Delegation of West/Southwest IAF leaders and organizers stands with Pope Francis. [Photos credit: Rabbi John Linder]
Our network had the rare opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
An interfaith delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation met with him to share our collective work of broad based organizing at a time when the Pope is guiding the global church in a historic Synod listening process.
The Holy Father sat side by side with us in his residence, thanking us for inconveniencing ourselves to come see him. What ensued was a true dialogue, a 90-minute conversation in Spanish with lots of back and forth engagement. The encounter was filled with many graced moments about both the joys and the struggles of our work, and the work of the Church, past, present, and to come.
This invitation to meet was in large part due to the recognition of our work by local Bishops, particularly those involved with the 'Recognizing the Stranger' strategy, which is dedicated to formation and leadership development of immigrant parishioners. As well, our involvement to support the Synod process in multiple dioceses has helped to bring those in the margins to the center of the synodal dialogue.
As we shared our experiences of organizing, we were struck by how carefully he listened, asked questions, and engaged with lots of humor. Early on, he reflected back to us, “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar,’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes es parte de alguna teoría. Ninguno dice ‘leí un libro y me interesó eso.’” (You constantly use the words “to see” and “to listen.. I am impressed that none of you start with any theory. No one says ‘I read a book and that interested me.’) “El peligro es intelectualizar el problema” (The danger is when you intellectualize a problem).
He stressed the importance of being with people and paying attention to their reality, emphasizing Amor Concreto, love concretely in action, saying that he understood our work as seeing and hearing of injustice in the real lives of our people, acting to change the situation, and being changed ourselves as a result. He expressed his appreciation for our focus on what we are doing, rather than to complain about what is not being done or to disparage anyone. “Ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”
Before concluding, he thanked us for our visit, saying that although he had never known of IAF before, he was glad that he knew us now, and he welcomed further conversation around our continuing work with the Synod process.
We teach that power recognizes power. For Pope Francis, “el verdadero poder es el servicio,” (“true power is service”). Recounting the Good Samaritan, he clearly stated that the Gospel cannot be understood without acting with those who are suffering. He recognized the leaders and organizations of the IAF and the powerful work that is happening every day at the margins. He referred to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.”
We are humbled to represent the many decades of work from those who preceded us, and we are encouraged in the continuation of our work into the future.
Education - Our public schools need an immediate investment of at least $1 billion, with $100 million earmarked for special education.
Housing - Arizona is one of the hardest hit states in terms of a housing shortage; we support an investment of $100 million in the state housing trust fund.
Water - As the drought continues, the Legislature must prioritize conservation and regulation of groundwater use, and ensure tranparency in the expenditure of public funds.
On September 9, clergy and lay leaders from across Tucson gathered to explore what they could do to advance financial equality in our community. Because a living wage job is essential to achieving secure financial footing, they focused their discussion on JobPath, which PCI helped found in 1998.
JobPath provides financial assistance and coaching to help students complete two-year associate's degrees or industry certifications in high demand sectors of the local economy. The leaders agreed to work with their congregations to identify potential students who could benefit from participation in JobPath.
Opinion: The governor delivers a Marie Antoinette-like slap in the face to the 1,675,810
Arizonans who voted for Proposition 208.
EJ Montini / Arizona Republic
Published 7:00 a.m. MT Jun. 24, 2021
No one ever believed Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey cared about the most financially strapped
But there was a time, perhaps a day or two during his first term, when Ducey at least
pretended to care about the middle class – all those hardworking men and women who bust
their tails to pay the mortgage, keep food on the table, gas in the car and sneakers on their
The governor is in full on let-them-eat-cake mode. Or would the former CEO of Cold Stone
Creamery prefer ice cream?
Either way, Ducey not only has decided to throw working people under the bus. He’s hopped
into the driver’s seat to run them over.
Perhaps you recall that in the last election Arizona voters passed Proposition 208, a ballot
initiative meant to restore funding to Arizona’s public schools by increasing the income tax on
the wealthiest among us.
A total of 1,675,810 Arizonans voted for the measure. With a stroke of his pen, Ducey wants negate each one of those votes.
With the help of Republicans who, by the narrowest margin, control the Arizona Legislature,
Ducey is pushing a flat tax and a budget that mocks the little guy, wildly enriches the
wealthiest among us and completely guts Proposition 208.
The state’s own bean counters couldn’t disguise the gross inequities of the plan. The poor get
next to nothing. The rich get everything.
After Republicans in the state Senate pushed through the plan, Ducey issued a statement
saying, “This balanced and fiscally responsible plan is a win for all Arizonans.”
By fair, he means that those on the low end of the spectrum can expect a tax cut that wouldn’t
even buy them a large drink at McDonald’s, while those at the top end will save enough to
purchase a franchise. Or two. Or three.
Nick Ponder, legislative director for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said, “We expect
to lose $250 million. The proposal hasn’t been supported by any economist in the state.”
The Arizona Interfaith Network, made up of church congregations and religious organizations
throughout the state, has spoken out against Ducey’s giveaway to the rich.
The Rev. Hunter Ruffin, a senior pastor at Church of the Ephiphany-Tempe, said the lost tax
revenue would “cripple our state for generations to come” and called the proposal “immoral.”
Yes, it is. Ducey’s reverse Robin Hood budget and tax plan essentially robs from the the poor to give to the rich.
And even worse than that, even more immoral, is the fact that one Republican governor, 16
Republican state senators and 31 Republican members of the House, 48 total individuals, can
wipe out the expressed wishes of 1,675,810 voting Arizonans.
Along with other Arizonans, the leaders of Pima County Interfaith welcome the easing of the
COVID pandemic and rejoice in the hope that we can finally begin to repair, renew, and create
new possibilities. However, we see that the wounds left by this scourge are deep and grievous
and apparently unacknowledged by the state’s political leadership.
Consider the recent flat tax-based budget proposed and pushed by Governor Ducey but not yet
passed by the Arizona legislature. According to an estimate by the Joint Legislative Budget
Committee, individual families making under $50,000 a year would pay $4 to $39 less per year
under the flat tax, while families making $5 million a year would pay a whopping $350,000 less
per year. Does that sound reasonable to you?
Perhaps even worse, our region, including the cities of Tucson, South Tucson, Marana, Oro
Valley and Sahuarita, would lose $42,486,291 in state revenue sharing because of reduced state
revenues under the tax. A 1972 agreement provided for this revenue sharing while prohibiting
cities and towns from implementing their own income taxes. This huge revenue cut to cities
and towns under the flat tax cannot be made up with local legislation, and our state legislature
will never rollback these tax increases since our state constitution requires a 2/3ds
supermajority vote to raise taxes.
Where would you prefer the budget cuts to your city, necessary under this plan, be made?
Another cut in library hours? Under-maintained parks? Roads we cannot afford to fix? Less
money for public safety? Increased emergency response times? The list is endless, and
Arizona is experiencing a short-term windfall increase in revenues due to pandemic relief, not a
long-term structural revenue increase. Cutting taxes right now is shortsighted and immoral. The
flat-tax proposal is among the worst ways to cut them out of many bad options.
A recent poll by Higher Ground found there is not much support for the flat tax idea among
cities and the people polled. Polltakers thought the state underfunds education and that
investing in education is much more important than a tax cut. We all know that schools and
other public services are struggling to make ends meet and provide the services we all need.
We all complain about potholes. And we want our region to be a safe and clean.
We all should know that the pandemic has affected those least fortunate among us to a greater
degree than the rich. Lowering income tax brackets across the board will handcuff future
generations of Arizonans as they attempt to deal with inevitable future recessions, or as they
try to invest in long-starved public programs like education, safety nets, and infrastructure.
Pima County Interfaith strongly opposes this tax cut. It’s an immoral and economically
The Rev. Michael T. Bush, Senior Minister, Casas Adobes Congregational United Church of
The Rev. Robert Hendrickson, Rector, St Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church.
Pastor Michael Lonergan, Church of the Painted Hills United Church of Christ
Deacon Leah Sandwell-Weiss, St Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church
Ms. Nancy Smith, Leader, PCI & parishioner, St. Pius X Catholic Church
Pima County Interfaith urged Pima County Supervisors to extend funding for the Preschool Promise program to support pre-kindergarten for low income families and, on May 4, they did exactly that (scroll down to see the letter of support PCI submitted to the board.)
The approved plan allocates up to $10 million in County funds - plus $3 million from municipalities and partners - to help families with a household income of 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level or less to pay preschool tuition for their children aged 3-5. A total of 1,245 children may be reached.
Here is the PCI letter of support:
Pima County Interfaith
PCI member St. John's the Evangelist served as a COVID vaccination site for the Pima Department of Health earlier this spring. PCI leaders arranged the partnership after Pima County Health Director, Dr. Theresa Cullen, expressed concern about the difficulty that many at-risk individuals might face travelling to a vaccination site. More than 500 low-income vulnerable elderly individuals received their first shot of the vaccine on February 6 and returned one month later for their second shot.
PCI, VIP Clergy Help Advance Arizona's Stay-at-Home Order, Express Concern About Broad Definition of Essential Services
The governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order still loosely defines essential businesses as golf courses, nail salons and gun shops. These employees would have to continue reporting to work, catering to non-essential needs, at great risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to others. That’s in no one’s interest....
COVID-19 Demands That We All Make Sacrifices for the Common Welfare, Arizona Mirror [pdf]
Ducey Orders Arizonians to Stay Home Except for 'Essential Activities' Due to Coronavirus, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Arizona Mayors to Gov. Ducey: Issue a Shelter-In-Place Order, AZ Family [pdf]
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]
At a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) General Assembly reception in Baltimore, Pima County Interfaith (PCI) organizer Ana Chavarin was awarded the Cardinal Joseph Bernadin New Leadership Award. Each year, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) honors individuals, like Ana, who "demonstrate leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions."
Having worked with PCI for the past four years, Ana was originally nominated by the Diocese of Tucson’s Office of Human Life & Dignity. Said Sr. Leonette Kochan, the department's former director: “Ana's Catholic faith motivates and inspires her role as a parent, faith community member, and leader in the wide range of social outreach initiatives in which she participates. Her courageous determination and the support of others found expression in her life of service to others, especially in programs that empower the lives of others. As a person who faces economic struggles as a single parent of four children, Ana also leads by example in balancing family life with work, while pursuing a college degree.”
In 2018 she won a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) award for Hispanic Catholic Leaders and was also recognized by the Arizona Daily Star for her community achievements (see links further below).
[In photo, Ana Chavarin prepares Spanish-speaking parish ministers for leadership.]
Once Cheated, Community Leader Now Helps Others Speak with United Voice, Catholic News Service [pdf]
Neto's Tucson: Ana Chavarin is a Single Mom, an Immigrant and a Success, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]