there are some obvious problems with this plan. First, we dont have enough people to inspect our own drivers. Second, with over 100 companies having free reign to come and go across our borders there is no way to ensure these regulations are met and maintain the security of our country. This sounds good for Mexico not so good for the US. Now we are going to have thousands of polluting, overweight, Mexican trucks that are mechanical nightmares, being driven by individuals that may not be able to read a street sign on our highways.

Once again, our government seems to be more concerned about Mexico than it is about our nation, our highways or our people. Our federal government wants to give out blanket amnesty to all those illegally in our country, our banks are blatantly targeting the illegal cash economy, our Justice Department prosecutes border agents over illegals committing crimes in our country, and now our Transportation Department has opened our borders to untold trouble. It is time our government starts doing what is best for the United States and stop working for Mexico.

Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) issued the following statement in regards to the conviction of John Couey in the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford: The guilty verdict handed down by a Florida jury cannot erase the unthinkable crimes against 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, but it sends a message to those despicable predators lurking in the shadows that crimes against our children will not go unpunished.

No Place But Texas

February 23, 2007

 

March 2nd is my favorite day in Texas history, Texas Independence Day. On this day, Texas declared independence from Mexico and its evil dictator, Santa Anna, and Texas became a free nation.

In 1836, in a small farm village of Washington-on-the-Brazos, 54 ``Texians,'' as they called themselves in those days, gathered to do something bold and brazen: They gathered to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence and to ``declare that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, sovereign, and independent republic.''

As these determined delegates met to declare independence, Santa Anna and 6,000 enemy troops were marching on an old, beat-up Spanish mission that we now call the Alamo. This is where Texas defenders stood defiant and determined. They were led by a 27-year-old lawyer by the name of William Barrett Travis. The Alamo and its 186 Texans were all that stood between the invaders and the people of Texas. And behind the dark, dank walls of that Alamo, William Barrett Travis, the commander, sent a fiery, urgent appeal requesting aid.

His defiant letter read in part: ``To all the people of Texas and America and the world, I am besieged by a thousand or more of the enemy under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannon fire for the last 24 hours, but I have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at its discretion; otherwise, the fort will be put to the sword. I have answered that demand with a cannon shot, and the flag still waves proudly over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. I call upon you in the name of liberty and patriotism and everything that is dear to our character to come to my aid with all dispatch. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country. Victory or death, signed William Barrett Travis, commander of the Alamo.

After 13 days of glory at the Alamo, Commander Travis and his men sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. The date was March 6, 1836.

Those lives would not be lost in vain. Their determination for the cause paid off, and because heroes like William Barrett Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and others held out for so long, Santa Anna's forces took such great losses they became battered, demoralized and diminished. Travis said in his last letter, ``Victory will cost the enemy more dearly than defeat.'' He was right.

General Sam Houston, in turn, had devised a strategy to rally other Texas volunteers to ultimately defeat Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The war was over. The Lone Star flag was visible all across the bold, brazen, and broad plains of Texas. Texas remained an independent nation for over 9 years.

The Alamo defenders were from every State in the United States. They were mavericks, revolutionaries, farmers, shopkeepers, and freedom fighters. They came together to fight for something they believed in, Liberty. And, they were all volunteers.

In 1845, Texas was admitted to the United States by only one vote. Some have said they wished the vote had gone the other way. Be that as it may, we all know that freedom has a cost. It always has. It always will. We pause to remember those who lost their lives so that Texas could be a free nation. And as we do so, we remember the brave Americans in our military that are fearlessly fighting to preserve and uphold freedom from a new world threat of terrorism. In Colonel Travis' final letter and appeal for aid, he signed off with three words, ``God and Texas.'' And the rest, as they say, is Texas history.

Bank of Mexico

February 16, 2007

 

This week Bank of America joined the federal government in rolling out the red carpet to illegal aliens. In a new initiative introduced by Bank of America, people can now obtain credit cards without producing a social security number. Issuing credit cards to people without social security cards is absurd. This policy leaves the door wide open for money laundering, fraud and identity theft. Matter of fact, they are blatantly sending a message to illegals, drug cartels and terrorists around the world that they are open for business to anyone with the Almighty buck.

But the problem goes far beyond this highly criticized new plan. The banking industry and the federal government have been turning a blind eye to illegal immigration for years. According to the Central Bank of Mexico, remittances from the United States were up 15% over last year reaching an all time high of $23 billion making remittances the second largest money maker for their country behind oil and gas revenues. Of course their research assumes that this is from legal workers in the United States, but legal status was not asked.

It doesnt take an economic expert to understand that if you take out $23 billion from the economy, you are going to have problems. Money earned in the United States must be spent in the United States in order to continue a growing and healthy economy. Unfortunately, our government and banking industry dont see it that way and are continuing to prop up the Mexican economy on the back of the American people.

Supporters of illegal immigration talk about the contributions they are making to our country, the money they spend here, all the good they do for us. Sending $23 billion south of border doesnt sound like they are contributing to our economy to me. They are however, keeping the Mexican economy afloat and thanks to American banks it just got a little easier.

The banking industry is one step ahead of the wire transfer businesses and has gone after their piece of the pie. Lets pick on Bank of America, since they so boldly put this credit card nonsense out there. Check out their website, they promote over 4,500 locations and 16,000 ATMs throughout Mexico. Just bring in your matricula card and Mexican Voter ID, open an account and send an ATM card home. There is no need to wire money, you just need a checking account and an ATM. If you dont want to do that, no problem. Use their plan and you can send $3000.00 a month to Mexico for free - with a Bank of America checking account of course.

Money is said to be the root of all evil. Bank of Americas new plan comes across as saying they are more concerned with making a buck than knowing who their customers really are. Drug cartels and terrorists pose a constant threat to our country and are always looking for new avenues to launder their money. We cannot afford to make it any easier. Furthermore, how do we expect to hold employers who knowingly hire illegals responsible when American banks are rolling out the welcome mats? The banking industry has all kinds of excuses for doing business with illegals its all nonsense. It is about banks cashing in on the underground illegal cash economy, pure and simple.