Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church said church groups are seeing a lot of children across Houston experiencing trauma — and even grief — as normalcy and friendships are lost because of COVID-19 and all the events that have come before it.
Baldwin-McGinnis is an executive committee member for The Metropolitan Organization, a nonprofit that brings faith-based groups together to influence policymakers’ decisions. The organization is currently working to raise awareness for the food and housing needs low-income and minority communities are facing during the pandemic.
“We know that the nervous system of children gets extra triggered when there are multiple experiences of complex trauma,” Baldwin-McGinnis said. “If they’ve had losses in the past, they’re less able to regulate their emotions, they have higher levels of anxiety … (and) you can get all kinds of crazy behavior including higher aggression.&rdquo
[Photo by Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle]
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]
Over 600 TMO leaders from 44 institutions convened Sunday, October 20th at Assumption Catholic Church to hold Houston mayoral candidates accountable to the organization's slate of issues. TMO leaders shared stories and asked targeted questions about gun safety, reducing fear in immigrant communities, flood recovery, flood prevention, illegal dumping, workforce development, and just wages.
All three candidates -- Mr. Tony Buzbee, Mr. Bill King, and Mr. Sylvester Turner -- committed to meeting with TMO leaders within the first 30 days in office if elected.
With early voting beginning Tuesday, TMO leaders reminded the assembly to vote and help get out the vote.
Mayoral Candidates Pressed on Guns, Harvey Recovery, Dumping, Houston Chronicle
With our member congregations and institutions, we have worked to facilitate outreach sessions where we connect congregants with city, county, and non-profit staff who help to guide them through the process. So far this year, TMO has conducted 8 outreach sessions. Including outreach sessions from last year, TMO has engaged over 700 households, 80% of which did not previously have a case manager or recovery support.
Sessions were held at Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic, St. Francis Cabrini Catholic, St. Gregory the Great Catholic, St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic, and Our Lady of Grace Catholic in South Houston.
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]
The Thanksgiving holiday is about coming together to share a meal as a family – but the Trump administration’s proposed change to the “public charge” rule could make immigrant families who live paycheck to paycheck choose between their meals and their families. TMO strongly opposes the rule change because it poses threats to the health, safety, and humanity of immigrant families.
1) Learn More
Read Fact Sheet
Get the facts on what rules changes are being proposed for "public charge", including who it will impact, who is excluded, and why TMO opposes the proposed changes. Click here or on the graphic to the right for a full explanation.
Click here or below for video explanation. The video was produced by The Children's Partnership with a California audience in mind, with specific references to state programs. However, the information is still relevant to Texans.
2) Take Action (On and Offline)
- Print and refer to TMO's Step-By_Step Guide and then click on graphic to the right to comment on www.regulations.gov today.
- Download and print TMO comment cards in English to send to the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielson. Comment cards must be postmarked by December 10th. Coordinate with your TMO Organizer to submit your cards for mailing along with postcards from the rest of the organization.
3) Sign Up Take Charge
TMO works on immigration issues year-round. If you care about the safety, health, and well-being of our community, sign up as a supporter of TMO's work on comprehensive immigration reform.
Click here to donate to TMO for their ongoing advocacy work
After months of research on Houston disaster recovery systems, in which TMO leaders learned there had been little movement from nonprofit agencies servicing clients, TMO organized 10 Hurricane Harvey Home Repair & Unmet Need Intake Sessions drawing 275 survivors from their congregations. The popularity of the sessions revealed still-massive recovery needs, particularly in low-income communities. Nearly 80% of all attendees lacked an active case manager or any communication with a recovery group prior to attending the sessions. Leaders plan to put together more intake sessions, offering similar access to recovery resources, in hard-hit areas with great need.
As the 60-day deadline for FEMA appeals approaches, TMO leaders are fighting to get that deadline extended, in addition to educating members and the public about the appeals process. TMO is urging all Harvey survivors denied FEMA assistance to appeal as soon as possible.
[Photo Credit: Houston Public Media]
Advocates Tell Harvey Victims Not to Give Up if FEMA Denies Their Disaster Claims, Houston Public Media
Group Calls on Hurricane Harvey Victims to Appeal FEMA Aid Denials, Click 2 Houston
One month after TMO leaders and clergy publicly questioned why Red Cross Immediate Assistance funds were denied to thousands of families that met the criteria, the CEO of Red Cross Texas Gulf Division resigned among criticisms about undelivered aid. Within days, top leadership from Red Cross met with TMO to ensure that aid will be delivered to families in need.
One month ago, Helen Mott, a parishioner at Our Mother of Mercy, was denied $400 in cash assistance from Red Cross even though she had had to evacuate her uninhabitable home. Because Red Cross offered one of the few cash assistance resources available at the time, TMO organized a press conference at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, calling on them to ensure that families who needed these funds most would receive them.
At that press conference, TMO leader Charles Turner asked Red Cross to "take an extra step and work with community groups like ours and open up lines of communication so we can help people during this recovery process."
Red Cross is now responding to that challenge and expressing willingness to coordinate efforts with TMO. Red Cross estimates that approximately 1.5 million families might have been wrongfully denied and is now working to ensure that families that qualify for assistance receive the aid they need.
On October 6th, as thousands of Harvey survivors spent hours in line attempting to meet the deadline for emergency food aid, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), TMO leaders organized a press conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to demand an extension of the deadline for families.
Said Fr. Simón Bautista, “For two days in a row [my parishioner] got in line at 6 a.m. and by the time she was seen, around 7 p.m., she was told that her last name was not being seen that day. She returned at 3 a.m. to find that 10 to 15 individuals were already in line. These individuals and families have been waiting in the heat, missing work and some still haven’t received the benefits.”
More than one week later, state officials announced a three-day extension of the deadline for families to enroll. TMO leaders expressed pleasure at the news of the extension, and recognized Congresswoman Sheila Jackson and Commissioner Rodney Ellis for their role in securing that extension.
Leaders are now celebrating that the three-day extension permitted more than 27,000 additional families to enroll in D-SNAP, resulting in the award of $27 Million in food aid for Harris County Harvey survivors .
Said Fr. Albert Zannatta, "Matthew 25:35 reads: for I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. These words of Christ spurred TMO to call for an extension....[and] TMO will continue to work until all have received the recovery they need."
Sheila Jackson Lee Celebrated for Her Involvement in Extending D-SNAP Services in Houston, KIAH Newsfix
State Health Officials Continue Harvey Food Assistance Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
TMO Demands Extension of Deadline for Harvey Victims to Sign Up for D-SNAP, Houston Public Media
Community Leaders Push for D-SNAP Extension, Click 2 Houston
Appeal for Aid on Behalf of Needy, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
TMO Press Statement