West and Southwest IAF organizations are actively working at federal, state and local levels so that immigrant families can participate more fully in public life.
In addition to responding to the humanitarian crisis at the border, local affiliates are bringing native- and foreign-born constituents into conversation around the theology (and economics) of immigration, educating recent newcomers with financial and 'Know Your Rights' civic academies, supporting policies which protect families and working to defeat those that would unfairly penalize undocumented immigrants for their status.
In California, affiliates have expanded access to public healthcare for immigrants, changed vehicle impoundment laws in urban municipalities and equipped thousands of individuals with government sanctioned photo-ID cards; In Arizona, organizations secured in-state tuition for DACA students in local community colleges; affiliates in Iowa have led voter education initiatives on the fiscal and economic impacts of immigration; and organizations in Texas have launched parish ID cards that are providing thousands of immigrants with alternative means of proving their identity to the police.
All immigration initiatives are rooted in the faith and democratic teachings of member institutions and seek to connect leaders across racial, ethnic and language lines.
'Recognizing the Stranger' is a new multi-year regional approach to immigration, working with local parishes to identify, train, and mentor immigrant leaders to build connections among themselves and with nonimmigrant allies in their parishes and the broader community. It is a collaborative effort among clergy, leaders, and organizers to develop capacity to tackle tough issues. With support from CCHD, the strategy has expanded from 7 to19 dioceses across the West and Southwest US.
According to CCHD Director Ralph McCloud, "Recognizing the Stranger is particularly successful because it captures the connections between what happens at Mass on Sunday morning, how families live their lives throughout the week, and how parishioners interact with members of the broader community. I have been impressed that participants seek true change. In the process, parishes are strengthened, unified, and revitalized."
Recognizing the Stranger, National Strategic Grant, CCHD
Program Trains Leaders to Put Faith into Action, Texas Catholic - Dallas
Immigrant Leaders Being Trained, Catholic Sentinel - Portland [pdf]
Milestones: Catholic Campaign, TMO Offers Leadership Training for Hispanic Parishioners, Texas Catholic Herald
When Sandra, a member of El Carmen Catholic Church in San Antonio, attempted to join her son at his elementary school for lunch, she was barred from entering the campus due to a district policy that parents present a Texas ID. Sandra does not have -- and cannot obtain -- a Texas ID. When COPS/Metro leaders requested a meeting with the Superintendent to discuss the policy, they were denied.
Soon, 55 COPS/Metro leaders from El Carmen Catholic joined Sandra at the next Southside ISD School Board meeting and stood by her as she directly addressed the board. “I want to be part of his education. I want to be there every step of the way. But the district is not allowing me to do so at this time, and I would like that to change.” COPS/Metro is requesting a change to the policy so that all parents can access their children's schools.
That night, the Board President alerted leaders that the Board would work with COPS/Metro to resolve the issue. Officials from the district also agreed meet with leaders to resolve the issue.
[Photo Credit: Camille Phillips, Texas Public Radio]
San Antonio Parents Without Texas IDs Barred from Southside ISD Schools, Texas Public Radio
Parents Without Texas IDs Said They Were Barred from Southside ISD Campuses, Rivard Report
Southside ISD's ID Policy Has Some Parents Complaining it Leaves Them Out of Kid's Schooling, San Antonio Express-News
Padres Denuncian Que Este Distrito Escolar Les Prohibe Entrar as las Escuelas Por No Tener Licencia de Conducir de Texas, Univision
After the sheriff of Tarrant County mistakenly argued that 'drunk' immigrants were going to 'run over your children,' Dallas Area Interfaith organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul called on the public official to build trust rather than spread lies, referencing an independent study by the CATO Institute that documented a dramatically lower crime rate among unauthorized Texas immigrants compared to their native-born counterparts.
"In these polarized times, what he should be doing is building trust," commented Lopez-Paul.
Tarrant County Sheriff Calls Migrants Facing DWI Charges 'Drunks' Who 'Will Run Over Your Children', Dallas Morning News
500 Valley Interfaith leaders packed the Pharr Development and Research Center to publicly launch a parish ID strategy for the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Developed in collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and three law enforcement agencies, parish-issued identification cards will show a picture of the cardholder, name, date of birth, address and how long the cardholder has been a member of their parish.
Representatives from the police departments of Pharr, McAllen and Edinburg participated in the assembly, pledging to accept these cards as a form of valid identification in the event anyone needs to identify themselves to the police -- whether on a traffic stop or when filing a report.
Edinburg Police Chief Cesar Torres said that he likes the idea of the ID card because "right now we have a lot of victims that are from across (the border). They don’t call the police department when they are victimized because they are afraid of being deported. If we recognize some type of ID, they’ll feel more comfortable and call us when crimes do occur.”
Said Fr. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene de Mazenod parish in Brownsville, “I’m very excited about this event tonight because we have a lot of people coming who hope to change their lives, to have less fear in their lives, and to live with more human dignity in their homes and their neighborhoods.”
IDs Give Parishioners Way to Say, 'I Belong,' Regardless of Legal Status, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
Diocese, Valley Interfaith Team Up to Offer a New Kind of ID, The Valley Catholic
Vally Nonprofit Announces ID Strategy in Parishes, KRGTV
Valley Interfaith Clarifies Parish ID Strategy, The Monitor
Valley Interfaith to Launch Local Parish ID Strategy, The Monitor [pdf]
Likening the use of about 600 federal agents in an immigration raid carried out Wednesday in seven Mississippi chicken processing plants to an “invasion,” Bishop Joseph Kopacz, who heads the Diocese of Jackson, said some of the families affected by the action appear “traumatized.” And though about 300 of the roughly 680 people who were arrested were released on Thursday, Aug. 8, the bishop said the effects of the raids will only intensify in the coming weeks.
“This is a man-made disaster—literally,” Bishop Kopacz said. “These folks are our neighbors. They’re not criminals, the vast majority of them. They’re hard-working people.” He said he was bewildered that authorities would choose to carry out the operation as these Mississippi communities began the first day of school.
Chevon Chatman, who heads up Working Together Jackson, a network of community groups including Mississippi parishes, said...“The kids who were left behind on their first day of school came back to no one,” she said. “There have been some reunifications, but it’s still a work in progress. There are a significant number of children who have not been united with their parents.”
Ms. Chatman said that many companies in Mississippi count on immigrant labor....
[Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis, AP Photo]
After ICE Raids in Mississippi, Catholic Charities Prepares for Long-Term Impact, America Magazine [pdf]
In the face of increasingly public deportation threats, DAI's parish strategy to 'welcome the stranger' has translated into an array of actions designed to combat fear and fortify relationships between individuals, families, communities and religious institutions. Teams of parish leaders are organizing events that include citizenship screenings, Diocesan-certified parish identification cards, family health fairs (like the one in photo above) and 'Know Your Rights' sessions.
According to Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul, the church is working to dispel fear and to build community amidst a climate that breeds isolation.
Trump's Anti-Immigration Rhetoric is Meant to Instill Fear, Not for Enforcement, Advocates Say, America [pdf]
This summer will mark one year since the Catholic Diocese of Dallas outlined official requirements for parish identification cards, which would be made available to parishioners who lack access to state-issued IDs. Since then, 20 Catholic parishes have embraced the strategy, organizing teams of lay leaders to help screen applicants and issue the parish identification cards according to Diocesan standards. Parish IDs are now accepted by four police departments in North Texas: Carrollton, Dallas, Farmers Branch and Mesquite. Acceptance by these police departments was negotiated in 2017 in collaboration with Dallas Area Interfaith.
Rev. Jesus Belmontes attest that the IDs have brought relief to a vulnerable community. The acceptance of these cards by the police communicates that "they want to protect us rather than harm us. This is a ray of light that, little by little, has the potential to enlighten us all."
Parish IDs Bring Relief to Immigrant Community, Dallas Catholic Magazine
ID Parroquiales Traen Alivio a Comunidad Inmigrante, Revista Católica
In the face of a growing humanitarian crisis at the border, Albuquerque Interfaith has been at the forefront of a local response, mobilizing institutions to address the immediate needs of recent arrivals and building a longer-term strategy and constituency for change.
In March, when asylum seekers began to arrive in Albuquerque without advance notice, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders stepped up to the challenge. Within a month, in collaboration with Catholic Charities and the City of Albuquerque, leaders built a coalition of agencies to respond to increasing numbers of asylum seekers coming to the city.
For several months, leaders organized an operation of hundreds of volunteers who welcomed thousands of legal refugees, accepting buses filled with mostly Central American families. Upon arrival, families were greeted with sleeping accommodations, healthy meals, fresh clothing and support to get to their final destinations (in most cases on the East Coast). In April, newly-elected Governor Lujan-Grisham agreed to open up dorms at the Expo New Mexico center to families, most of which completed a multi-month journey through Mexico and would otherwise had been dropped off by the US Border Patrol on the streets of El Paso. With the help of dozens of churches and organizations, most of the refugees / asylees make their transition from Albuquerque within 3-4 days.
Alongside this charity strategy, leaders implemented a justice strategy rooted in IAF organizing practices of research action, civic academies and public action for structural change.
In May, leaders began calling for a strategy to address root causes of the asylum crisis.
After a campaign of civic academies that helped build an educated constituency around the need for public intervention, leaders packed city council chambers in support of a $250,000 appropriation to pay for asylum work in Albuquerque. 45 speakers spoke in support of the appropriation, including Catholic Archbishop John Wester and Interfaith leaders from a broad swath of religious and nonprofit institutions. Within days, leaders leveraged $100,000 from Bernalillo County to support mental health services for incoming families.
Albuquerque Interfaith is furthermore engaging US Senator Martin Heinrich, US Representative Ben Ray Lujan and US Representative Deb Haaland around conditions on the ground, with leaders already participating in delegations from New Mexico to secure federal funding to reimburse the city and county governments for local costs generated by the crisis.
Albuquerque Interfaith leaders are fully embracing their campaign rallying cry: "With charity, our faith demands justice."
[Photo Credits: Top - Adolphe Pierre-Louis, Albuquerque Journal; Bottom - Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal]
City Council OKs $250,000 to Help Asylum Seekers, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
County to Provide Psychological Support to Asylum Seekers, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Oped: Leaders Should Address Root Causes of Caravans, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Oped: Compassion for Asylees Lost in Border Debate, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Expo NM Will Open Dorms to Asylum Seekers, Albuquerque Journal
On Assignment: With the Asylum Seekers, Alibi [pdf]
ABQ Organizations Help Asylum Seekers, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
300 Migrants Await Processing in Albuquerque, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Months into the New Mexico legislative session, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders are celebrating advances around school accountability and early childhood education, supports for immigrants and increased health security.
Thanks to their close collaboration with state legislators, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders were successful crafting legislation that eradicated a punitive A-F grading system for public schools and replaced it with a diagnostic system of accountability. Leaders helped push through legislation that established, for the first time in the state, a department of early childhood education -- a necessary foundation for future efforts to support early childhood interventions. Funding for K-12 schooling also increased, to community acclaim.
In an effort to reverse the effects of a two-tiered system for (undocumented) immigrant drivers' licenses, created by the previous governor, leaders persuaded state legislators to expand the utility of the bottom-tier of licenses. The second tier is now equivalent to Real IDs, including acceptance by the TSA, state police and financial institutions.
These wins follow an intense season of community-led initiative -- both in bird-watching bills, and collaborating with state legislators to advance bills that intersect with the Albuquerque Interfaith agenda for families.
In fall of 2018, the federal government proposed redefining who might be considered a “public charge” -- a federal designation for people it believes are overly dependent on federally-funded social services. Under proposed changes, immigrants who are "likely at any time" to become a public charge could be ineligible to get visas and green cards that give them legal permanent residency.
Dallas Area Interfaith soon began receiving calls from parents of US-born children who stopped getting medical care and nutrition assistance for their kids. In response, DAI began organizing parish-based efforts to educate and urge the public to weigh in on the proposed changes .
“We have already heard stories of parents un-enrolling their kids from CHIP,” Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul said. “It is another piece in building a culture of fear.”
It is through congregation-based relationships and networks that DAI is educating the public about ways to take action on this issue.
[Photo Credit: Obed Manual, Dallas Morning News]
US Citizen Kids May Go Without Medical Care, Food Because Their Immigrant Parents are Afraid to Accept Help, Dallas Morning News
Millions of US Citizen Children Risk Losing Health Insurance Under Rule Change Affecting Immigrants, Study Says, Dallas Morning News
A handful of Dallas-area churches, with the support of Dallas Area Interfaith, started issuing their own ID cards this year. Police departments in Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch have been given discretion to accept those church cards as a form of identification.
Socorro Perales, a senior organizer at Dallas Area Interfaith, said her group was excited about the possibility of a city-issued card....
[Photo: Dallas Morning News]
Dallas Draws Local Support, Faces State Resistance as it Inches Closer to Issuing City ID Cards, Dallas Morning News