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.
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