Sunday January 24th, Dallas Area Interfaith, King of Glory Lutheran Church (ELCA), and Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Parish joined together for an ecumenical service of prayer and unity. Bishop Greg Kelly of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas and Bishop Erik K.J. Gronberg of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod (ELCA) shared the pulpit. Other local pastors and leaders also took part along with combined choirs of the two congregations.
Joint statement by Bishop Erik Gronberg (ELCA) and Bishop Greg Kelly (Catholic Diocese of Dallas)
This worship marked the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran reformation. Additionally this service marked 50 years of the Joint Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity called for by Pope John XXIII at the Second Vatican Council. The Pope then stated that the greatest scandal in the world were the divisions between Christian Churches.
We live in a time of deep political and social division in our nation. In these times of division the goal of this service was to celebrate our unity, the richness of each tradition, rather than our differences. To continue to work together to identify ways to impact our common good of our communities through shared listening sessions and projects.
A key component to this gathering was and is the work of Dallas Area Interfaith. For the past 25 years DAI has inspired numerous Dallas area institutions to work together following its core beliefs that people can listen to the needs of their communities and organize to impact the common good. These efforts have recently resulted in changes to the Dallas City Housing code; issuance of parish IDs, and better and stronger relationships with police departments. DAI is an instrument and institution that helps bridge the gaps between traditions and faiths, bringing people of faith together to serve.
This movement toward unity has now acknowledged that we can best partner by shifting our enthusiasm towards common prayer and works of mercy – work done together to help the sick, the poor, the immigrant, and the imprisoned. Pope Francis, along with Bishop Munib Younan of the Lutheran World Federation, marked the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation in October 2017 in Lund, Sweden. On that occasion Pope Francis said “To do something together is a high and effective form of dialogue – we need to work together!” We celebrated that hope, to explore and appreciate the richness of our traditions on January 27th and we pledge to continue to work together.
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 church-based relationships and networks that DAI is able to educate 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]
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 above) 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]
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]