As federal officials announced that a downtown Dallas facility had been chosen to house up to 3,000 migrant teenagers starting the week of March 15, the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Dallas sprang into action to help....
In addition to Catholic Charities Dallas, other nonprofits, churches and interfaith groups have reached out to offer support, including the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Migration and Refugees Services and Dallas Area Interfaith.
Josephine Lopez-Paul, lead organizer for the interfaith group, said volunteers from several parishes in Dallas who have received training as community leaders from Dallas Area Interfaith, will be essential volunteers, helping interview young people, making contact with their families inside the United States and knowing relevant details of each case.
“Parish leaders are vital in this situation,” Lopez-Paul said. “These are people who have followed a prior training process, who speak the native language of the teens arriving and have in order the documentation required by the Diocese of Dallas in relation to safe environment policies.”
Texas parishes such as St. Luke in Irving, Mary Immaculate in Farmers Branch and San Juan Diego in Dallas were among those mentioned by Lopez-Paul as the most helpful volunteer sources at this time.
“These are churches where the Central American community is more present,” Lopez-Paul said. “They are leaders who know the immigration dynamics because many have personally experienced it and have been trained to serve their community.”
In addition to the Catholic Church, Lopez-Paul said she is working with the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, plus Jewish communities, whose leaders also have received training from Dallas Area Interfaith in the past.
“This is a coordinated effort for the good of a community that has experienced many difficulties and deserves respect and help,” Lopez-Paul said.
[Photo Credit: Adrees Latif, Reuters/CNS Photo]
Arenas de Ruiz, formerly of Venezuela, had been among parishioners in Harris County, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties who took the three-day leadership training offered [by the Gulf Coast Leadership Council with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Mission & Ministry Impact to leaders of] The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), a nonprofit grassroots group. In mid-summer, more than 1,250 TMO leaders from 30 churches and other institutions convened on Zoom and Facebook watch parties for a virtual “Get out the Vote Rally” and made thousands of phone calls to 16 Harris County precincts that traditionally had low voter turnout.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document urges all pastors, lay and religious faithful and all people of good will “to help form consciences, teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape politics.”
Father Rodney Armstrong of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fifth Ward and his parishioners set up a voter registration table at a nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant with owner approval. The pastor also made a video that TMO placed on its Facebook to encourage voters.
Dr. Fernando Scaglia, a parishioner at Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Drive, said he participated in the church’s phone bank as well despite his busy schedule as a researcher and professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.
He also participated in “Virtual Accountability Sessions,” where TMO invited candidates from Democratic and Republican parties to discuss how they stood on a variety of issues.
“There are so many important issues that impact all of us — health and the pandemic; economic issues like evictions and even the DACA issue for dreamers,” Dr. Scaglia said.
[Photo Credit: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church]
Faithful Citizenship Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Rallies at Houston Parishes, The Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
TMO is among the coalition of nonprofits that have approached the city and county to urge the equitable distribution of those funds.
“We asked City Council to commit $100 million of the $404 million in the Coronavirus Relief Fund to rental assistance. But the next day, they committed $15 million that was distributed online in a matter of minutes to about 12,000 families,” Higgs said.
“A survey shows of the 700,000 rental units in the area, up to 85,000 cannot pay rent at this time. A huge number of the people are service workers, men and women of color, hourly workers who lost their jobs with little if any savings. The need is so immense,” he said.
With any moratoriums on evictions ending, justices of the peace may resume processing eviction notices by mid-June and constables will start showing up at apartments, he said.
“It doesn’t make sense to evict someone who has paid regularly but is not able to currently pay during this crisis. Plus, when someone in uniform shows up to evict, it’s scary as heck, especially for those who may be undocumented,” Higgs said.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church]
Facing Eviction, Single Mothers With Kids Hit Hardest By Need For Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
With support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), and as part of the second phase of the Recognizing the Stranger strategy, parish leaders from California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington participated in a two-day meeting to prepare to lead training sessions for Spanish-Speaking immigrants.
The training focused on the "Eucharist at Corinth," a fundamental component of the leadership development curriculum. The training was hosted by the Souther California Education FUnd (SCEF) in Los Angeles, California.
Almost three dozen clergy, religious and lay leaders from Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Mississippi convened at Holy Trinity Catholic to learn how to teach key pieces of the Recognizing the Stranger curriculum.
Sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), 'Train the Trainer' sessions like these are designed to expand the training capacity of the effort as the strategy reaches into nineteen dioceses across the US.
Sessions were led by senior organizers of the Organizers Institute of the South and West IAF and included in-depth discussion of theological reflections on the Eucharist at Corinth and the Beatitudes.
Only a few months after Spanish-language leadership development training was held in collaboration with the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, immigrant parents have begun to organize to better advocate for their children in public schools.
An opportunity emerged when Sandra, a member of El Carmen Catholic Church in San Antonio, attempted to join her son at his elementary school for lunch. She was barred from entering the campus due to a district policy that parents present a Texas ID. Sandra does not have -- and cannot obtain -- a Texas ID. When COPS/Metro leaders requested a meeting with the Superintendent to discuss the policy, they were denied.
Soon, close to 70 COPS/Metro leaders from El Carmen Catholic joined Sandra at the next Southside ISD School Board meeting and stood by her as she directly addressed the board. “I want to be part of his education. I want to be there every step of the way. But the district is not allowing me to do so at this time, and I would like that to change.” COPS/Metro is requesting a change to the policy so that all parents can access their children's schools.
That night, the Board President alerted leaders that the Board would work with COPS/Metro to resolve the issue. Officials from the district also agreed meet with leaders to resolve the issue.
[Photo Credit: Camille Phillips, Texas Public Radio]
San Antonio Parents Without Texas IDs Barred from Southside ISD Schools, Texas Public Radio
Southside ISD's ID Policy Has Some Parents Complaining it Leaves Them Out of Kid's Schooling, San Antonio Express-News
Albuquerque Interfaith leaders reflected together on the theological foundations underpinning their spring and summer efforts in support of Central American asylum seekers at an event hosted by Monte Vista Christian Church. Seven faith leaders shared what from their faith traditions spurred them into action and challenged participants to continue to engage with those different from themselves.
A newly released study from Stanford University demonstrates that the vitriolic immigration debate and crackdown in Arizona is harming unborn children through markedly lower birth weights and lower birth rates for immigrants. Specifically, the study found that immigrant Latinas in Arizona who were pregnant during the debate over Senate Bill 1070, and gave birth in the six-month period between July and December 2010, had babies with lower birthweight compared with those in prior years. Study author Dr. Torche said, “It is the fear itself that can have a negative effect on women.” The number of births among Latina immigrants in Arizona during the second half of 2010 also decreased.
In response IAF organizer Joe Rubio asserts that legislation like SB 1070:
“was meant to scare people out of the state. The intention was to turn us against each other, especially the ‘show me your papers’ dimension of the bill.”
Immigration enforcement laws of that time sowed mistrust and suspicion in communities, Mr. Rubio said, noting that a number of parishes in Phoenix saw Mass attendance and community participation plummet. Children would call their homes after school to see if it was “safe,” he said, explaining it was considered dangerous if police officers were in the neighborhood.
“Who’s going to report crimes? Mean-spirited legislation affects not only this generation but generations to come,” he said. “You are hurting citizen children, future workers and, from a larger perspective, you’re damaging the body of Christ. We pursue this type of fear-based legislation to our peril.”
[Photo Credit: Catholic News Service photo / David Maung, EPA]
Study Finds Immigration Crackdowns Harm Unborn Children, America Magazine [pdf]
85 Spanish-speaking leaders from twelve immigrant Catholic parishes participated in a three-day leadership development training to prepare to engage fellow parishioners -- both documented and undocumented -- in the formation of a strategy that responds to the interests of immigrants, and the community as a whole. The training was delivered in collaboration with the Dallas Area Interfaith, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). [In photo, Auxillary Bishop Greg Kelly stands with participants who completed the training.]
Upon completion of the training the leaders committed to working with Dallas Catholic Bishop Edward J. Burns on his newly formed Immigration Task Force, and to organize in their parishes around congregational needs.
Follow up meetings with clergy, immigration, law enforcement officials and elected officials have been scheduled since the training.
The training was co-sponsored by the Interfaith Education Fund.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church hosted the Southern Arizona Interfaith - PCICEO Hispanic Leaders group for a training on "Poder." Twenty-five leaders, many of which attended a 3-day Spanish training last November, discussed power, conducted house meetings and planned for the future with Fr. Vili Valderrama. Participating parishes included: St. Cyril’s, Sacred Heart, St. Monica’s, St. Augustine Cathedral, St. Christopher’s, Our Lady of Fatima, Sacred Heart, St. John’s and San Martin de Porres.
Those who attended the November training are now organizing sessions on immigration and other topics in their parishes, including a Know Your Rights and Citizenship forum put together by the leadership team of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church with Catholic Community Services (in right photo). Immigration lawyer Amy Fairchild-Haer dispelled common rumors and answered questions. Msgr. Raul Trevizo, Pat Alvarez, Sofia Rodriguez and Lorena Santos led house meetings and distributed a “Plan de Preparacion” for parish members.
Training was also conducted at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic and St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic churches.