Recalling that “for the last 11 years we have met, prayed, studied and spoken in unity over the issue of comprehensive immigration reform,” TMO clergy and Texas Bishops held a joint press conference calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path towards citizenship. Catholic Cardinal Daniel DiNardo stood with United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones, Lutheran Bishop Michael Rinehart, Episcopal pastor Rev. Uriel Osnaya, Baptist pastor Rev. John Ogletree and other clergy in a public showing against the deportation and separation of immigrant families.
The Bishops urged for reforms that “uphold the God-given dignity and rights of every person, each of whom are made in the image of God.” They reminded Members of Congress that any bill that addresses only border security would be “sorely lacking” and called on them to “fulfill their responsibility and pass meaningful, humane legislation.”
[Photo Credit: MariaLuisa Rincon, Houston Chronicle & Univision]
Faith Leaders Press for Immigration Reform, Houston Chronicle
Religious Leaders Call for Inclusive Immigration Reform, Houston Public Media
TMO leader Fr. Fred Clarkson, with the Network of Texas IAF Organizations and the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, spoke in opposition to Senate Bill 4 which would punish so-called 'sanctuary cities' by withholding state funding and forcing law enforcement to act as immigration agents.
Said Bishop Joe Vásquez, on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, “We reject the premise that persons who are merely suspected of being undocumented immigrants should be rounded up by state and local police agents.”
“This bill requires local police and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal immigration laws as if their job of maintaining public order and the public safety weren’t difficult enough as it is,” said John Elford, senior pastor of University United Methodist Church and member of Austin Interfaith.
Press Release, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
TMO celebrated its founding members with special guest Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, who praised the work of TMO/GCLC and challenged the organization to continue its work in the future. Highlighting that future, new leaders currently moving the organization forward were introduced to the packed audience.
TMO members held an accountability session with candidates for Sheriff Ron Hickman and Ed Gonzalez, and District Attorney candidate Kim Ogg. The candidates agreed to work with TMO to create a plan to reduce jail overcrowding, enhance deputy training, institute new bail reform measures, and oppose legislation forcing law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents.
TMO leaders from Resurrection Catholic Church won the first of two council votes to protect their Denver Harbor neighborhood from predatory development. This council vote established Chapter 42 Minimum Lot Size protection for 100 properties in the Denver Harbor area, preventing lots from being subdivided below the minimum prevailing lot size, as is the practice when building multiple townhomes on what was originally a single residence.
Resurrection leaders visited 26 churches and held multiple meetings with over 200 residents to begin this effort. They then identified 800 properties for protection in three applications to the city. All three applications for Chapter 42 were approved by the Planning Commission and sent to the City Council. This was the first and smallest of the applications to pass. The remaining two are being considered together and will come before council at a later date. In the meantime, Resurrection leaders have targeted another application protecting 200 more properties.
Congratulations to the leaders for their hard work to protect their community from gentrification!
TMO leaders from Resurrection Catholic church packed a Denver Harbor neighborhood meeting on Chapter 42 and predatory development. Leaders eventually targeted 800 properties for protection from over aggressive development of multiple, multi-story town homes on single lots. Local property owners overwhelmingly sided with TMO and Resurrection leaders, exceeding the "yes" votes needed on the mail-in ballots.
Upon seeing the extent of neighborhood support, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the matter. Leaders are now waiting on final approval by the city council.
"There's a story that sounds almost apocryphal, except it isn't, about how the Network of Texas IAF Organizations, which focuses on community-leadership development, came to anchor itself in the consciousness of elected officials across the state.
Locally, the network affiliate is known as The Metropolitan Organization, or TMO. Primarily church-based, as the IAF organizations are in other cities, TMO is made up of 27 congregations largely located in east and southeast-side neighborhoods.
As the network of organizations marks its 40-year anniversary, we turned to TMO leaders for insights about the group's work here in Houston, its impact and vision for the future. Outlook editor Veronica Flores-Paniagua talked with the Rev. Robert McGee and Ana Cummings, who were among TMO's founders."
Below are excerpts from the conversation.
...."It's about the Texas IAF Network, to which The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) of Houston belongs. Through its interdenominational base of congregations, TMO identifies the needs of the communities, develops leaders and establishes strategies so that the ears of authorities are reached and elected officials compelled to respond to their demands.
'We have seen time and time again that politicians - Democrats, Republicans, from the left, from the right, independents - respond to power (that of organized communities). So we build power. It doesn't matter what party an official comes from, if they see that a community is organized and has the power to pressure them, they will change things quickly,' affirms priest Eric Holloway of Santa Mar√≠a Virgen Episcopal Church, which is situated in southeast Houston and whose parishioners are predominantly Latino."
On the eve of the Texas IAF's 40+ anniversary celebration, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston offered his congratulations for TMO and the Texas IAF's dedication over the previous four decades. He writes, "I know that in offering my gratitude for your presence and leadership in the Houston area, I speak for so many individuals who are grateful for the transformative effects that The Metropolitan Organization (TMO).....[has] brought about for so many."
Recalling the early days of IAF-inspired organizing of faith communities in Houston, Bishop Fiorenza sent his congratulations to the Texas IAF on the eve of its 40+ year anniversary. He writes, " It is a happy moment for me to congratulate all who have...participated in making human life more just and equitable in Houston due to outstanding efforts of TMO / GCLC." After listing local achievements, he adds, "It is evident that the work of TMO / GCLC and the Texas IAF are supporting the Church's mission to be a witness of compassion by putting faith into action."