Teaching the Art of Democracy
Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) is about people: developing their innate skills and ability to work with each other to identify common problems, to find or create workable solutions, and to work together to implement systemic changes within society to achieve the common good. As one of our leaders is so fond of saying: “The work is us.”
Founded in 1992, Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue group of religious congregations, schools and other non-profits in the Dallas metropolitan area with aggregate membership totaling in excess of 90,000.
Dallas Area Interfaith does its work by:
- Conducting thousands of individual and small group meetings with clergy and lay leaders.
- Training congregational representatives in how to understand and affect local and regional political processes
- Developing a large leadership core from those representatives.
- Identifying issues of concern to all sectors of the community.
- Strengthening relationships within and between member congregations.
- Forging alliances across the lines of religion and ethnicity to develop a broad-based vision for the Dallas area.
- Moving that vision into a multi-issue agenda of action for the organization.
When Fr. Daza of Nuestra Señora del Pilar Catholic Church heard that his parishioner, Adolfo Mejia, was in deportation proceedings, he immediately picked up the phone and called Dallas Area Interfaith.
“It’s the children who suffer,” he says.
With family unity and the livelihood of six US-born children at stake, Dallas Area Interfaith and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas stepped in to stand with the Mejia family after the father, Adolfo Mejia, was deported in March.
“This is not a time for isolation,” said Socorro Perales, an organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith, who went to immigration court with the mother. “This is a time to build relationships.”
[In photo: Catholic Bishop Greg Kelly stands with Lucia Mejia and her family outside the Earle Cabell Federal Court Building before a court hearing for Adolfo Mejia. Photo Credit: Jeffrey McWhorter / Dallas Morning News]
US Citizen Kids Face the Deportation of Their Immigrant Parents, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Deportación de Padres Traumatiza a Niños, Dallas Al Día
Building on a groundbreaking accord between Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) and the Police Departments of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch -- in which the police agreed to accept parish identification cards as alternative ID -- upwards of 800 parish ID cards have been issued since the campaign was launched in March 2018. With some parishes requiring active membership from applicants for at least six months before issuing the card, the waiting list of submitted applications has, so far, exceeded 2,000 applicants and is expected to grow.
The joint effort with the Catholic Diocese is bringing immigrants out of the shadows and into fuller participation in congregational life. 700 applicants were newly registered as members of their parish, even after years of regular church attendance. Teams of leaders identified by DAI, and trained (in Spanish) through a collaborative effort with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), are helping keep the cost of the parish IDs affordable for families.
Without an ID, said one parishioner, "we are scared of what could happen if we are stopped by the police." With parish ID, families are feeling a greater sense of belonging and confidence in dealing with law enforcement.
In training sessions held this month, police departments have committed to training their officers to recognize these cards as alternative identification.
[Photo Credit: Telemundo 39]
Crean Identificación Para Ayudar a Inmigrantes en el Metroplex, Telemundo 39 [pdf]
Adriana, a single mother of two, is a Skill Quest participant. Before the program, she earned $600 a month cleaning homes, and the thought of going to school was a dream. Now when she finishes her radiology degree next year, she will be placed in a job in Dallas earning $50,000 to start.
Stories like Adriana's are possible because of the public investment made in providing the wrap-around services for her to attend college. So that things such as rent, child care, and navigating college as a first-generation student do not create barriers that keep our future skilled workforce from graduating and meeting the job demand in our city.
So why does a city like Dallas need Adriana? The answer: Adriana represents the future of Texas. She is a young, uneducated single mother and lives below the federal poverty line. She also serves an economic opportunity for our city.
In a well-attended nonpartisan accountability assembly north of Dallas, DAI engaged primary candidates in competitive districts, including Congressional District 32, House Districts 102 and 114, and Senate District 2.
Leaders from Richardson, Garland and North Dallas engaged congressional primary candidates around active support for DACA and comprehensive immigration reform, protection of newly finalized Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) auto title and payday lending rules, and federal investments in local job training program Skill QUEST.
From state primary candidates, leaders secured pledges around local control of payday lending ordinances, restoration of state funding to public schools and increased funding for workforce development (Adult Career Education Fund) from $4.5 Million to its original $10 Million.
Clergy and lay leaders of Dallas Area Interfaith are building and strengthening their constituencies in the suburbs so that elected officials better represent their families.
Dallas Area Interfaith has been quietly working with Catholic congregations to build support for DREAMers who are now in danger of losing their temporary legal status as their DACA permits expire and a resolution is not in sight. So far, 20,000 signed letters to Senators Cruz and Cornyn have been collected in Catholic parishes in the Dallas area.
“Now is a critical time and there needs to be an organized constituency standing for immigration reform,” said Josephine Lopez-Paul, the lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith. “These are our brothers and sisters and the church will stand with them.”
Dallas DREAMers and Allies Rally for a Permanent Legalization Measure, Dallas Morning News
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