Claudia Cruz, whose primary language is Spanish, said Dallas Area Interfaith— a coalition of Dallas religious congregations, schools and nonprofits — has been her main source of information since the COVID-19 pandemic began because “it’s the most accessible,” Cruz said.
“Our only source of information has been through DAI and through the people in our community,” Cruz said.
"We have to be informed because we are the most vulnerable," [Maria] Ramirez explains.
The information Ramirez has gotten throughout the pandemic has mostly been through her own efforts seeking it out and through the community groups she was already involved with. Ramirez's church sends out information to congregants, as does The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a local nonprofit of which she is a member.
On a balmy day at the St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church in East Dallas, parishioners working with the nonprofit Dallas Area Interfaith talked among themselves about problems they faced as they passed out food to a long line of needy people.
Rosa Garcia said she was already helping family cope with the deaths of two family members in Dallas when her husband found out two more relatives had died in Florida. “For immigrants, it is harder. We have to struggle three times harder,” Garcia said.
Nearby, a small woman named Cecilia with a white face mask set below bloodshot eyes took a break. She said she didn’t sleep much because rats and bugs have infested her apartment, and she must be on guard that they don’t bite her children at night.
Cecilia lives on a janitor’s wages. She asked that her surname not be published because she is undocumented and fears she’d lose her job. She can’t pay her rent and the landlord says it will be an extra $300 if she wants to change apartments....
[Photo Credit: Ben Torres, Special Contributor, Dallas Morning News]
...workers who labor shoulder to shoulder at the plant and others fear the contagion has spread to more people in the Dallas area. Sick workers who do not get themselves tested could spread the virus when they are out and about or when they return to the plant.
“The workers at these plants are essential workers, especially now,” said auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Dallas Catholic Diocese. “They help keep the food supply chain intact for all of us… They are particularly vulnerable because of the kind of work that they do and in greater need of protection at this time. Just as the state has done elsewhere in Texas, they should require testing of their employees for the safety of all."
Josephine Lopez-Paul, an organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith, said she is organizing a plan to assist those families. “It’s in our collective interest to protect these workers,” Lopez-Paul said. “The state also has a responsibility to these workers.”
[Photo Credit: Ryan Michalesko, Dallas Morning News]
Experts, Activists Want Virus Testing at Meat-Processing Plants to Prevent Community Spread, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
At St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Irving, Rev. Ernesto Esqueda said the church will support the workers with food and other needs during the pandemic.
“We are all walking on the same path, and our close ties mean we help and will continue to help so that these persons don’t feel forgotten or abandoned,” Rev. Esqueda said. “As a church, we work for them and with them.”
The priest said the church is also working with the nonprofit Dallas Area Interfaith and government authorities to find help for workers and parishioners.
One church leader in the interfaith group, Cecilia Avalos, said many of the Brakebush workers are vulnerable Spanish-speaking immigrants, and she knew of a worker who quit when the plant wouldn’t allow the worker to self-quarantine after exposure to an infected worker.
“There is such an outcry among people,” Avalos said.
[Photo of plant by Google Street View]
40 Workers At Irving Poultry Plant Test Positive for Covid-19, The Dallas Morning News [pdf]
40 Empleados de Planta Procesadora de Pollo Dan Positivo a COVID-19, Dallas Al Día [pdf]
[Translated excerpt below]
"It's a good start", said Josephine López Paul, organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith, a nonprofit organization that helped create the County housing assistance program.
"It's a down payment towards a major issue in our county."
Ian Mattingly, president-elect of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, noted industry analyst estimates that 15% of county renters will not be able to pay rent this month.
[Photo Credit: Ashley Landis, Dallas Al Día]
After DAI organized judicatory leaders and clergy from every major religion in Dallas, and the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, to testify in support of short-term supports for low-income renters and homeowners. At DAI's urging, the City of Dallas authorized about $13.7 million for short-term rental and mortgage assistance programs including $6 million for direct income support for Dallas residents and $1.5 Million to be entrusted to nonprofits to distribute to undocumented immigrants left out of the CARES Act.
Speakers who testified in support of this local aid package included Bishop Edward Burns and Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Erik KJ Gronberg of the Northern Texas - Northern Louisiana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and Rabbi Kimberly Herzog-Cohen of Temple Emanu-El.
Funding will come directly from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and other federal funding the city has made available, and will be targeted at households making 80% or below of the area median income and are left out of the federal stimulus CARES Act. DAI leaders argued that with 50,000 renters in danger of not being able to pay the rent, that a large local aid package would be essential.
The application is still being finalized but the City of Dallas expects to start accepting them starting May 4.
50,000 Familias en Riesgo de Desalojo Por No Pagar La Renta, Al Dia Dallas [pdf]
Immigrant Workers Face Economic Uncertainty During Covid-19 Shutdown, America Magazine
Personas Indocumentadas Sí Podrán Acceder a Fondo de Ayuda Para Renta, Dallas Al Día [pdf]
Press Conference Calling on City Council, Dallas Area Interfaith, [video]
City Council Discussion on Aid to Immigrants, City of Dallas [video]
On a recent Saturday, the priest passed out bags of eggs, beans, rice, tomatoes and chicken and sprinted like a grocery store clerk to families waiting in a long line of vehicles at San Juan Diego Catholic Church. Catholic Charities of Dallas had set up a mobile food pantry in the church parking lot. The charity has more than doubled food deliveries since the virus hit North Texas and left so many unemployed or with reduced work.
The following day at the downtown Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Padre Jesus joined auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly in celebrating Easter Mass in Spanish by video. Padre Jesus delivered a special message about a pause on evictions and said if anyone was threatened, they should call the nonprofit Dallas Area Interfaith, a group both priests work with.
If anyone has symptoms of the coronavirus, the priest said, they should go to a testing site. “Don’t have fear in going to these centers,” he said in a message slipped in before the final Alleluia of the Mass.
Wednesday, in English, Padre Jesus testified, by video, before the Dallas City Council in favor of getting emergency funds to help immigrants who aren’t eligible for federal relief funds because someone in the household is undocumented.
“We must direct funds to help the most vulnerable in our city,” Padre Jesus said...
[Photo Credit: Ashley Landis, Dallas Morning News]
Catholic Priest Tends to Most Vulnerable in Pandemic: the Uninsured and Unemployed Dallas Morning News [pdf]
“It’s a special time with everything that’s happening because of the pandemic, but we have to think of our homes as having converted into our church where the word of God reaches us through the TV and social media,” said Jesus Belmontes, the priest of the San Juan Diego Catholic Parish in Dallas.
Belmontes, the Dallas priest, helped organize a drive-thru food distribution with Dallas Area Interfaith the day before Easter and looks forward to seeing some of his church community through car windows. He’ll spend Sunday mostly alone, streaming from an altar where he’d usually lead thousands of congregants for mass...
[Photo Credit: Vernon Bryant, Dallas Morning News]
While health and government officials work to manage the outbreak, families are struggling to pay bills and buy groceries.
Josephine Lopez Paul, the lead organizer for the Dallas Area Interfaith, a coalition of nonprofits and religious organizations that advocates for low-income families, said local, state and federal policymakers need to spend this month thinking about how to reshape the economy.
Lopez Paul said she hopes officials find a way to mitigate debt families may build as they continue to stay unable to work.
“This is going to be a depression,” she said. “This is the fastest economic decline we’ve seen in modern history. We’re not going to flip a switch one day and everyone go back to work. Some folks are never going to be able to recover from this.”
[Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool, Dallas Morning News]
April Will Be a Make-or-Break Month for North Texas in Coronavirus Fight, Dallas Morning News [pdf][pdf]
Parish identification cards, an IAF immigration strategy developed in collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, are now accepted at Dallas County Covid-19 mobile testing units.
[Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool, Dallas Morning News]