Latest News

Valley Interfaith Fights for Flood Relief for McAllen Colonias

Valley Interfaith leaders from South McAllen colonias -- specifically from Balboa, Hermosa and Idela -- organized a press conference calling on the City to allocate funding for neighborhoods most in need of flood assistance.  With over $50 million to be invested in flooding infrastructure over the next five years, Valley Interfaith says that neighborhoods on the Southside are getting shortchanged. 

Said Pastor Alejandro Flores of San Juan Diego Catholic Church, "I know McAllen is a large area, but we want the response to be proportionate to the need where ever it may be."  Flores says the city itself has admitted that the southwest was one of the hardest hit areas during the floods.

[Photo Credit: Joel Martinez, The Monitor]

Frustrated South McAllen Residents Plead for Relief from June Rains, The Monitor [pdf]

Hardest Hit Flood Areas Say Not Enough Projects Being Proposed, KVEO [pdf]

Valley Interfaith Tells Senators Cornyn & Cruz: Reunite the Children Quickly & Stop Detaining Families

In the hubbub surrounding a meeting with US Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Valley Interfaith leaders spoke up forcefully to press the issue of the reunification of children with their parents. 

[Excerpt from Rio Grande Guardian report below] 

"Valley Interfaith urged Congress, to reunite the 2,300-plus children who are currently in custody with their parents and electronically monitor, rather than detain theses families. 

Also, it urged that pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, and pediatric nurses be sent to the centers, especially those centers specializing in infants and to take swift action because under the so-called Flores Settlement, the detention of minors with or without the parents can only last up to 20 days. 

“The president was the one who created this problem, through the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy. If you cross illegally, they will arrest you for a crime and by law they will separate you from the children, that is the problem,” Anaya said. 

“We are telling them (Texas’ two senators), now we need them to pass legislation to resolve the problem, because we believe this problem will be resolved by legislation, not by executive orders; not by the president, but by their leadership.”" 

[Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool, Dallas Morning News] 

Senators: We Don't Know When Immigrant Families Will Be ReunitedRio Grande Guardian 

Pause At the Border? Friday Marks First Day in a Month That No Parents, Children Separated in McAllenDallas Morning News 

Trump Caves, Plenty of Reaction, Rio Grande Guardian 

Cruz, Cornyn Joining Another Wave of Congressional Visits Amid Family Separations OutrageThe Monitor 

Sister Norma, the Border's Fiercest Fighter, is 'Astute as a Serpent, and Gentle as a Dove'Dallas Morning News

IAF Calls for Quick Reunification of 2,000+ Children with Families

Reaction to President Trump’s executive order on the separation of immigrant families has been swift, with most community groups and elected officials opposing the “zero tolerance” policy. 

Trump made the announcement that he was changing policy on Wednesday, June 20, which was designated World Refugee Day by the United Nations. He directed the Department of Homeland Security not to separate families as they await immigration proceedings. 

The Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s oldest network of Broad Based Community Organizations, with over 75 organizations throughout the United States representing hundreds of thousands of families, issued this statement: 

“The Trump Administration needs to immediately stop and desist from further separation of immigrant children and their parents, quickly reunite those 2,000 family members, and begin a humane approach to border security and immigration reform. While the president may soon reverse part of this policy, it is important that the victimized children be cared for respectfully and appropriately, including inspection of the detention facilities by local clergy and health providers.” 

Fr. Kevin Collins, OMI, of Valley Interfaith-IAF, and pastor of St. Eugene de Mazenod Church in Brownsville, Texas, said: “The ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy promulgated by the Attorney General and the Trump Administration is nothing short of cruel. It is un-American to separate children from their parents.” Collins is pictured [right]. 

Rabbi John Linder, of Valley Interfaith Project-IAF and Senior Rabbi of Temple Solel of Paradise Valley, Arizona, said: 

“Forcibly taking children from their mothers and fathers, is nothing short of government-sanctioned child abuse. Where will this stop? Children in cages, tent cities. What’s next? Every elected official at the local, state, and national level must tell the administration that this brutality cannot be tolerated. The lack of political will on all sides for balanced, comprehensive immigration reform is responsible for this mess. Children are never to be used as political pawns. The Trump Administration has crossed a moral line.” 

Fr. Mike Walsh of Holy Trinity Parish in Dallas, TX, with Dallas Area Interfaith-IAF, said: 

“It’s stunning that we are perpetrating something so horrible for families. This is the 21st century, and our government is placing children in penned cages. We’re a better country than this.” 

Maria Elena Manzo, leader with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA), in Salinas, California, said: 

“Virtually every moral voice and authority is denouncing these administrative actions. This is horrifying. What can be more sacred than the family? It is torture to take children away from their parents.” 

Full Statement Here 

Trump Caves, Plenty of Reaction, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]

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At a COPS/Metro Alliance assembly on June 18, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller called the separation of immigrant families at the border "immoral", "evil" and "sinful." 

[Top Image Credit: NOWCastSA footage] 

How Catholics are Helping Immigrant Children Separated from their Parents, America [pdf

Catholic Bishops Across US Condemn Separation of Migrant Children, America [pdf

San Antonio Archbishop Calls Separation of Families Immoral, Evil and Sinful, NOWCastSA [pdf]

Valley Interfaith & Bishop Daniel Flores Leverage 2 Votes for Discharge Petition on DACA, Target Third Congressional Rep

Less than four months after Valley Interfaith delivered 10,000 letters calling on Rio Grande Valley lawmakers to take action on DACA, US Congressional Representatives Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) announced they will sign a petition in an effort to force the House to take up immigration bills. Both said they would sign Discharge Petition #10, which will set up a "Queen of the Hill" process to consider four bills that would address the uncertain status of DACA recipients. The bill that receives the largest number of votes in support will pass.

In a statement, Vela credited his decision to "consultation with Dreamers, their parents, clergy and Bishop Daniel Flores." Valley Interfaith, with Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, successfully lobbied the two congressmen.

Said Pastor Bill Duke, "with Reps. Vela and Gonzalez joining onto the discharge petition, we are still 3 signatures shy of the 218 needed to bring this to the floor. We are discouraged that Congressman Cuellar has maintained his stance and urge all residents who live within his district to call him and urge him to support the discharge petition. As pastor of First United Methodist Church in Mission, I call on him to support the Discharge Petition and to let democracy work!"

After thanking Valley Interfaith for keeping "a congressional solution to the DACA situation at the forefront of the local community," Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Flores acknowledged that the road ahead is very long. But he reaffirmed, "This is a commitment to our young people that they are not alone — to give them the opportunity to do what they want to do to share their talents for the good of the whole community....We seek a permanent solution to the limbo so many (Dreamers) are going through right now."

KVEO Video Coverage

Pressure Grows on Cuellar to Support Discharge Petition, Rio Grande Guardian[pdf]

Valley Interfaith Asking Cuellar to Sign DACA Petition, Valley Morning Star [pdf]

Valley Lawmakers Sign Petition to Force Vote on DACA Bills, The Monitor [pdf]

Valley Interfaith Pushes Lawmakers to Support DACA, Valley Morning Star [pdf]

Bishop Daniel E. Flores' Video TestimonyCatholic Diocese of Brownsville

Federal Study Recognizes VIDA for Moving Low-Income Out of Poverty

One of nine workforce development programs evaluated under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), the  was selected as one of the most effective programs as measured by retention, graduation and employment. Findings from the study were revealed at South Texas College's Pecan Campus and celebrated by Senator Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa and leaders from VIDA and Valley Interfaith. The study was a blind study -- essentially comparing what happened to 500 students who enrolled in VIDA and 500 students who enrolled in other programs.

VIDA is a long-term workforce development program established by Valley Interfaith and modeled after the nationally renowned Project QUEST in San Antonio. In a video produced by Valley Central , San Juanita Sanchez describes how VIDA helped her return to college after 20 years to finish her degree in social work.

 

VIDA: Implementation and Early Impact ReportPathways for Advancing Careers in Education

VIDA Wins Recognition for Helping Low- Income Individuals Improve EducationRio Grande Guardian

National Study Shows Impact of VIDAValley Central

Editorial: RGV Education Program for Low-Income Gets Worthy National PraiseThe Monitor

Valley Interfaith Fights for DACA, Sends 10,000 Cards to Congress

Wielding 10,000 signed postcards to Congressional Representatives and scriptural passages on the subject, Valley Interfaith leaders and Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Flores forcefully called on Congress to protect DREAMers as they decide the future of DACA.

"The Bible is clear," declared Msgr. Heriberto Diaz of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Brownsville. "We are to welcome the immigrant, as we were once immigrants in a foreign land."

Bishop Flores emphasized, "Young people are not statistics...not just numbers...they are young people with hopes and dreams."

 

Valley Interfaith Leaders Urge Congress to Fix DACAThe Monitor

Valley Interfaith Challenges Legislators to Find DACA SolutionBrownsville Herald

Bishops Flores: Young People Will Lose Faith in Government if DACA Issue is Not ResolvedRio Grande Guardian

Valley Interfaith Leverages Candidate Pledges on Indigent Health, Job Training and Colonia Infrastructure

250 leaders with Valley Interfaith assembled at Holy Family Church in Edinburg to challenge candidates for Hidalgo County Judge to commit to working with them on health, job training and colonia infrastructure. Specifically, leaders challenged candidates to commit to raising the income eligibility to qualify for the County's indigent health care program, to restore funding for long-term job training program VIDA and to install necessary lighting, streets and drainage in surrounding unincorporated neighborhoods.

Candidates Richard Cortez, Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios, and Palacios' opponent in the March primary, Ellie Torres, all publicly pledged to support Valley Interfaith's agenda.

Cortez, Palacios, and Torres Commit to Valley Interfaith's Agenda, Rio Grande Guardian

Bishop, Valley Interfaith Celebrate Opening of Las Milpas Library

In the largest celebration of multiple events, Bishop Daniel E. Flores blessed the opening of a new library in Las Milpas, surrounded by Valley Interfaith leaders, children from Carmen Anaya Elementary School and other community supporters. An assembly chronicled the community-driven effort that went into changing the political culture of South Texas, reflected in the construction of the new library that leaders had fought for and won.

Three years prior, Valley Interfaith leaders signed up 1,000 new voters to a community-driven agenda that included the construction of a new library in low-income Las Milpas, the organization of a nonpartisan accountability assembly at one of the local churches and an election upset that replaced a non-responsive mayor and city commission with a slate of new officials that understood what they had to do to stay in office.

The first meeting of the new City Commission in 2015 included all of Valley Interfaith's 6-point agenda and was passed with overwhelming support. Said the then-new Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, "Valley Interfaith has a machine in place and I want to be re-elected. Let's build this library exactly how the community wants it."

The library opened in 2018 to community acclaim. City Commissioner Ramiro Caballero declared, "What VIF leaders did here in Pharr, we need you all to go out and train other citizens in other towns, cities, and county commissioner districts, and teach them to do what you did here with Pharr."

Bishop Flores to Bless New Las Milpas LibraryRio Grande Guardian

Historic Day for Las Milpas as Public Library is Officially OpenedRio Grande Guardian

South Pharr Gets New City Facility: Development and Research Center to Offer Residents a Variety of ServicesThe Monitor

Las Milpas: A Case Study in How Civic Engagement Can Improve a CommunityRio Grande Guardian

Additional Background on 2015 Effort

Coverage of 2015 Accountability Assembly

Additional photos

Valley Interfaith Credited with Transforming Las Milpas

"Years back, when we went with 40 or 50 people and packed the city commission, Carmen Lopez, other leaders, and our youth, spoke before the commission," Anaya said. "Carmen was reminded she had three minutes to speak. When she was speaking, very eloquently in Spanish, she was interrupted by the previous mayor and told, can you speak English. If not, you need to sit down. That, in itself, gave so much anger to the community. We knew there was only one thing we could do and that was educate our voters and go out and vote."

The education of voters came through house meetings and accountability sessions, Anaya explained.

"The community came together and identified issues that mattered to the families, and particularly to the youth. We told the elected officials, we need parks, a library, a place to gather. At a key accountability session, two of city commissioners did not show up. One of them lost by 12 votes, the other by 40," Anaya said, referring back to the 2015 city council election campaign.

...

Said Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez: "All of Las Milpas is transformed, thanks in large part to Valley Interfaith. This group played a critical role in identifying the improvements the City of Pharr had to make, and I am sure they have done it throughout the Rio Grande Valley."

Las Milpas: A Case Study in How Civic Engagement Can Improve a CommunityRio Grande Guardian

Valley Interfaith Priest Concerned That SB4 Can Empower Cartels

Following a press conference in which leaders of the Texas IAF Network of Organizations joined the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops to oppose the anti-sanctuary cities bill, SB4, Fr. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene's de Mazenod Catholic Church and Valley Interfaith in Brownsville had more to say.

"If you cannot trust the police, who can you turn to?" Collins argues that one unintended consequence of SB4 becoming a law is that organized crime will become more powerful if community policing is diminished by lack of trust.

According to written testimony by Bishop Jose Vasquez, speaking on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, "The Catholic Church has a long history of involvement in the immigration issue....we reject the premise that persons who are merely suspected of being undocumented should be rounded up by state and local police agents. The primary duty of state and local law enforcement is to enforce state and local law with the aim of protecting communities from those who seek to harm others."

Bishop Joe Vasquez's submitted testimony has been published by the Rio Grande Guardian and is part of the article below. Valley Interfaith is part of the Network of Texas IAF Organizations.

Valley Priest: Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill Could End Up Empowering Drug Cartels, Rio Grande Guardian

Texas Interfaith Leaders Take a Stand Against SB4KXAN

Local Organizations Stand Against Sanctuary Cities BillKEYE

Press ReleaseTexas Catholic Conference of Bishops