A Lawsuit in South Texas: Social Security and Due Process

By Nick Braune

I remember visiting the Social Security office three months ago in McAllen, Texas. Entering the waiting room with its “take a number” method, I was told by a guard that I was not allowed to bring in my coffee, which I just bought at Whataburger. I waited outside, finished my coffee and then went in to sit in the rows of chairs facing the same direction to wait my turn.

Although I hate visiting those sorts of offices, with the chilly formality and bureaucratic language that isn’t always as clear as they think, my question was simple and it wasn’t very crowded that day. I was out fairly quickly. But not everyone’s visit is the same.

Carlos Munoz was having a difficult time satisfying the functionaries at the McAllen Social Security office: “Every time I went they told me I needed something different.” The situation got so bad, he took legal action.

Here is a quote from a press release I received:

“Monday, December 12, 2011 –Today, the South Texas Civil Rights Project (STCRP) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a U.S. citizen who could never get a Social Security number in McAllen, Texas. Carlos Munoz, born in Pharr, Texas, filed an application and produced numerous documents, including his Texas birth certificate, but only received the runaround from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Time after time he was told by the SSA staff to come back with a never-ending and always different set of documents.”

I spoke to STCRP’s attorney Elliott Tucker. Tucker, one of whose parents is an immigrant, told me that the case “tugged at [his] heart strings” when he heard how Munoz had been bounced back and forth, never receiving a clear answer.

Mr. Munoz is part of a group which Tucker calls a “lost generation.” There are a number of people born here in Texas where their families were working but who returned to Mexico with their parents after NAFTA started. (In the 1990s NAFTA created a pre-planned factory buildup in border towns like Reynosa, which the U.S. encouraged.) So Mr. Munoz lived in Mexico for some time as a child and attended school there, but as he grew older he returned to the U.S. Although the McAllen office is not disputing his citizenship, not saying he did anything wrong, it never issues him a Social Security card.

The press release quotes Munoz: “It was like they were making up the rules on the spot. How can I support my family without a Social Security card?”

Tucker says that SSA suddenly decides to send people like his client to obtain paperwork from their old school in Reynosa or suddenly tells them they need a drivers license as the next step to getting a Social Security card — while knowing in advance that they won’t get drivers licenses without Social Security cards. SSA’s decisions often seem random.

I asked Tucker if there is any hope. He says he is examining a similar federal case which was almost won. Tucker will stress the constitutional guarantee of due process, because a government agency cannot randomly refuse something as important as a Social Security card. And he is demanding that a procedure be set up for a reasoned appeal process, which SSA seems to fear. What SSA says at each level must be made clear, regular and checkable.

[This piece first appeared in “Reflection and Change,” Mid-Valley Town Crier, 12-23-11]

On Ramsey Muniz' Birthday, LULAC asks Obama to Commute Sentence

On the occasion of Ramsey Muniz’ 69th birthday, we are gratified to share with our readers the following appeals from Andres Guerrero and Ruben Barrera Botello.–gm

Dear Friends:

On Tuesday, December 13, Ramsey will turn 69 years of age! I constantly thank God for having him in my life. He maintains faith, love, and spirituality in spite of the pain and suffering that he and his family have experienced. For those who want to wish him a happy birthday or send encouragement, his address is provided below.

Ramsey writes, “History will clearly reveal that for those who were chosen, pain, agony, and even imprisonment would be a part of their lives as they shared, taught, wrote, and expressed the true philosophy of spirituality. I demonstrated to my loving mother, Hilda, that she was right when she stated that I was chosen by the spirits of God, or I would have never suffered in the manner that I continue to suffer pain and agony throughout this incarceration.

Christmas is not only for giving and receiving gifts. It serves as a means of reuniting our families so that the power within our families will be like no other to the point that it makes political, spiritual and social statements. It makes our family unity an example of what families should be!

The birth of Jesus Christ is another means of God providing and giving to us freedom as a gift to humanity. Jesus was all about advocating, teaching, praying, meditating, and expressing with all His heart and soul freedom, justice, and love in the hearts of humanity so that they bring forth compassion, forgiveness, and faith in themselves.

“The glory and truth is in the fight for justice of equality, and there we never lose, because it is our duty to defend justice and truth at all costs. Life is very short, but space and time are forever. And it is forever that we as humans must always fight. In this sense, the past, the present, and the future come together and it becomes destiny and eternity. Perhaps this is what Christ meant when He said, ‘I live in you and you live in me, and together we are one.’ “We are one in Christ.”

Dr. Andres Guerrero
Harvard School of Divinity


Latinas, Latinos, Relatives, Friends and Neighbors:

There are over 55 million Latinos and Latinos in the U.S. alone. We need to reach out to our good brother, Ramsey Muñiz now falsely imprisoned for 18 years, as he struggles through his life sentence for something he did not do. His wife, Irma has been suffering so much through this travesty with Ramsey, too.

In one accord, we should all reach out to Ramsey this December 13, his Birthday, by writing and sending a Letter to President Obama, asking him to reconsider his denial of Ramsey’s Application for Commutation of his Life Sentence.

Please review my attached Letter which I will be snail-mailing to the President and my senators and congressional representatives on Ramsey’s Birthday, to get some ideas of what you can say from your heart about this great injustice.

Por La Causa,
Ruben Barrera Botello, State Director of Pennsylvania
National League of Latin American Citizens Y Que!

December 13, 2011

Ruben Barrera Botello, State Director of Pennsylvania
National League of Latin American Citizens (NLLAC)
Shippensburg, PA 17257

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America

RE: Ramsey Muñiz Commutation of Life Sentence Denial

Dear Mr. President:

We pray you and your family are all doing well this holiday season.

As State Director of Pennsylvania for the National League of Latin American Citizens (NLLAC), I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to reconsider the Application for Commutation of the unjust life sentence against our dear mentor, colleague and friend, Ramsey Muñiz, Esquire.

Ramsey was a prominent and highly respected Corpus Christi attorney who also ran for Governor of Texas, in 1974-75. Latinas and Latinos from throughout South Texas and the rest of the nation saw Ramsey, as a great leader, rising star and role model who inspired us all to be good citizens, do well in school and go to college, in order to be able to help our people, as responsible adults.

His 1994 conviction and life sentence astonished especially those of us who believe in his innocence, to this day. Ramsey should never have been given a life sentence, and his beloved wife, Irma, continues to hope and pray for his release, as we all do throughout the nation.

Born and raised just 22 miles from Corpus Christi, I know quite well how difficult it is to grow up in South Texas as a Latino, but thanks to Ramsey and other Latino heroes of his generation, I also went to college and law school, to earn my jurisdoctorate and help my people like Ramsey was doing. Ramsey should be out here, now, instead of behind bars where his excellent education, professional experience and desire to serve our nation, society and Latino communities is wasting away.

After high school, I joined the Marines in 1965, and served in Vietnam before going to college and law school on the G.I. Bill. Ramsey’s inspirational vision helped me see through my PTSD, and aspire for a better life than the poverty I grew up in, in South Texas. Thanks to Ramsey’s inspiration, I even worked with the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) against crime, gangs and drug abuse in our communities where the need for professional Latino intervention is so great.

To accuse Ramsey of drug trafficking, and to then deprive our Latino communities of this great leader and role model for the rest of his life was and still is a tremendous shock to us all. This reminds me of Nelson Mandela who was given the death sentence, and then a life sentence before he was finally released, and became the first Black President of South Africa, as you became the first Black President of the United States of America.

Attorneys like Nelson Mandela, Ramsey Muñiz and your self should never be treated like trash, to be discarded and forgotten by the very governments and societies we all serve. There are over 55 million Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. who need Ramsey working alongside us, to better our communities, now.

Ramsey has been unjustly imprisoned for 18 years already. Please reconsider your denial of his Application for Commutation, Mr. President, and end this travesty of justice for the sake of us all.

In God We Trust,
Ruben Barrera Botello, JD
Shippensburg, PA

Cc: National League of Latin American Citizens (NLLAC), Houston TX

Texas Reader Replies to State of Hate

Just read your piece on the outcome of the recent election and want to
thank you…well written, to the point and we all need to keep feeding
one another with hope for some real positive change in this state and

Somerville, TX

And Speaking of Ramsey: Garrison Keillor on High Crimes

The cruelty of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 is
stark indeed, as are the sentencing guidelines that
impose mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug
possession—guidelines in the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act
that sailed through Congress without benefit of public
hearings, drafted before an election by Democrats afraid
to be labeled "soft on drugs." As a result, a marijuana
grower can land in prison for life without parole while
a murderer might be in for eight years. No rational
person can defend this; it is a Dostoevskian nightmare
and it exists only because politicians fled in the face
of danger. That includes Bill Clinton, under whose
administration the prosecution of Americans for
marijuana went up hugely, so that now there are more
folks in prison for marijuana than for violent crimes.
More than for manslaughter or rape. This only makes
sense in the fantasy world of Washington, where
perception counts for more than reality. To an old
Democrat, who takes a ground view of politics—What is
the actual effect of this action on the lives of real
people?—it is a foul tragedy that makes you feel guilty
about enjoying your freedom.

Read full article in:

In These Times Note: Keillor calls the war on drugs a "religious war". And relgious
wars, of course, have no place in a society of religious freedom.
The war on Gay Rights also is nothing but a religious war. So why
does MoveOn poll its members to decide whether to get involved in
opposing the Texas constitutional amendment?  The cowardice of the
Democratic Left continues.–gm