On a rainy Friday night, the Dallas church hall meeting was filled with talk of the latest tiroteos y balaceras — gunfire and gun battles.
Erika Gonzalez said she can now distinguish between the metallic sounds and rhythm of a high-caliber assault weapon vs. a pistol. “They discharge and they refill,” she said at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in southeast Dallas.
“We need more help for this combat,” said Lily Rodriguez, a U.S. citizen who helped organize the meeting. “Raise your voice. It will give us credibility.”
They’re part of a new gun-control campaign that is spreading in Mexican-American and Mexican immigrant neighborhoods in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas. Already, 11,000 Texans have signed postcards asking for support for four federal bills, including two on enhanced background checks for firearms purchases, organizers say.
The campaign started after the mass shooting Aug. 3 at an El Paso Walmart, in which a Dallas-area man traveled to the border city with an assault rifle to hunt Mexicans, according to a court affidavit. By the end of the shooting spree, 22 people were dead. It is believed to be the worst violence against Latinos in a century — since widespread lynchings across the West aimed at those of Mexican ancestry....
[Photo Credit: Dianne Solis, Dallas Morning News]
After El Paso Massacre, Dallas Area Interfaith Calls for Tougher Gun Laws, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
In a major push to sign up new (and potential) voters, Dallas Area Interfaith leaders recruited over 1,200 US legal permanent residents, green card holders, to apply for US citizenship this year. Catholic priests and lay leaders took to the pulpit to spread the word that a key element of the Catholic faith is participation in public life, which includes voting.
The Dallas Morning News had this to say:
We’re impressed by the Dallas Area Interfaith’s proactive effort to help green card holders become U.S. citizens. The coalition of church-based groups exceeded its goal of getting 1,000 people in a year on the road to becoming citizens by prepping them for the citizenship test and helping them fill out forms. In this volatile environment for conversation about immigration, it helps to have a safe place for folks to go to get through this complicated process. With that final step, legal tax-paying residents gain the full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. That’s true democracy at work.Read more
Former Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo, who waited until the day before the election to support Dallas Area Interfaith's agenda in support of affordable housing and early childhood education, lost the runoff by 291 votes - the largest margin of three runoff races that day.Read more
"Catholic congregations and leaders ...were central in the push for payday lending reform in nearby Arlington. Father Daniel Kelley of St. Joseph Catholic Church was particularly influential. In addition, the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Texas' Catholic bishops, worked directly on payday lending reform at the state and local level, and also participated in Dallas Area Interfaith and Faith Leaders for Fair Lending.Read more
At one point, addressing immigrants in the packed room, Pughes said "we don't want to be immigration police." The chief additionally committed to working with leaders to address three areas in the city that see high level of drugs and prostitution, as well as developing a plan for the 8,000 feral dogs roaming neighborhood streets.Read more
In a little over a year of public action, DAI church leaders confronted landlords, secured the support of allies, negotiated with adversaries, and ultimately changed the housing code of Dallas in a fundamental way. Says Heather Way, a professor at University of Texas School of Law who specializes in affordable housing law, "These reforms are much needed and should have a big impact on protecting the health and safety of Dallas's most vulnerable." FOX News calls the code the "toughest landlord rules in the state." Said former code enforcement prosecutor, Councilmember Adam McGough, "this is unprecedented."Read more
In November, extra chairs had to be hauled out to accommodate 160 people who gathered at San Juan Diego Catholic Church at a meeting in which they brought specific issues with apartment conditions straight to the police chief and City of Dallas elected officials. They and the audience listened with approval as Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo and Roberto Garcia, a Dallas police senior corporal, vowed to help the residents.Read more