In 2010, TMO launched an Interfaith Campaign for Humane Immigration Reform, drawing on the organizing efforts of leaders, organizers, and judicatories across the city. Over 300 clergy -- including the Catholic Cardinal, Bishops, Rabbis, and other denominational leaders -- agreed on common principles (detailed below) and announced their support for these principles through a press conference, prayer service, and action assembly.
HOUSTON INTERFAITH STATEMENT ON HUMANE IMMIGRATION REFORM
We call on Congress to enact humane and equitable immigration reform and commit to legislation that:
- Upholds family unity as a priority of all immigration policies
- Creates a process for undocumented immigrants to earn their legal status and eventual citizenship
- Protects workers and provides efficient channels of entry for new migrant workers
- Facilitates immigrant integration
- Restores due process protections and reform detention policies
- Aligns the enforcement of immigration laws with humanitarian values
- Recognizes Immigration as a Matter of Human Rights
Since then, TMO has combated wage theft, clarified Senate Bill 4 application with local law enforcement, initiated a postcard campaign to protect DACA youth and fought against punitive changes to “public charge” rules and family separations. In collaboration with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and the Organizers Institute of the West / Southwest IAF, TMO has trained hundreds of Spanish-speaking parish leaders to re-invigorate the charge for immigration reforms.
TMO leaders continue to pray and educate about the important moral issue of immigration -- and to remind people of faith that we must continue to fight for immigration not only at a national level but also at the state and local level.
After the Covid-19 pandemic precipitated an economic crisis of historic proportions, the Industrial Areas Foundation launched a campaign calling on Congress to provide direct monthly aid for the duration of the crisis to American workers -- regardless of their citizenship.
While the recently passed $2.2 Trillion emergency stimulus will provide adults a one-time $1,200 check, it is set to leave out undocumented immigrants -- including those who pay taxes using a Tax Identification Number. IAF organizations across the West / Southwest IAF working with immigrant communities lay out the implications of this decision below:
Health care is a concern to both undocumented immigrants and legal residents.... Last August, the Trump administration tightened restrictions on legal immigrants who receive government benefits, referred to as 'public charges.' The new policy denies green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits.
Immigrants in the Dallas area mask their symptoms so they can continue to work, according to Josephine López Paul, lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith.
“We’ve seen our service industries obliterated,” said Ms. López Paul. “Immigrants are being hit the hardest right now and there’s no safety net for them.”
When undocumented immigrants do approach hospitals, they quickly turn away if they see any law enforcement present, according to Ana Chavarin, lead organizer of Pima County Interfaith in Tucson, Ariz. Families are less afraid of the virus itself and more concerned with how they would pay for a long-term hospital visit, she said.
Ms. Chavarin has met with families who, not knowing how long the pandemic will last or when they will find work again, have begun rationing food. “Because they are undocumented, they cannot apply for any kind of help,” she said. Some have U.S. citizen children and could apply for benefits on their behalf, she said. But fear of deportation keeps many from doing so.
Food is the number one concern for pastors in Houston, according to Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer for The Metropolitan Organization. Some parishes and congregations have started to purchase gift cards for food while others are collecting items for the church pantry. Local chapters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are gathering items, but since they often count on elderly volunteers, it has been a challenge.
Children cut off from school presents another challenge for low-income families. “The kids being home, [families] don’t always have the technology they need to keep up with school,” Ms. Valdez said.
“There has to be a way to get the money into the hands of service workers,” said Joe Rubio, director of the West/Southwest Industrial Area Foundation, a community organizing network. Pastors are seeing an increase in domestic violence, he said, likely stemming from frustration, economic pressure and children being home from school. Studies have found that immigrant survivors of domestic violence are unlikely to report abuse to law enforcement. Isolation and behavioral health issues have the potential to lead to an increase in suicide rates, he said.
“This could profoundly change the nature of parishes and congregations,” Mr. Rubio said, referring not only to the economic impact of the coronavirus but also how communities respond to those in need during the crisis. “We have to think about how we compensate those making the biggest sacrifices and how we ramp up the economy once it’s over.”
[Photo Credit: John Locher, AP Photo]
Stimulus Does Little to Stifle Covid-19 Fears in the Undocumented Community, America [pdf]
Immigration 'Know Your Rights' civic academies organized by TMO leaders drew more than two hundred immigrant participants eager to learn their rights and responsibilities as residents in the Houston area.
At St. Theresa Catholic in Sugarland, over 100 members participated in civic academies that included an educational 'Know Your Rights' training, small group conversations and an overview of the Census. Attorney Liz Macias Mendoza led the educational presentation and held over 30 individual consultations.
At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Rosenberg, 30 parishioners participated in a session in which attorneys Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz and Eduardo Franco led presentations and held 18 individual consultations. In Houston, 70 members of Assumption Catholic participated in small group conversations and a 'Know Your Rights' workshop led by attorney Magali Suarez Candler.
These civic academies were organized as an outgrowth of the national 'Recognizing the Stranger' immigration strategy supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Immigration Sessions: Know Your Rights, The Metropolitan Organization
In a multi-day training co-sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Mission and Ministry, Inc. (MMI), the Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF and The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), 111 predominantly Spanish-speaking leaders from 25 Houston-area congregations convened to learn how to be effective leaders in their communities. Most the leaders came from Spanish-speaking Catholic and Episcopal congregations.
Parish leaders participated in leadership development workshops and engaged with scripture and their religious traditions as they reflected on their roles in public life. Groups from each parish were encouraged to engage with their pastor and parish leadership to explore opportunities for local training and the development of a listening campaign this year for their parishes and communities.
Milestones: Catholic Campaign, TMO Offers Leadership Training for Hispanic Parishioners, Texas Catholic Herald
Leadership Development at Assumption Catholic Church, The Metropolitan Organization (TMO)
One day before Thanksgiving, the Houston Chronicle published a letter submitted by TMO clergy Rabbi David Lyon, Rev. Albert Zanetta and Rev. Simón Bautista.
This past week, many of us sat down with our extended families at Thanksgiving celebrations. As faith leaders, we teach that family is sacred. We are moved to keep families together, so they may thrive together.
The Trump administration has proposed a policy that would force immigrant families to make an impossible choice between caring for their children, parents and grandparents and keeping their family together in the United States. The proposed changes to the 100-year-old “public charge” regulation will make it more difficult for an immigrant to become a legal permanent resident or obtain a visa to visit the United States if he is not wealthy, have a preexisting health condition, or participate in programs that support health, nutrition and housing stability....
Don't Penalize Children for Being Poor, Especially After Harvey, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Push Back Against Proposed Changes to 'Public Charge', TMO
TMO clergy and leaders took to the podium to demand that their US Senators and Congressmembers resolve the crisis which has jeopardized the status of thousands of Houston-area DREAMers who have relied on DACA to build their lives.
Immigrant leaders testified, with personal stories, that a failure to compromise would not only harm families, it would undermine the capacity of the hospitals and health care systems that currently rely on their talent.
[Photo Credit: Maria de Jesus, Houston Chronicle]
Immigrants, Members of Clergy Send 20,000 Postcards to Legislators Seeking DACA Solution, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
DACA's Future Weighs on Health Care Workers, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Dreamers Feel They Are Americans Contributing to Church, Community, Texas Catholic Herald
'Dreamers' Say They're Not Asking for Handouts, Just Chance to Stay, Catholic Philly
Click photo below for video:
More than 1,300 leaders from TMO assembled at Assumption Catholic Church to clarify the impact of anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez responded to questions and concerns raised by leaders, as did Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Lori Bender and Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz, an immigration attorney from Manny Ramirez Law Firm.
[Photo Credit: Douglas Pierre]
Nearly 80 Spanish-speaking leaders from the Houston area learned about the mission of the church, and their responsibility as leaders to put their faith in action, in training delivered by TMO in collaboration with the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
Pope Francis’ words to the 2nd World Gathering of Popular Movements provided inspiration to the group:
“Quisiera volver a unir mi voz a la de ustedes: tierra, techo y trabajo para todos nuestros hermanos y hermanos. Lo dije y lo repito: son derechos sagrados. Vale la pena luchar por ellos.”
English version here
Todos que residen en los EEUU, inclusive los inmigrantes indocumentados , tienen ciertos derechos constitucionales. Los siguientes videos repasan qué hacer si los agentes de ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents) te visitan en su hogar, su trabajo o en público.
Resumen de sus Derechos:
1) No son obligados a abrir la puerta de su hogar
2) Tienes el derecho de mantener silencio
3) Tienes el derecho de hablar con un abogado
Este esfuerzo es parte de una estrategia de inmigración de largo plazo en Houston.
Lo mismo en español
All people living in the United States, including undocumented immigrants, have certain U.S. Constitutional rights. The following videos discuss what to do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents (ICE) visit your home, place of work, or stop you in public.
Summary of Rights:
1) You do not have to open the door to your home
2) You have the right to remain silent
3) You have the right to speak to a lawyer
This effort is part of a longer-term immigration strategy in Houston.
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
Local Religious Leaders Gather to Push for Immigration Reform, ABC-13
Religious Leaders Call for Inclusive Immigration Reform, Houston Public Media
Lideres Religiosos de Texas se Reunieron Para Pedir Una Reforma Migratoria con Camino a la Ciudadania, Univision