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 systemic change. For several months, leaders have organized an operation of hundreds of volunteers who are helping welcome thousands of legal refugees / asylees into the US by accepting buses of mostly Central American families into the city. In Albuquerque, they are greeted with sleeping accommodations, healthy meals, fresh clothing and support to get to their final destinations (in most cases on the East Coast). Most have completed a multi-month journey through Mexico and would otherwise be 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.
Albuquerque Interfaith leaders are also building a a constituency for a "justice" response to the crisis, engaging city councilmembers, state legislators and US congressional representatives around larger needed changes. In the short term, leaders are leveraging $250,000 in City funds towards the current relief effort. Towards the development of a longer-term 21st century system for immigration and refugee re-settlement, leaders have engaged US Senator Martin Heinrich, US Representative Ben Ray Lujan and US Representative Deb Haaland.
This is but one plank of Albuquerque Interfaith's recent work, detailed in the press release further below. Leaders are simultaneously fighting to protect school-based health centers, address homelessness and mitigate zoning changes that will impact long-time homeowners.
[Photo Credit: Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal]
Albuquerque Interfaith Leaders Key in Addressing High Profile Local Challenges, Albuquerque Interfaith
Business columnist Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle argues that Project QUEST is the most effective workforce development program in the nation. Economist Mark Elliot, CEO of the Economic Mobility Corp., had this to say:
“To see earning differences this large and for this long is unprecedented in the workforce development field.”
In photo above, COPS/Metro leader Sr. Consuelo Tovar fights for local funding of Project QUEST. [Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News] In bottom photos, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations. [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]
San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle Class, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation [pdf]
Since 1992, IAF labor market intermediaries have put low-income workers into high-paying careers in health care, technology and trades. The Economic Mobility Corporation recently released a 14-year “gold standard” randomized control test of San Antonio’s Project QUEST, the flagship labor market intermediary for the IAF.
Study authors assert that “Project QUEST has demonstrated the largest, sustained earnings impacts ever found in a rigorous evaluation of a workforce development program. These findings provide conclusive evidence that investing in the skills of low-income workers not only can make a difference, it can move families out of poverty into the middle class.”
Inspired by the success of Project Quest in San Antonio, IAF leaders have established an additional nine projects in the West and Southwest US: Capital IDEA in Austin; Project ARRIBA in El Paso; VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; JobPath in Tucson; NOVA in Northeast Louisiana, Skills-Quest in Dallas; Capital IDEA-Houston; Project IOWA and Arizona Career Pathways. In 2014, DuPage County United launched its own labor market intermediary, Career Connect Metro West.
Collectively, these institutions have trained and placed tens of thousands of adults in living wage jobs which pay, on average, $40,000 annually plus benefits and a career path. This number is expected to grow as the West / Southwest IAF expands this strategy further.
In photos at right, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations at Project QUEST in San Antonio. [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]
Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation (2019)
San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle Class, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Not All Programs Fade: New Report on Project QUEST RCT Shows Sizable None-Year Earnings Gains for Low-Income Workers, Straight Talk on Evidence [pdf]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) and the Arizona Interfaith Network are working with a bipartisan block of state legislators to advance proposals that would reopen pathways to college for immigrants and ensure funding for children's healthcare.
Senate Bill 1217 would reopen a pathway for immigrant college students that had previously been closed by Proposition 300. Prop 300 prohibits colleges from charging in-state tuition to immigrants if they cannot prove legal residency. By creating a new tuition category based on graduation from Arizona high schools, SB 1217 would allow immigrants to pay somewhere between current in-state and out-of-state tuition rates.
HB 2514 and SB 1134 would work to eliminate the cap for the Arizona CHIP program (Kids Care), which provides healthcare coverage for children from low-income families not eligible for other state services. At this time, federal funding is scheduled to decrease by 10% in October of 2019 (and by another 10% in 2020), thus triggering a state cap on funding for KidsCare. With over 30,000 Arizona children currently uninsured, leaders are working hard to get these bills out of committee and included in state budget negotiations.
Hundreds of Texas IAF leaders bused into the Capitol from El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and West Texas, joining Central Texas Interfaith counterparts to call on state legislators to increase spending on adult and K-12 education.
After a morning briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including Medicaid, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were recognized with a House resolution in support of the ACE program.
300 leaders then convened on the South steps of the Capitol where they were joined by state legislators who pledged to continue working for investments in people. The following spoke in support of the ACE fund and increased public school funding: Central Texas Representatives Vikki Goodwin, John Bucy, Erin Zwiener, Gina Hinojosa and James Talarico; El Paso area representatives Joe Moody, Mary Gonzalez and Art Fierro; North Texas legislators Victoria Neave, Terry Meza, Julie Johnson, John Turner and Ana Ramos; and from San Antonio, Phillip Cortez.
In photo above, the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson from TMO (Houston) kicks off the press conference with leaders from San Antonio (COPS/Metro), Dallas Area Interfaith, Central Texas / Austin Interfaith, West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS), El Paso's Border Interfaith & EPISO, and the Rio Grande Valley (Valley Interfaith). After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators representing their geographic regions.
Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult Education, Univision 62 [Spanish video]
BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Over 300 Texas Industrial Area Foundation leaders from across the state will hold a press conference on the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday.
There, they will call on the House and Senate to invest in families through adult workforce development and public education.
Among those present will be more than 75 members of Valley Interfaith, which is part of the IAF network. In addition to pushing for adult workforce development and public education, Valley Interfaith members will also call for investment in border colonias.
The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville is a leader with Valley Interfaith. He said Valley Interfaith wants legislators to increase the state’s overall share of the cost of public education and to increase the per-pupil allotment.
“Quality public education is a question of a strong Valley economy and quality of life,” Collins said. “The state needs to step up its game and invest more in public education. Property taxes skyrocketed because the state’s share of school funding went from 50 percent to barely 36 percent. The state needs to increase investment to improve the quality of public education in Texas.”
[Photo Credit: Rio Grande Guardian]
So far in this spring legislative session, 'Nevadans for the Common Good' sent 4,000 postcards to the governor and state legislators in support of $40 million in affordable housing tax credits and a substantial increase in funding for Nevada public schools.
NCG leaders are furthermore engaged in an impassioned fight with the payday lending industry over passage of SB 201, which would establish a payday lending database that would track short-term, high-interest loans to better protect consumers. NCG initially sent a delegation of 10 leaders to the Capitol, which met with 17 legislators in one day. Since then, leaders have communicated their concerns through hundreds of emails and phone calls that included personal stories to legislators about the harmful effects of predatory lending.
Most recently, 50 leaders attended a midday hearing and delivered powerful testimony about the impact of high-interest loans on families. Rev. Sandy Johnson with United Methodist Church in Boulder City, spoke on behalf of NCG, sharing that her personal friend experienced great financial difficulties brought on by payday loans.
“If existing state laws were enforced," said Pastor Johnson, "consumers like her would be protected from being trapped in a debt cycle for more than two decades. The long term economic stability of families should not be undermined if they take out a short-term loan.”
Payday Lending Opponents, Industry Clash in Charged Hearing Over Loan Database, Nevada Independent
In advance of a vote that may occur as early as April 2nd, OTOC and the Apartment Owners Association of Nebraska (AAN) intered into negotiation about areas of agreement to jointly present to the City Council and Mayor. The AAN represents the owners of half the rental properties in Omaha.
The invitation to negotiate occurred after 40 tenants, landlords, community organizations, social service organizations, pastors organized by OTOC spoke in favor of reform at a four-hour city council hearing on March 12 (in photo above). OTOC leaders Karen McElroy, Rosie Volkmer, Gloria Austerberry, Dennis Walsh, Susan Kuhlman and Paul Romero laid out a comprehensive narrative that covered the history of substandard property rentals in the city, the failures of the current complaint-based system and the extensive research in support of rental inspection programs. At the request of City Council members, OTOC submitted recommendations of what ought to be amendments to the Mayor's proposed ordinance.
OTOC leaders urge supporters to continue to pressure their elected representatives to support a system of landlord registration with proactive inspections to ensure that all people have access to healthy homes.
ABQ Interfaith Increases Supports for Schools, Advances Early Childhood Education & Expands Utility of Immigrant Drivers' Licenses
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 a 2018 summer house meeting campaign involving more then 500 families embedded in Des Moines schools, churches and nonprofits, AMOS leaders asked, "What matters enough to you, your family, and your community that you would raise your own taxes to see it happen?”
The stories heard in these meetings, and the leaders who emerged from them, formed an agenda AMOS took to the city manager and city council last Fall, asking them to include these items in an upcoming local option sales tax vote. In December, AMOS celebrated when the city council passed a spending resolution for the tax measure that included five key AMOS priorities and agreed to endorse the measure and get out the vote. For two months, AMOS leaders held civic academies, phone banked, signed up hundreds of people up to vote, and gave rides to the polls on Election Day.
On March 5th, more than 70% of Des Moines voters voted YES on Measure A, the one-cent local option sales tax measure in the city of Des Moines. Turnout for the election was 20% higher than a similar effort last year that did not include AMOS priorities, and the margin of support for the measure was 30% higher this year than in previous years. AMOS worked with a diverse coalition of organizations who endorsed the measure, including AARP, the Central Iowa Taxpayers Association and the Firefighters Union.
The results are particularly impressive considering efforts by a Koch Brothers-funded group to torpedo the measure with negative campaigning.
Because of AMOS:
- Libraries in Des Moines will expand the number of days they are open from 5 days per week to 6 days per week, while the Downtown and Franklin branches will open 7;
- 4-6 new Rental Inspectors will be hired to improve rental housing conditions;
- 150 dilapidated and abandoned homes will be torn down or renovated each year across the city, a ten-fold increase over the 5-15 homes the city is able to address now.
- Des Moines will help fund the creation of mental health crisis services for children, with a commitment from the Mayor and other public officials to get these services up and running by June 30, 2020.
The one-cent tax will also enable the city to maintain 13 firefighter positions, speed up the building of a new fire station on the northeast side of Des Moines, and make critical investments to improve streets, sidewalks, and sewers.
As if that were not enough, on February 25th, the city council approved funding to install lights on the basketball courts at Evelyn K Davis Park — another AMOS priority.
Vote YES for Measure and Des Moines' Future, Des Moines Register
Des Moines Metro Voters Weigh 1-cent Sales Tax, Promise of Lower Property Taxes, Des Moines Register
Des Moines voters should support the local-option sales tax on March 5, Des Moines Register
Group Pushes Des Moines to Use Sales Tax Money to Extend Library Hours, Des Moines Register
Des Moines will vote on sales tax increase in March, Des Moines Register
Local option sales tax planned for March 5 vote in Des Moines, Business Record