The parish identification strategy was originally developed in the context of federal and state policy failures that fomented fear among immigrants. With no path to legalization for millions of immigrants ready to embrace the responsibilities of living in America, changes in Texas state law increased the vulnerability of families and communities.
In 2008, Texas began requiring that people seeking a drivers license demonstrate proof of legal residence. Licenses for immigrants without this proof were no longer renewed nor granted. In 2017, Texas passed Senate Bill 4, allowing law enforcement officers to inquire about immigration status and to ask for proof of legal residency. It became illegal for a city to instruct its local law enforcement agencies not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
In collaboration with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Organizers Institute of West / Southwest IAF and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) began developing immigrant leadership through multi-day Recognizing the Stranger training. In large sessions, newly trained leaders educated parishes about local implications of state law changes and in small group conversations, listened to parishioners as they expressed their concerns. Leaders then engaged local law enforcement and public officials, negotiating agreements with three North Texas police departments: Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch. In an assembly drawing 1,500 community leaders, clergy and bishops secured public pledges from local police chiefs to accept an identification card issued by a church. Since then, teams of parish leaders have issued 12,000 parish ID cards and expanded acceptance to the cities of Irving and Mesquite [Graphic Design Credit: Revista Católica].
Since then, the parish ID strategy has been implemented by sister organizations BUILD-IAF, in Baltimore, and Valley Interfaith, in the Rio Grande Valley. Parish identification is part of a larger strategy of leadership development and local, state and federal policy reform so that all families and communities can live without fear and participate more fully in public life.
As part of an immigration strategy initiated in collaboration with Valley Interfaith, the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, St. Eugene Catholic Church in Brownsville, TX began issuing parish ID cards.
Held on a Saturday, the ID Fest was organized to make the identification cards available to immigrant parishioners in need of a way to identify themselves to local law enforcement.
“ID cards can only be used for identification purposes, it is not a government issued card and cannot be used to vote, does not take place of drivers license,” said Jose Hinojosa of Valley Interfaith. So far, leaders have negotiated with the Police Departments of McAllen, Pharr, Edinburg, San Juan and Brownsville to recognize parish IDs.
Said Nancy Cruz, St. Eugene and Valley Interfaith leader, “No one should feel afraid to report a crime for lack of an ID.”
[Photo Credit: (top and bottom right) St. Eugene Mazenod Catholic Church; (bottom left) footage, KVEO]
Oblate Parish in Brownsville Offering ID Cards, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate United States Province [pdf]
Local Church Offering Parish ID Cards to Parishioners, KVEO [pdf]
Church Offers Photo IDs to its Members, Brownsville Herald [pdf]
Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and Valley Interfaith Team Up to Offer Parish ID, Interfaith Education Fund
At the 2019 General Assembly of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore, the outgoing chair of the Committee on Migration (and Catholic Bishop of Austin), Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, concluded his report with "good practices for helping immigrants." Topping the list was the IAF parish identification strategy.
Parish identification emerged as a strategy in Dallas after passage of Texas Senate Bill 4, which allows law enforcement officers to ask residents about their immigration status. With no access to state drivers licenses, undocumented immigrants were concerned that otherwise benign traffic stops could result in deportation. Police departments were worried their officers would not be trusted in immigrant communities. As a way to address both concerns, 1,500 Dallas Area Interfaith leaders and their Bishops negotiated acceptance of parish ID cards with five North Texas police departments.
The parish ID strategy soon spread to Baltimore in collaboration with IAF sister affiliate Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) and, most recently, to the Diocese of Brownsville (along the US-Mexico border) in partnership with Valley Interfaith, Catholic Charities and the police departments of Brownsville, McAllen and Edinburg.
Bishop Vasquez recognized the Catholic (Arch)dioceses of Baltimore, Dallas and Brownsville for "fostering a sense of belonging & security." So far in Dallas, 12,000 identification cards have been issued through DAI member congregations, fortifying family connections to congregations and strengthening parish collections in the process.
Remarks by Bishop Jose S. Vásquez, US Conference of Catholic Bishops General Assembly Remarks
How Parish IDs Can Help Foster Communities of Welcome, Justice for Immigrants [Notes]
How Parish IDs Can Help Foster Communities of Welcome, Justice for Immigrants [Webinar]
Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and Valley Interfaith Team Up to Offer Parish ID
Parish IDs Bring Relief to Immigrant Communities in North Texas
Additional news on Parish IDs
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.”
[Photo Credit: Francisco E. Jimenez, The Monitor]
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]
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
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
On Sunday, October 14th 2,000 leaders and parishioners from Dallas Area Interfaith assembled at the Christian Chapel Temple of Faith to challenge candidates from the Texas Tribune’s 2018 Hotlist, including Texas House Districts 105, 107, 114, and 115, and US Congressional District 32. Republican and Democratic candidates for Coppell, Richardson, and Dallas Independent School District School Board positions also participated.
At the assembly, DAI leaders publicly challenged each candidate to, if elected, commit to working with them on immigration, job training, expansion of healthcare, payday lending, and public education. All participating candidates, including local Republican candidates, publicly committed to partner with DAI leaders in supporting and / or crafting policy in these areas. One journalist reported that “in a city that’s sharply segregated by race and class, the forum was a rare example of cohesive pluralism.”
The assembly and Get Out The Vote actions are the culmination of a two-year campaign on behalf of the families and communities of Dallas. Less than a year ago, DAI leaders successfully negotiated with Police officers of the cities of Dallas, Farmers Branch, and Carrollton to accept Catholic Parishes ID’s as a form of identification. For immigrant families, having a photo ID could help prevent deportation. Since then, the parish ID strategy spread to the East Coast through DAI’s sister organization in Baltimore, BUILD. Leaders from BUILD testified at the October 14th assembly that Baltimore police officers have committed to accepting the IDs as a valid form of identification.
Since then, leaders have pushed forward with parish-based Get Out The Vote walks across the Dallas area, knocking on hundreds of doors so far and contacting thousands of voters by phone. DAI has also partnered with the business community in a joint press conference to encourage voters to participate in the midterm elections.
DAI Accountability Voter Forum [video]
Texas' Minority GOP Voters: Republican Allies Have Vanished, McClatchy
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
Archdiocese of Baltimore Will Offer ‘Parish ID’ to Immigrants and Others Who Have Trouble Obtaining Legal ID, Washington Post
To Help Immigrants Feel Safer Around Police, Some Churches Start Issuing IDs, NPR
Texas 2018 Hotlist: The Most Competitive Races in Texas’ Midterm Election, Texas Tribune
From Levi’s to Southwest Airlines to Walmart, Business Tries to Turn Out The Vote, Dallas Morning News
In response to undocumented families expressing fear about reporting crimes -- even when they themselves are victims -- because of an inability demonstrate who they are, Dallas Area Interfaith and the Dallas Catholic Diocese worked together to create a solution.
Last year, 1,500 leaders stood with Bishop Edward Burns to invite three police department chiefs to allow their officers to accept parish identification cards, in order to help build trust between the community and the police. Police department chiefs from Carrollton, Farmers Branch and Dallas agreed.
This year, parishes in the Dallas Catholic Diocese have issued tens of thousands of parish identification cards to parishioners, who now feel more confident in relating to the police. HBO covers this story in a special segment:
Catholic Church is Now Issuing Undocumented Immigrants ID Cards, HBO
After passage of Senate Bill 4, according to Father Michael Forge of Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch, several undocumented parishioners told him that they felt unsafe going to church or taking their kids to school. One year later, his church, with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, is making parish identification cards available to his parishioners.