News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Immigration, Race, Gender Issues Stole The Spotlight In 2017

Illustration by Krystina Martinez

2017 was a rollercoaster year for news, especially if you were a person of color, a transgender person, an immigrant, or a woman.

There were immigration crackdowns on the state and federal level. There were proposed policies targeting transgender public restroom use and military service. Debates on Confederate monuments and white supremacy led to longer discussions about race relations. To round off the year, a number of sexual harassment cases became public.

Immigration Policy

Credit Stella Chavez/KERA News
800 people gathered at DFW Airport's international terminal in late January to protest an executive order halting travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations.

The Trump administration began to crack down on immigration through a number of executive orders. One banned travelto the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries, leading to protests at airports across the country and intervention from the courts.  Another order opened the door for more deportations.

The Texas Legislature passed a law cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities.” Senate Bill 4 allows law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of a person they lawfully detain, with punishments for officials who don’t comply. Some of the law is in effect, while the rest awaits a court decision.

The fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is still in limbo, too. Congress has until March to come up with a legislative solution, or else the program winds down with nothing to replace it. Texas has the second largest number of DACA recipients living in the state and the worries were palpable in Tyler, where about a quarter of the city’s population is Latino.

More interviews on immigration policy from 2017:

Policies Targeting Transgender People

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
Adrienne Anemone of Austin dances along with dozens of other protesters at the "Queer Dance Freakout" event in front of the Governor's Mansion on February 23, 2017. The protest was a reaction to the Texas bathroom bill.

There was also a bill in the state legislature regulating which public restrooms transgender people could use. That led to opposition not only from the LGBTQ community, but also from business groups, companies and some faith leaders. Contention over that and other proposed bills pushed the Legislature into a special session in the summer, but it didn't become law.

Also this summer, President Trump tweeted he wanted to ban transgender troops from serving in the military. The tweets ultimately didn’t become policy; the Pentagon this month said transgender people would be allowed to serve.

More interviews on transgender issues from 2017:


Credit Hady Mawajdeh / KERA News
A group called the Texas Freedom Force protested the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Dallas on Sept. 17, 2017

Racial issues played out in a lot of ways this year. The deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August raised again the issue of whether Confederate monuments should remain standing.

There was debate on both sides: Some said the monuments should stay because they represent history, and others said they skew history and celebrate a time when slavery was legal.

Credit Christopher Connelly / KERA News
90-year-old Opal Lee of Fort Worth.

But even though civil rights have come a long way in the last century, some attitudes haven’t changed. For years, 90-year-old Opal Lee of Fort Worth has campaigned to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. On that day in 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston with the news that slavery ended – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The day also has personal significance for Lee; when she was a child, a mob of white protesters drove her family from their Fort Worth home.

Brian Williams treated three of the Dallas officers who died in the July 7 shootings last year. He made headlines when he became emotional at a press conference. He quit his job this summer, and discussed some of the overt and covert racism he faced in medicine.

In the NFL, a number of football players kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, which drew criticism from some fans — and President Trump. Research found that opinions on anthem protests differed by race

More interviews on race from 2017:

Sexual Harassment

The year began — and ended — with women speaking out. The day after President Trump's inauguration in January, thousands of Texans took part in women's marches as part of a nationwide demonstration. By the waning months of 2017, sexual harassment became the topic of every U.S. workplace.

Allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein led to a domino effect in major industries. Congressmen resigned, actors and heads of newsroom lost jobs, and we learned some new terms, such as "whisper network" and "open secret."

Women also began sharing their stories of harassment online with the #MeToo hashtag. Tarana Burke started the campaign in 2007 to help victims of sexual harassment and assault.

More interviews on sexual harassment from 2017:

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.