A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States — so She Lost Her Job

 

This map compiled by Palestine Legal shows how pervasive various forms of Israel loyalty oath requirements have become in the U.S.; the states in red are ones where such laws are already enacted, while the states in the darker shade are ones where such bills are pending:

A children’s speech pathologist who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

The child language specialist, Bahia Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties (see video below). Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.

Amawi began working in 2009 on a contract basis with the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes Austin, to provide assessments and support for school children from the county’s growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. The children with whom she has worked span the ages of 3 to 11. Ever since her work for the school district began in 2009, her contract was renewed each year with no controversy or problem.

But this year, all of that changed. On August 13, the school district once again offered to extend her contract for another year by sending her essentially the same contract and set of certifications she has received and signed at the end of each year since 2009.

She was prepared to sign her contract renewal until she noticed one new, and extremely significant, addition: a certification she was required to sign pledging that she “does not currently boycott Israel,” that she “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract,” and that she shall refrain from any action “that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israeli or in an Israel-controlled territory.”

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Flags Of Texas

The first official flag of the Republic of Texas, designed by General Lorenzo de Zavala, adopted by the Convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos, May 11, 1836, shortly after the victory at San Jacinto. This flag had a blue field with a white five-pointed star in its center. Around the star were the letters T-E-X-A-S. This flag, along with the Burnet Flag, served as a national flag of Texas until the current state flag was officially adopted as the then national flag by the Third Congress of the Republic of Texas held in Houston on January 21, 1839 and signed into law by President Mirabeau B. Lamar on January 25, 1839. Source: C. E. Gilbert in “A Concise History of Early Texas: As told by its 30 historic flags.”

Legislation authorizing this flag was introduced in the Congress of the Republic of Texas on December 28, 1838, by Senator William H. Wharton and was adopted on January 25, 1839, as the final national flag of the Republic of Texas

First Confederate National flag with 7 stars (March 4 – May 21, 1861)

Flag of the Confederate States of America (November 28, 1861 – May 1, 1863).

The Confederate Army of Trans-Mississippi Flag. This flag was used by Richard Taylor’s Army.

How Using Eminent Domain to Seize Land for a Border Wall Harms Texas Property Owners

Building Trump’s much-ballyhooed border wall will requiring using eminent domain to forcibly take the land of numerous property owners. If that happens, many of the property owners probably will not get anything like adequate compensation. A just-published study conducted by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune analyzed over 400 condemnations undertaken as a result of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of a much smaller barrier than Trump’s proposed wall. Here is their summary of their findings:

An investigation by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune shows that [the Department of] Homeland Security cut unfair real estate deals, secretly waived legal safeguards for property owners, and ultimately abused the government’s extraordinary power to take land from private citizens.

The major findings:

  • Homeland Security circumvented laws designed to help landowners receive fair compensation. The agency did not conduct formal appraisals of targeted parcels. Instead, it issued low-ball offers based on substandard estimates of property values.

  • Larger, wealthier property owners who could afford lawyers negotiated deals that, on average, tripled the opening bids from Homeland Security. Smaller and poorer landholders took whatever the government offered — or wrung out small increases in settlements. The government conceded publicly that landowners without lawyers might wind up shortchanged, but did little to protect their interests.

  • The Justice Department bungled hundreds of condemnation cases. The agency took property without knowing the identity of the actual owners. It condemned land without researching facts as basic as property lines. Landholders spent tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves from the government’s mistakes.

  • The government had to redo settlements with landowners after it realized it had failed to account for the valuable water rights associated with the properties, an oversight that added months to the compensation process.

  • On occasion, Homeland Security paid people for property they did not actually own. The agency did not attempt to recover the misdirected taxpayer funds, instead paying for land a second time once it determined the correct owners.

  • Nearly a decade later, scores of landowners remain tangled in lawsuits. The government has already taken their land and built the border fence. But it has not resolved claims for its value.

The study’s findings are consistent with previous research on takings compensation, which I summarized in Chapter 8 of my book on eminent domain, The Grasping Hand. Scholars have repeatedly found that many property owners get less than the “fair market value” compensation required by Supreme Court precedent, and that this is particularly likely for those who are poor, legally unsophisticated, and lacking in political influence. Even those who do get fair market value compensation still often are not fully compensated for all their losses, because many owners attach “subjective value” to their land above and beyond its market price. Consider, for example, a homeowner who has lived in the same neighborhood for a long time, or a small business with established customer “good will” in the area that may be hard to replicate elsewhere.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump claimed that victims of eminent domain have nothing to complain about because “when eminent domain is used on somebody’s property, that person gets a fortune.” The history of the Secure Fence Act takings – and many other condemnations – proves otherwise. If it were really true that having your property condemned is a great way to make a fortune, the Donald Trumps of the world would be lobbying the government to take their property, instead of lobbying to condemn that of the politically weak in order to build parking lots for their casinos.

If Congress allocates money to build Trump’s border wall, the abuses that occurred with the Secure Fence Act takings are likely to be repeated on a much larger scale. Sadly, this would be yet another of the many ways in which immigration restrictions harm American citizens, as well as immigrants.

Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University 

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