In August 1974, the same month that President Richard M. Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal, COPS members marched on City Hall and demanded better drainage.
Some areas of the city lacked paved streets, running water, sanitary sewer service, adequate police protection and other basics.
The group won the support of Mayor Charles Becker, who worked to pass a $46.8 million bond issue to fund long-neglected drainage projects on the West Side.
With a power base that was rooted in Catholic parishes, COPS members focused their anger in a positive way, remaining vocal but never violent, and brought lasting change.
[In photo: Candidates for District 6 listen to a question in a 1983 COPS “accountability session.” Staff File Photo, San Antonio Express-News]
Grassroots Group Energized Hispanics: COPS Launched Efforts in 1974 to Improve Basic City Services, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Project QUEST, the nonprofit workforce development organization created more than a quarter-century ago by the COPS/Metro Alliance, has been awarded a $1 million grant that the organization says will allow it to serve more San Antonians with expanded job training programs.
The award comes from the Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as part of their Communities Thrive Challenge, which awarded $1 million each to 10 organizations across the nation, working to “help low-income and financially insecure people find and retain well-paid, meaningful work, achieve financial security or build economically vibrant neighborhoods.”
San Antonio’s Project QUEST wins national $1 million grant, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
In fall of 2018, the federal government proposed redefining who might be considered a “public charge” -- a federal designation for people it believes are overly dependent on federally-funded social services. Under proposed changes, immigrants who are "likely at any time" to become a public charge could be ineligible to get visas and green cards that give them legal permanent residency.
Dallas Area Interfaith soon began receiving calls from parents of US-born children who stopped getting medical care and nutrition assistance for their kids. In response, DAI began organizing parish-based efforts to educate and urge the public to weigh in on the proposed changes .
“We have already heard stories of parents un-enrolling their kids from CHIP,” Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul said. “It is another piece in building a culture of fear.”
It is through congregation-based relationships and networks that DAI is educating the public about ways to take action on this issue.
[Photo Credit: Obed Manual, Dallas Morning News]
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]
This past week, many of us sat down with our extended families at Thanksgiving celebrations. As faith leaders, we teach that family is sacred. We are moved to keep families together, so they may thrive together.
The Trump administration has proposed a policy that would force immigrant families to make an impossible choice between caring for their children, parents and grandparents and keeping their family together in the United States. The proposed changes to the 100-year-old “public charge” regulation will make it more difficult for an immigrant to become a legal permanent resident or obtain a visa to visit the United States if he is not wealthy, have a preexisting health condition, or participate in programs that support health, nutrition and housing stability....
Don't Penalize Children for Being Poor, Especially After Harvey, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Rinaldi's district in northwest Dallas County was one of five targeted by Dallas-Area Interfaith, a group that organized canvassing and phone banks to pump up voter turnout.
At an election night watch party at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dallas, a television report flashed on the screen and showed that Rinaldi was losing. Lily Rodriguez (in photo at right) shouted out: “Why don’t you call immigration now?”
Rodriguez said she had quietly fumed when Rinaldi called ICE on protesters, but took action and began pushing parishioners at another Catholic church to vote.
She’d talked to them about the size of the Hispanic population, which in Dallas County is 40 percent and larger than any other group. “Hispanics are the majority and we continue to think like minorities,” Rodriguez said.
Interfaith organizer Socorro Perales said members were determined to get more people to the polls. Two weeks before polling began, the nonpartisan group held a community event at a church that brought in 2,000 people and five candidates, all Democrats.
“They are learning to organize, strategize, and this actually works,” Perales said.
All five candidates won, including Colin Allred, the Democrat who beat Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, a staunch ally of Trump, in the District 32 race for Congress.
Perales said she didn’t go after the low hanging fruit — those registered who had previously voted. Instead, she sifted through lists of registered voters who didn’t vote in the last election.
“They are just not used to voting,” Perales said. “There are enough registered voters and, if we can broaden the base, we can win. And we did.”
[Photo Credit: Ashley Landis, Dallas Morning News]
Latinos Could Turn Texas Blue in 2020 if Enthusiasm Holds, Some Say, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
In a move to boost voter turnout among neglected communities, Texas IAF organizations reached into suburbs surrounding Texas’ largest cities to assemble by the thousands in political, nonpartisan assemblies to help leaders wrest commitments from candidates for state and federal office. Having witnessed candidate responses to locally-developed agendas, which span from local control to Texas school finance and federal immigration reform, leaders are now mobilizing their neighbors to Get Out The Vote.
In North Dallas, for example, two thousand DAI leaders -- many from Carrollton and Farmers Branch -- invited candidates for House Districts 114, 115, 105 and 107, and Congressional District 32, to commit to investing public funds in local labor market intermediaries, crafting immigration reform that would end the separation of children from their parents at the border (and include protections for DACA youth), cracking down on predatory lending, and repealing Senate Bill 4. Hundreds more from Austin and Hayes County challenged candidates for US Congressional Districts 25 and 21, and State House Districts 47, 45 and 136 to publicly pledge support for similar priorities, including the defense of local control over municipal housing and labor policy. In Helotes, just outside of San Antonio, COPS / Metro leaders carted out boxes with thousands of postcard pledges by voters to participate in the election of US Representative for Congressional District 23, which extends to the outskirts of El Paso, and State Representative for House Districts 117 and 118. In Houston, TMO organized assemblies with candidates for US Congressional District 7 and 29; House Districts 144, 133, and 135; and Senate District 17.
Already, unpaid armies of organizational leaders have knocked on thousands of doors and called thousands more to remind supporters and voters to participate in the midterm elections. Last weekend, for example, Austin Interfaith leaders knocked on doors in three counties, four legislative districts and 2 congressional districts. This weekend, all Texas IAF organizations are making a final push -- from the pews, inside health clinics and in long-neglected neighborhoods -- to ensure the highest turnout possible in support of their agenda.
Leaders understand that targeted voter engagement efforts following accountability assemblies help advance their agenda. This year alone, local Texas IAF organizations succeeded in raising municipal wage floors in San Antonio and Austin to $15 per hour; leveraging the support of Chief of Police Art Acevedo to make Houston the first city in Texas to support a gun safety strategy; and preventing unnecessary deportations through widespread adoption of identification cards generated by parishes within the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
Candidates Share Platform at Assembly, Austin American Statesman
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
DAI Accountability Forum [Video]
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]
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
From Levi’s to Southwest Airlines to Walmart, Business Tries to Turn Out The Vote, Dallas Morning News
Victoria Cavazos, of Communities Organized for Public Service Metro Alliance, has a daughter in kindergarten at Beacon Hill Academy. Cavazos said the old building is not only cutting into the children's green space, but as of April, the children haven't been allowed to use the playground.
"The district had an assessment done of the building, and because of the hazard of the building, they put a fence around, not only the perimeter of the building, but it also includes the playground," Cavazos said.
SAISD spokeswoman Leslie Price said the district has no need for the building and it would be extremely expensive to restore. In fact, the district has requested a demolition permit from the city.
"We'd really like to demolish the building to give children the space that they deserve," Cavazos said.
"We've worked with a lot of different people and a lot of groups to try and get that money," said Michelle Ricondo, of COPS Metro Alliance. "But no one has come forward with the money to renovate the building."
After summer floods in Hidalgo County left countless homes destroyed and neighborhoods damaged, Valley Interfaith leaders researched a $190 million bond proposal to upgrade Hidalgo County’s drainage system. Leaders were soon angered to discover that almost no funding was planned to be allocated for the poorest neighborhoods of Hidalgo. “Never before has Las Milpas received money to improve the drainage in this community from Hidalgo County,” said Valley Interfaith leader Eddie Anaya.
Valley Interfaith quickly mobilized, reaching out to their elected officials and ultimately negotiating upwards of $15 million in drainage work in South Pharr and $1 million dollars for South McAllen -- not originally in the bond proposal.
Community Groups Urge 'Yes' Vote on $190 Million Bond Election, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]