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.
On Sunday, March 12th, over 100 parishioners and people from the community participated in a workshop on immigration hosted by Holy Spirit Church in Fairfield, California. Attorney and Catholic Charities board member Miriam Sammartino answered questions about the latest executive orders from the White House, how to respond if stopped by immigration, and how to be best prepared in a time of uncertainty.
Fairfield Interim Police Chief Randy Fenn and four officers participated in the workshop and pledged to work with the church and Common Ground to build a better relationship between law enforcement and the community.Read more
When parish leaders of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission from the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana learned that nursery workers were traveling to Dallas for basic immigration services, they turned to Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith (NCLI) for help. NCLI urged the Catholic workers to carefully invest in relationships with Anglos and African Americans – including Baptists and Methodists. The workers responded. At a monthly convening of mostly Black and White leaders, one immigrant shared that he felt caught between providing for his family and breaking immigration laws. In response, an African American gentleman revealed that he had grown up on a plantation speaking only Creole, and that when he started school in the city he and his siblings were treated as strangers due to their accents and ways. This encounter created the basis for trust –sufficient to work together not just in the founding of a local immigrant center, but also around reforming police practices to stop racial profiling.
In an effort to engage face-to-face with parishioners in one of the most ethnically-diverse parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth, congregational leaders of St. Joseph Catholic launched a weekend-long house meeting campaign that drew 546 people into conversation. After each mass, parishioners were invited to stay an additional 30 minutes to get to know others in their congregation; multiple conversations were held in the circular sanctuary.
Congregational leaders who form the parish development team used the listening campaign to jump start their parish development process to hear concerns and identify new leaders for the church. The intent is to “develop disciples to live out the mission of the church in the community.” Leaders heard stories of unemployment and isolation. They also heard from parishioners who wanted to join certain ministries but had never been asked!
This action is part of a larger campaign to strengthen the institutions of Allied Communities of Tarrant in the Fort Worth area; a house meeting event years prior drew 300.
More photos, St. Joseph Catholic Church
Anniversary of September 11, Allied Communities of Tarrant
In 2014, five years after the foreclosure crisis had wiped out immigrant homeownership in Assumption Catholic Church in Monterey County, California, a new scam threatened the parish. Targeting low-income, Spanish speaking residents in Catholic churches, an unscrupulous group signed up thousands of predatory lending victims (at the price of $1,250 a head) for a lawsuit against the banks that defrauded them. The group had no real intention of seeing the lawsuit through.
However, unbeknownst to these characters, the leaders of Assumption had undergone in-depth parish leadership development, the result of which was a strong and vibrant team of new leaders who, from COPA, had learned to secure lighting in the parish neighborhood, sign up residents for expanded Medicaid and expand healthcare access for undocumented residents of Monterey. Having developed confidence in their own competence, upon hearing an announcement about the lawsuit at mass, these COPA-trained leaders immediately moved into action.
They stopped the predators from recruiting at their parish, alerted the Diocese of the danger to other Monterey County parishes and went on to persuade the County District Attorney to assign an investigator to the case. Through their training and experience, the parish leadership of Assumption was able to protect fellow parishioners and save thousands more families from being re-victimized.
During the onset of the Great Recession, Valley Interfaith Project Education Fund in Arizona worked with two central Phoenix parishes, St. Agnes and Most Holy Trinity, on parish leadership development and training. At both parishes, sizable influxes of immigrant families were challenging the pastors and parish leaders with how to deal with two quite distinct communities under one roof.
Through a patient series of training sessions which examined the relationship of the church and its leaders to the parish community, key members of the Latino and Anglo communities began to build relationships, evaluate their collective responsibilities to the parish, and initiate parish wide conversations around stewardship and the importance of parish membership and registration. Both parishes saw important gains in registered membership, participation in stewardship, and an appreciation among parishioners of the public role of the parish, particularly in defending the rights of the immigrant community. St. Agnes, an inner city parish, doubled its registered membership and added thousands to its weekly collections.