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.
[Excerpt below from page 81 of study linked below]
“Catholic congregations and leaders…were central in the push for payday lending reform in nearby Arlington. Father Daniel Kelley of St. Joseph Catholic Church was particularly influential. In addition, the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Texas’ Catholic bishops, worked directly on payday lending reform at the state and local level, and also participated in Dallas Area Interfaith and Faith Leaders for Fair Lending.
Hearing stories from borrowers who sought assistance from Catholic charitable organizations helped generate interest in the payday issue among Catholic leaders. The religion’s long‐standing antipathy to usury provided these leaders with a ready‐made framework for opposing payday loans….”
Power of Community Action: Anti-Payday Loan Ordinances in Three Metropolitan Areas, University of Utah & University of New Mexico
When Pope Francis announced the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Edward Burns, DAI welcomed him and expressed eagerness to collaborate.
According to lead organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul: “His attention and care to the immigrant community will be very critical. Farrell focused on building bridges between communities, and we need that to continue.”
[Photo Credit: Ben Torres, Dallas Morning News]
Pope Picks Bishop from Alaska to Lead Diocese of Dallas, Dallas Morning News
Dallas Area Interfaith leaders assembled by the hundreds at Temple of Faith CME to address neighborhood safety issues identified through conversations with fellow parishioners and neighbors: police protocol on traffic stops, wage theft, thousands of feral dogs, and hot spots for drugs and prostitution. Confronted with personal stories and strong community participation, Interim Police Chief David Pughes committed to developing a bilingual video on proper protocol that can be shown in congregations and to fundamentally changing how police handle wage theft — recognizing theft of service as a criminal matter and not a civil one. Leader after leader told personal stories about unfairly being treated as criminals during traffic stops and when reporting crimes.
At one point, addressing immigrants in the packed room Pughes said, “we don’t want to be immigration police.” The chief additionally committed to working with leaders to address three areas in the city that see high level of drugs and prostitution, as well as developing a plan for the 8,000 feral dogs roaming neighborhood streets.
Within days of Dallas Area Interfaith’s (DAI) stunning housing code victory, the owner of hundreds of single family rental homes in West Dallas, HMK, sent eviction notices to 305 tenants ordering them to vacate the properties by the end of the month. Dallas Morning News accuses HMK of making the tenants “pawns in the company’s scorched-earth fight against tough new housing policies.”
DAI, in collaboration with the Wesley Rankin Community school and center, organized a meeting to brief hundreds of worried renters about their rights as tenants, the basics of eviction law and to pressure the City of Dallas to intervene on tenants’ behalf. Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo, along with the Assistant City Attorney, assured renters that extra-legal evictions would not be tolerated.
The next day, the State District Judge Ken Molberg ordered the Dallas landlord to temporarily halt the mass evictions. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings exhorted affected residents to keep trying to pay rent, and if refused by the office, to set the money aside for when it would be.Read more
With three asthmatic children in the family, Patricia Vega (in photo above holding toddler in pink) was constantly on the lookout for mold. "Every time we move, we think it gets better, but it does not." After learning that the Dallas housing code offered no protections, she, with a group of women from San Juan Diego Catholic Church, enlisted the support of Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) to change the law.
During over a year of public action, DAI church leaders confronted landlords, secured the support of allies, negotiated with adversaries, and ultimately changed the housing code in a fundamental way. Says Heather Way, a professor at University of Texas School of Law who specializes in affordable housing law, “These reforms are much needed and should have a big impact on protecting the health and safety of Dallas’s most vulnerable.” FOX News calls the code the "toughest landlord rules in the state." Said former code enforcement prosecutor, Councilmember Adam McGough, "this is unprecedented."
New protections include: