Mike Kueber's Blog

July 23, 2010

Julian Castro and San Antonio’s Not Ready for Primetime Players

On June 24, the San Antonio City Council met to consider Mayor Julian Castro’s resolution declaring the city’s opposition to Arizona’s new law against illegal immigration.  The four-hour discussion, primarily 3-minute speeches from about 50 local activists or politicians, can be viewed at the following website –

http://sanantonio.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=8.  Although the citizen input was remarkably banal and predictable, Mayor Castro and his merry henchmen, Chief McManus and City Attorney Michael Bernard, managed to stake out a position that is indefensible for the pre-eminent leaders of one of America’s so-called great cities.

Mayor Castro wandered into his indefensible position while attempting to assure the pro-Arizona people that he was no scofflaw.  He asserted that everyone agreed about enforcing America’s immigration law, but the question was the manner of enforcing it.  To help explain this concept, he provided two analogies:

  1. Red-light cameras.  San Antonio could put a camera at every intersection and routinely issue citations to every motorist who violated the light.
  2. 2 a.m. bar closings.  San Antonio could post a policeman near bars at 2 a.m. and then check the drivers’ blood-alcohol content because there would be a “reasonable suspicion” that they were drunk.

Although these measures would enable San Antonio to nab additional violators, Mayor Castro asserted that San Antonians didn’t want such heavy-handed enforcement.

Both analogies surprised me.  Regarding the red-light problem, I thought the city was declining to use the cameras because of their cost-effectiveness, not because they would be too effective.  I don’t know why the city wouldn’t want to cite every identified red-light violator. 

The bar-closing analogy is even harder to understand.  I have always assumed the city does everything possible to keep drunks off the road, but apparently it doesn’t.  Furthermore, I am shocked the mayor thinks that leaving a bar at 2 a.m. gives the police reasonable suspicion to stop a driver based on intoxication.  Does he think that everyone goes to a bar to get drunk?  Although Mayor Castro went to Harvard Law School, perhaps he learned his definition of “reasonable suspicion” from his city attorney, Michael Bernard.

Earlier in the meeting, Bernard was asked by Councilperson Clamp to describe “reasonable suspicion.”  Bernard said that there was a continuum between a hunch and a certainty and that reasonable suspicion was a little more than a hunch.  I suggest that simplistic description does a disservice to a significant legal concept.  The U.S. Supreme Court, which developed the concept, described it as “specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.”  Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).  And I submit that leaving a bar at 2 a.m. does not, by itself, create reasonable suspicion of intoxication that would justify stopping a driver. 

Perhaps Chief McManus could have explained that practical application to Attorney Bernard and Attorney Castro, but the Chief was pre-occupied with trying to explain to Councilperson Clamp why San Antonio police enforced some federal laws (bank robberies and large drug violations), but not others.  According to McManus, the San Antonio police has a policy of never inquiring about immigration status and therefore would never have occasion to turn over an illegal immigrant to federal authorities.  This willful failure to enforce federal laws bothered Councilperson Clamp.  He declared that their oath of office required them to enforce federal laws.  According to the Texas Constitution, the oath taken by city officials must include the following:

  • I, xxxxxx, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of xxxxxx of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.

Does it sound like San Antonio is, to the best of its ability, preserving, protecting, and defending the laws of the United States?  More troubling, does it sound like San Antonio has the sort of seasoned experience and good judgment that it needs in the key positions of Mayor, City Attorney, and Chief of Police?  Sounds to me like these guys are not ready for primetime.