'Recognizing the Stranger' Conference Commemorates 5-Year Organizing Strategy
Over 300 leaders, clergy, religious, and bishops from 20 organizations gathered last week in San Antonio to celebrate five years of Recognizing the Stranger, a West/Southwest IAF training, leadership formation, and parish organizing strategy.
The Convocation was highlighted by a video message from Pope Francis, who offered his “closeness and support” to the IAF network and its work to organize with immigrants and with those at the margins to encourage “participation of the Christian in public life.”Read more
PCI, with West/Southwest IAF, Sharpens Focus on Impact of COVID-19 Crisis on Immigrants
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]
Pima County Interfaith Educates Immigrants on Proposed Changes to 'Public Charge' Rule
Forty members from St. John the Evangelist Church and the neighborhood attended a civic academy yesterday to learn about “public charge.” This new policy by the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security would affect many legal immigrants who are applying for permanent residency (green cards) and penalize applicants if they or their families have received government support such as SNAP (food stamps), subsidized health care, and other support that the government has labeled a “public charge.”
As rumors of this new policy surfaced, immigrant churches and Pima County Interfaith started conducting research. The fear began a few months ago when the press began to talk again about this policy. Rumors and misinformation led many immigrants to renounce their citizen children’s benefits out of fear. Among those immigrants most affected by this proposal are low-income families, single mothers, and children with chronic illnesses.
At Sunday’s session, a single mother asked if she could lose her permanent residency if she continued to receive AHCCCS, Arizona’s version of Medicaid, for her infant baby. Fortunately, she received her visa through the VAWA program that so far is exempt from being a 'public charge.'
After the session, some attendees thanked the St. John team for making this presentation. They said they felt more relaxed now that they knew which programs would be counted as 'public charge.'
A young mother said, "I'm going to register for citizenship classes and I'm going to apply to become a citizen. I'm afraid this administration will find another way to revoke my residency and separate me from my family."
PCIC Out-Organizes Opposition: Makes County "Immigrant Welcoming"
Even with a Board that included a Supervisor elected by the Tea Party, PCIC leaders leveraged a unanimous vote (5-0) in support of a resolution making Pima an "immigrant welcoming county."
Bud Foster of KOLD-TV reports that half the speakers were against the resolution. However, he notes, "the opponents were not organized like the supporters were. Most of this crowd ere from the Pima County Interfaith Council." In photo, PCIC leaders pre-meet before filing into the boardroom. Fr. Tom Tureman of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church and Rev. Randy Mayer of Good Shepherd of United Church of Christ spoke on behalf of the organization.
Over the last year, leaders of the Pima County Interfaith Council (PCIC) crafted the resolution, taking into account the concerns of their institutional base and those of Supervisors. This is part of a state-wide strategy to demonstrate a constituency in Arizona that supports federal immigration reform.
County Officially Adopts "Immigrant-Welcoming" Designation, Arizona Daily Star
Pima County Becomes Immigrant Welcoming Community, KOLD-TV
PCIC Photo Gallery