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COPS/Metro Celebrates TxDOT Repair of "Death Curve" by Church

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Crews have improved a curve off FM 1560 and Riggs Road that drivers called dangerous and deadly with the hope of fewer crashes in the area.

In late 2018 improvements were made to the area to create better traffic flow. However, cement barriers created a new problem for drivers.

Last year, more than 200 people packed the parish hall at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and voiced their concerns to Texas Department of Transportation officials.

Lucia Hernandez attended the meeting and recalled being hit by a driver when she pulled out onto FM 1560. She blamed the cement barrier and said it created a blind spot.

However, more than a year later, the barrier has come down, and in its place is a new guard rail.

Catherine McCoy, the COPS-Metro Alliance leader, said the spot was dangerous to drivers, especially with the growth in the area.

She and others gathered at the former problem curve Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the changes.

“People should have a right to know that when they’re on the road that these roads are safe, that the engineers have designed it in a safe way,” McCoy said.

[Photo Credit: KSAT]

Drivers Happy With Changes Made to 'Dangerous' Curve in Helotes, KSAT [pdf]

COPS/Metro Urges TxDOT to Address "Deadly Curve" Near Church and SchoolWest / Southwest IAF


COPS/Metro and Faith Leaders Recognize City Council and Staff for Policy Change

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COPS/Metro in partnership with Community Churches for Social Action (CCSA), and the Baptist Ministers' Union (BMU), has recognized the effort and commitment of elected officials and city staff for revising the San Antonio Police Use of Force policy to completely prohibit, with no exception, the use of neck restraint (strangleholds, choke-holds) collectively referred to as lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR), along with the use of no-knock warrants.

"These policy changes certainly will not solve all of the challenging surrounding relationships between police and communities, but they do represent concrete actionable change that help confirm the city's commitment to live into the Compassionate SA ethos," read a press release from the three organizations.

Faith Leaders Recognize City Council and Staff for Policy Change, Today's Catholic


DAI Registers Voters, Works to Increase Voter Participation

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If you live in Travis or Harris counties, thanks to the governor, you might have to venture a lot farther to drop off your mail-in ballots for the upcoming election. By proclamation, Gov. Greg Abbott limited mail-in ballot drop-off locations to just one per county and is allowing parties to place poll watchers inside to keep an eye on the operation.

Julio Román, a Dallas resident, spent some of his Saturday passing out nearly a hundred voter registration cards to people in the city. He said he feels Abbott’s proclamation is just a ploy to suppress the vote.

Román is with Dallas Area Interfaith, a grassroots coalition focused on improving communities in the DFW area. Throughout the pandemic, the group has been helping immigrant communities pay their rent, conducting food drives and encouraging people to vote.

He said he thinks the proclamation will disproportionately affect the working class, as well as minority populations who live far away from their county’s only drop-off location.

This is why Jenkins said that it is imperative people make plans to vote. “Decide where, when, and how you will cast your ballot,” he said.

[Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

Abbott's Limits on Drop-off Locations for Mail-In Ballots Won't Affect Dallas County Directly, Dallas Observer [pdf]


EPISO/Border Interfaith Leverages Half Million in Emergency Cash Aid for 1,000 Families in El Paso

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El Paso County commissioners on Monday approved contributing $275,000 to a partnership that will provide emergency financial assistance to El Pasoans, with a focus on helping people excluded from earlier pandemic stimulus funds.

The Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation is offering a five-year, $500,000 match for the program, and unnamed national funders are contributing $150,000, organizers said. Other key partners are El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO)/Border Interfaith and the Family Independence Initiative.

At least 1,000 El Paso County families this year will benefit from cash grants of up to $500, which they can use to cover any expense or financial obligation. The partnership especially wants to reach undocumented and mixed immigration status households that were barred from receiving $1,200 stimulus checks and other COVID-19 relief help approved by Congress.

“They were already in the shadows and now even more in the sense that their poverty became even bigger poverty in the sense of things were not moving,” said Rev. Pablo Matta, a Catholic priest and a leader with EPISO/Border Interfaith, which will assist FII in reaching families in need of assistance. “They work so hard and they’re a big part of the economy of El Paso and all throughout the U.S., but never very much taken into account at all.”

Woody Hunt, the El Paso businessman who chairs his family’s philanthropic foundation, said the $500,000 donation builds off of efforts in the spring to shore up the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger food bank in the early stages of the pandemic.

“And during that time period, I had some discussions with EPISO, which I’ve kind of met with regularly over a very long period of time, and I know they had concerns about those within the community that were at the very bottom end that in some cases didn’t qualify for some of the federal programs that were coming out,” Hunt said.

“FII has a platform, they’ve been doing it for 20 years, they’ve got the technology to do it. They need local partners like an EPISO who can really identify either directly or through the Catholic Church that they work with, those that really have the greatest need,” Hunt said.

Many low-income families in El Paso face cumbersome application processes and a lack of access to computers and other technology to apply for assistance, said Dolores De Avila, a longtime leader with EPISO.

[Photo Credit: Robert Moore/El Paso Matters]

Low-Income El Pasoans Can Get Emergency Financial Help From New Partnership, El Paso Matters [pdf]


Dallas Catholic Bishop & North Texas Commission CEO: US Citizens Entitled to Stimulus Relief, Even When Married to Foreign Nationals

Jackie Gomez is a U.S. citizen and the mother of five kids from McKinney. She is married to a Mexican national. When she found out that she wasn’t eligible for a stimulus check, Gomez felt like it was “a slap in the face.”

Because of the economic downturn, Gomez has faced economic hardships, including not sending her oldest child to Collin Community College. When everyday Americans like Gomez can’t meet their basic needs, you can’t expect them to spend money on rent or utilities. They won’t be eating in restaurants, getting haircuts or buying new clothing, activities that stimulate our economy.

That is why, as faith and business leaders, we urge our Republican senators to end the unfair and immoral marriage penalty in the stimulus legislation by prioritizing the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act in the next federal coronavirus stimulus package.

Denying federal relief to mixed-status families is morally wrong. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act was supposed to provide stimulus checks for all Americans with Social Security numbers. But a subtle change in federal tax law in 2017 requires both spouses in a marriage to have Social Security numbers, resulting in many Americans becoming ineligible for assistance because they are married to foreign nationals who are not U.S. citizens.

As a result of this careless oversight, 1.7 million U.S. citizens or green-card holders, along with their 3.7 million children, were left out of the stimulus package, according to estimates by the Migration Policy Institute. These are taxpayers who reported their earnings to our government and their exclusion is un-American to its core.

The American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act, introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., would fix this oversight by ensuring that every U.S. citizen and legal resident would receive $1,200 and each of their children would receive $500. According to TexasGOPVote, stimulus checks for the estimated 940,000 who were originally excluded in Texas would inject $508.2 million into our state’s economy.

Without steady employment and financial assistance needed due to the pandemic, many of these families could struggle to get back on their feet, increasing the likelihood of evictions, hunger and homelessness. Sen. John Cornyn has co-sponsored the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act, and we ask Sen. Ted Cruz to do the same.

If Congress does not act, our state’s falling employment rate could creep back up, and our country’s recession could get worse. Families cannot wait much longer to pay their overdue rent and bills. We need Congress to act in a bipartisan manner to pass a CARES 2.0 stimulus package immediately.

Greg Kelly is the auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Dallas and a leader with Dallas Area Interfaith.

Chris Wallace is chief executive of the North Texas Commission and a co-chair of the Texas Business Immigration Coalition.

All U.S. Citizens Are Entitled To Stimulus Relief, Even If They Are Married To Foreign Nationals, Dallas Morning News [pdf]


TMO Welcomes CDC Eviction Moratorium, Calls for More Rental Assistance

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According to community leaders, about 10,000 renters have been evicted from March through August in the Houston area before the recent eviction moratorium was put into place by the Center for Disease Control to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC ordered a national eviction moratorium, halting evictions effective Sept. 4 through the end of 2020 as COVID-19 continues to cause health and economic hardships. But residents will still be under obligation to pay rent, so those eligible need to apply to Houston’s $60 million rental assistance program allocated through the City of Houston and Harris County, said The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) members, a nonprofit of church groups.

“Evictions put us all at risk,” said TMO’s Bob Fleming. “People who are evicted move in with other people and compound liability to COVID-19 by creating more density.”

Baptist Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, as part of a TMO press conference, said, “The CDC order creates a welcomed pause in evictions in this area, but it is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31.”

[Photo Credit: Jo Ann Zuñiga, Texas Catholic Herald]

Thousands Evicted in Houston Area Before Eviction Moratorium, Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]


TMO Calls on County Justices of the Peace to Halt Evictions

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Leaders with The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a coalition of churches and organizations that work to help low-income, local communities, are calling on Justices of the Peace to halt evictions and for renters to take action to prevent losing their homes.

Beginning Friday, a new evictions moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes place. The rare order prohibits landlords from evicting any tenants through the end of the year but does not relieve renters of having to pay their rent and other fees in the future.

TMO leaders said during a Friday press conference while the CDC's sweeping moratorium is a step in the right direction, it's not enough.

“The CDC order creates a welcome pause in evictions in this area but is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31” Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, a leader with TMO, said in a news release.

“COVID-19 is not going anywhere, and it is time for Congress to return to negotiations to pass the next stimulus bill, including $100 Billion in rental assistance,” TMO Leader Rev. Scott Cooper said in the release.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT Physicians]

Houston Coronavirus Updates: What You Need To Know For September 4th, Houston Chronicle [pdf]


AMOS Works to Broaden Language Access to Election Materials in Iowa

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...In Iowa, it’s illegal for the state to translate official government forms. including anything election-related. This makes it really hard for non-fluent English speakers in Iowa to gather official voting information.

Iowa’s "English-only" law, as it is known by some, dates back to 1918 after World War I. Republican Gov. William Harding signed the Babel Proclamation into law, which made English the only language legally permitted in the state. It was intended to limit the German language in schools and other public spaces.

Tun said this law scares her community. She said sometimes they are too afraid to vote. They are worried they will get in trouble if they make a mistake in the voting process.

But people who translate the forms disagree. Jan Flora and Terry Potter of A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) said it is especially true this year. Flora translates voter forms into Spanish and Potter distributes them to other organizations throughout the state.

“If we cannot translate that, maybe we’re going to lose our voters…Yea, a lot of voters," Tun said.

She said the state has a responsibility to Iowans, whether they speak Spanish, Burmese, Karen or anything else.

[Photo Credit: Tiffany Tertipes, Unsplash]

Lost In Translation: How Iowa's 'English-Only' Law Affects Some Voters , Iowa Public Radio [pdf]

 

 


WTOS Creates -- and Secures City Funds for -- Mental Health Program

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Due to the stress and anxiety brought on by the pandemic, leaders from the West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS) decided to start a program to support mental health.

WTOS asked a variety of members within the Lubbock community how Covid-19 had impacted their family, and the most common answer was mental health. As a result, the grant came from the city’s Covid-19 relief funds.

Catholic Charities has collaborated with WTOS to help bring awareness to the program.

“Catholic Charities has actually been called in to administer the program. So, it’s just been really great to have that approved and ready to go,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Cynthia Quintanilla. “And we’re just excited about being able to provide the services.”

The program will kick-off Tuesday, September 15, and those interested in signing up for the session can get more information by visiting the Catholic Charities website.

Catholic Charities Receives Grant for New Mental Health Program, Everything Lubbock [pdf]

 


TMO Justice Summit Reiterates Call for Police Reform in Houston and Texas

[Excerpts]

Pastor John D. Ogletree reflected Thursday evening that it had been a sad day in Houston, and a somber one. Four city police officers were fired that day for their roles in the April 21 death of Nicolas Chavez, in an incident captured on police video that was finally made public after months of calls, from activists, to “release the tapes.”

But as Ogletree noted Thursday evening, at the beginning of an online summit on justice coordinated by The Metropolitan Organization of Houston and the Network of Texas IAF Organizations, Chavez’ death wasn’t an isolated incident.

“Chavez was the first of six killed by HPD officers during a two-month stretch, April and May,” Ogletree said. “All of these were men of color who were killed....”

“The cry now across the nation is for justice,” Ogletree continued. “Since May, there has been a heightened sense of rage, desperation, and resolve to shift the way policing is done in America.”

That’s certainly true, and it’s the best reason to feel optimistic about the prospects for police reform in Houston, at least.... 

[Photo Credit: Pastor John Ogletree of First Metropolitan Church]

Grieder: Push for Police Reform Shouldn’t be Scuttled in Favor of Partisan Politics, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

TMO Police Reform Action Agenda

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