On a Sunday October evening, two thousand leaders and parishioners from Dallas Area Interfaith institutions 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, so far knocking on hundreds of doors and contacting thousands of voters by phone. DAI has also partnered with the business community to encourage voters to participate in the midterm elections through a downtown press conference.
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
On Wednesday, several groups are planning a news conference in downtown Dallas to continue pushing for higher turnout. They also plan to encourage candidates to speak at public forums.
“Unless people feel connected to the issues affecting them, they’re not likely to vote,” said Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a coalition of congregations, schools and nonprofits.
As residents learn about issues and candidates, they'll be drawn into the process. And institutions can have a bigger impact.
“If their business and church and school are saying the same thing — go vote — then we’ll see a rise in voting,” Paul said.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:
We've been here before. America has had a love-hate relationship with its Mexican population for centuries. Whether it is not being able to find a permanent solution to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), separating immigrant children from their parents or casting undocumented persons as criminals and rapists, these vile expressions of hatred against Mexicans have existed for centuries.
America loves to vilify and dehumanize Mexicans, despite our historic contributions to the U.S. economy. Traditionally, when the economy is flourishing and needs low-wage laborers, we're the go-to help. But when the economy is in decline, we become the targets for everything that is wrong with our country. In the current political climate, we're "the other," to be feared as the reason America is no longer great. But we have long been a part of the fabric of America.
It has been a year since Texas passed SB4, a measure that requires police and county sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The measure also grants local law enforcement the right to question the immigration status of anyone they arrest….
Father Forge, leaders of the Dallas Area Interfaith and more than 1,000 others met with law enforcement officials from Dallas and neighboring communities Carrollton and Farmers Branch, last November to see what could be done to quell fears. The problem, according to law enforcement, comes when individuals pulled over for traffic violations cannot identify themselves.
“They want to know who they’re talking to,” Father Forge said of police. “Well, we already issue our volunteers with ID cards, so we jumped on that….”
Church in Texas Issues IDs to Help the Undocumented Navigate Police Encounters, America Magazine [pdf]
Why Some Parishes are Offering IDs to Undocumented Texas, Catholic News Agency
Nearly 300 parishioners of San Juan Diego Catholic Church [photo above] lined up by 8am on a Saturday morning to apply for a church-issued identification cards offered through the Catholic Diocese. Within five hours, 500 applications were filed and 300 cards issued that day.
Building on a groundbreaking accord between Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) and the Police Departments of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch — in which the police agreed to accept parish identification cards as alternative ID — upwards of 1,100 parish ID cards have been issued. With some parishes requiring active membership from applicants for at least six months before issuing the card, the wait list of submitted applications has, so far, exceeded 2,200 applicants and is expected to grow.
This joint effort with the Catholic Diocese is bringing immigrants out of the shadows and into fuller participation in congregational life. At San Diego Diego Catholic alone, 1,000 applicants were newly registered as members of their parish, even after years of regular church attendance. Teams of leaders identified by DAI, and trained (in Spanish) through a collaborative effort with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), help keep the cost of the cards affordable for families.
Without an ID, said one parishioner, “we are scared of what could happen if we are stopped by the police.” With parish ID, families are feeling a greater sense of belonging and confidence in dealing with law enforcement.
Said DAI leader, Adriana Godinez, “For us, this is a really important document. We cannot take it lightly. It’s something that person is going to show to an officer.”
In training sessions recently held, police departments have committed to training their officers to recognize these cards as alternative identification. Dallas County Community College has also committed to accepting the IDs, for purposes of enrolling in GED, US Citizenship and English-language classes.
According to one applicant, Antonio Coahila, “It’s a bit of a relief. It’s like you finally have an identity.”
Why Some Parishes are Offering IDs to Undocumented Texas, Catholic News Agency [pdf]
Dallas-Area Immigrants Apply for Catholic Church-Issued IDs to Ease Deportation Fears, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
When Fr. Daza of Nuestra Señora del Pilar Catholic Church heard that his parishioner, Adolfo Mejia, was in deportation proceedings, he immediately picked up the phone and called Dallas Area Interfaith.
“It’s the children who suffer,” he says.
With family unity and the livelihood of six US-born children at stake, Dallas Area Interfaith and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas stepped in to stand with the Mejia family after the father, Adolfo Mejia, was deported in March.
“This is not a time for isolation,” said Socorro Perales, an organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith, who went to immigration court with the mother. “This is a time to build relationships.”
[In photo: Catholic Bishop Greg Kelly stands with Lucia Mejia and her family outside the Earle Cabell Federal Court Building before a court hearing for Adolfo Mejia. Photo Credit: Jeffrey McWhorter / Dallas Morning News]
US Citizen Kids Face the Deportation of Their Immigrant Parents, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Deportación de Padres Traumatiza a Niños, Dallas Al Día
Building on a groundbreaking accord between Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) and the Police Departments of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch -- in which the police agreed to accept parish identification cards as alternative ID -- upwards of 800 parish ID cards have been issued since the campaign was launched in March 2018. With some parishes requiring active membership from applicants for at least six months before issuing the card, the waiting list of submitted applications has, so far, exceeded 2,000 applicants and is expected to grow.
The joint effort with the Catholic Diocese is bringing immigrants out of the shadows and into fuller participation in congregational life. 700 applicants were newly registered as members of their parish, even after years of regular church attendance. Teams of leaders identified by DAI, and trained (in Spanish) through a collaborative effort with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), are helping keep the cost of the parish IDs affordable for families.
Without an ID, said one parishioner, "we are scared of what could happen if we are stopped by the police." With parish ID, families are feeling a greater sense of belonging and confidence in dealing with law enforcement.
In training sessions held this month, police departments have committed to training their officers to recognize these cards as alternative identification.
[Photo Credit: Telemundo 39]
Crean Identificación Para Ayudar a Inmigrantes en el Metroplex, Telemundo 39 [pdf]
Adriana, a single mother of two, is a Skill Quest participant. Before the program, she earned $600 a month cleaning homes, and the thought of going to school was a dream. Now when she finishes her radiology degree next year, she will be placed in a job in Dallas earning $50,000 to start.
Stories like Adriana's are possible because of the public investment made in providing the wrap-around services for her to attend college. So that things such as rent, child care, and navigating college as a first-generation student do not create barriers that keep our future skilled workforce from graduating and meeting the job demand in our city.
So why does a city like Dallas need Adriana? The answer: Adriana represents the future of Texas. She is a young, uneducated single mother and lives below the federal poverty line. She also serves an economic opportunity for our city.
In a well-attended nonpartisan accountability assembly north of Dallas, DAI engaged primary candidates in competitive districts, including Congressional District 32, House Districts 102 and 114, and Senate District 2.
Leaders from Richardson, Garland and North Dallas engaged congressional primary candidates around active support for DACA and comprehensive immigration reform, protection of newly finalized Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) auto title and payday lending rules, and federal investments in local job training program Skill QUEST.
From state primary candidates, leaders secured pledges around local control of payday lending ordinances, restoration of state funding to public schools and increased funding for workforce development (Adult Career Education Fund) from $4.5 Million to its original $10 Million.
Clergy and lay leaders of Dallas Area Interfaith are building and strengthening their constituencies in the suburbs so that elected officials better represent their families.