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.
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