Dallas Area Interfaith has been quietly working with Catholic congregations to build support for DREAMers who are now in danger of losing their temporary legal status as their DACA permits expire and a resolution is not in sight. So far, 20,000 signed letters to Senators Cruz and Cornyn have been collected in Catholic parishes in the Dallas area.
“Now is a critical time and there needs to be an organized constituency standing for immigration reform,” said Josephine Lopez-Paul, the lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith. “These are our brothers and sisters and the church will stand with them.”
Dallas DREAMers and Allies Rally for a Permanent Legalization Measure, Dallas Morning News
Catholic priests and lay leaders recently took to the pulpit to spread the word that a key element of the Catholic faith is participation in public life, which includes voting.
As part of its effort to encourage participation in public life, Dallas Area Interfaith leaders recruited over 1,200 qualifying legal permanent residents, green card holders, to apply for US citizenship this year.
Said the Dallas Morning News:
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.
[Photo Credit: Rex C. Curry/Special Contributor to Dallas Morning News]
Church Groups Join Immigrants In a Big Push for Citizenship, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Iglesias y Grupos de Fe de Dallas Impulsan Ciudadanías, Al Día Dallas [pdf]
Hits & Misses: Courage on the Witness Stand, Big Mama and Elvis, Dallas Morning News
For Immigrants Without State ID, DAI Negotiates Acceptance of Parish ID with Dallas-Area Police Departments
For the first time in North Texas, immigrants without state ID will be allowed to use parish identification cards to identify themselves with Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Dallas Police Department officers. DAI leaders negotiated this ground breaking police department policy change in the aftermath of the passage of anti-immigrant State Senate Bill 4, as a necessary step to promote trust between police and immigrants.
More than 1,500 immigrant leaders filled the sanctuary at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch in a standing-room-only assembly of leaders across multiple faiths and denominations. Three women shared stories of anti-immigrant abuse and community fears about reporting crimes to the police while lacking access to state-issued IDs. Friar Luis Arraza of Nuestra Señora de Lourdes and Fr. Mike Walsh explicitly challenged the chiefs of Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Dallas Police Departments to publicly commit to accepting parish identification cards as a means of identifying oneself during a police stop. All three said, ‘yes,’ to thunderous applause.
The largest applause, however, was reserved for Catholic Bishop Edward Burns who pledged, “the Church will do whatever it needs to do to stand with immigrants.”
Nine years prior, Farmers Branch was best-known for being the first Texas city to pass an anti-immigrant ordinance, which included fines for landlords renting to undocumented immigrants. The police department paid a price in community trust — one motivation for publicly pledging to accept parish IDs.
[Photo Credit: Elvia Limon, Dallas Morning News and Catholic Diocese of Dallas]Read more
To abate the confusion, fear, and anxiety about SB 4, about 10 police officers representing Arlington, Fort Worth, Kennedale, and Mansfield Police Departments met Aug. 29 at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington for a question-and-answer session about how the controversial law affects police work....
St. Joseph parishioner Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer of Arlington Mansfield Organizing Strategy, the event's sponsor, hoped the session would dispel uncertainty and alarm in the immigrant community. “It’s important to get people together in one space. The undocumented can’t come out of shadows as individuals, but in this forum they can come out.”
Most who attended fear deportation for themselves or close family members...."
[Photo Credit (top): Ben Torres, North Texas Catholic]
'Quite Frankly, It's Business as Usual': Police Assuage Hispanic Community's Far of SB4, North Texas Catholic [pdf]
North Texas Police: Immigrants Uneasy, Police on Hold as SB4 Lifts, Fort-Worth Star Telegram [pdf]
Before a packed audience of 700 leaders of Dallas Area Interfaith, and on the one-year anniversary of the shooting that took the lives of five police officers, Dallas Area Interfaith continued the public conversation about community relationships with the police in the context of SB4. In response to stories about immigrants fearful of reporting crimes they've witnessed to the police, Dallas Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly announced, "This is evidence of why SB4 is bad."
Assistant Police Chief Gary Tittle was asked to clarify how SB4 could work, given police need for witnesses and victim cooperation and the real fears immigrants have of reporting. Tittle explained that crime victims, witnesses and people calling 911 are exempt from questions about immigration status.
The assembly took place even as Dallas Police Department interviews for a new police chief are underway. Said Minister Jonathan Morrison of Cedar Crest Church of Christ, and DAI representative on the interviewing panel, “I think there is always progress anytime there can be first real dialog and conversation and when communities can begin to share of their struggles and we begin to see commonality in our struggles.”
Religious leaders of DAI are working to develop a relationship of mutual accountability with the Dallas Police Department to address fears faced by all sides.
[Photo Credit: Ron Baselice, Dallas Morning News]
North Texas Religious Leaders Step Up to Speak Out Against State's SB4 Immigration Law, Dallas Morning News
Inmigrantes Buscan Refugio en sus Iglesias Por Temor a Leyes Migratorias Como SB4, Al Dia Dallas
Dallas Police Chief Candidates in Town for Interviews, FOX News
Dallas Police Asst. Chief Gary Tittle Responds to Question About SB4, Diane Solis - Dallas Morning News
DAI Leaders Commit to Working with Police, Allison Harris - FOX 4 News
Video, Judge Brandon Birmingham
For almost ten years, Mauricio Aguilar vacillated between dead-end tech jobs paying $10-25 per hour, putting in long hours to support his wife and four children.
This went on until he "took Skill Quest up on its offer to help pay his tuition and certification fees."
Within two years, an "IT company saw that he had gotten his certification and hired him on the spot as an IT network engineer, earning $45 an hour, with a better schedule."
[Photo Credit: David Woo, Dallas Morning News]
American Dream Denies, Dallas Morning News
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 all runoff races held that day.
Her challenger, Omar Narvaez, publicly supported the DAI agenda two months prior.
Both candidates had been invited to support the DAI agenda at a nonpartisan accountability assembly of 350 District 6 resident leaders held in April. At that assembly, leaders committed to informing neighbors and fellow parishioners of how candidates had responded to their agenda.
True to their word, DAI leaders organized block walks in the Bachman Lake area near San Juan Diego where voter turnout was highest in this election!
[In photo, Fr. Jesus Belmontes, pastor of San Juan Diego Catholic Church, talks about the DAI agenda at the nonpartisan accountability assembly held last April.]
Shakeup to Shift Council Dynamics, Dallas Morning News
Hundreds of DAI leaders forced a runoff election by increasing the number of voters by almost 800 in a region of Dallas home to housing code changes and mass evictions.
After organizing an assembly to draw attention to key issues of the region, especially affordable housing, preservation of a local Montessori school and funding for translation of 311 services, leaders engaged directly with voters, boosting electoral turnout to 1,951.
Incumbent Monica Alonzo will now compete directly with runner-up candidate Omar Narvaez in an election scheduled in June. One candidate supported the DAI agenda more than the other.
Last month's assembly was the largest attended forum in District 6, in the heart of Bachman Lake where last year’s housing code work started, and where large-scale evictions occurred only 48 hours after their groundbreaking rewrite of the city’s rental housing code. Leaders not only demanded long-term housing solutions in West Dallas, parents of children attending Lumin Education are fighting for a zoning change to preserve a Montessori school.
DAI will continue its GOTV effort for the runoff election.
In District 6, where only 800 votes were cast in the previous election, DAI leaders organized a nonpartisan accountability assembly in which 300 local residents grilled city council candidates on issues they have been working over the last year, including affordable housing, early education, an upcoming city bond and improvements to the 311 system.
The assembly was the largest attended forum in District 6, in the heart of Bachman Lake where last year's housing code work started, and where large-scale evictions occurred only 48 hours after their groundbreaking rewrite of the city's rental housing code. Leaders not only demanded long-term housing solutions in West Dallas, parents of children attending Lumin Education are fighting for a zoning change to preserve a Montessori school in this impoverished region.