BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Over 300 Texas Industrial Area Foundation leaders from across the state will hold a press conference on the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday.
There, they will call on the House and Senate to invest in families through adult workforce development and public education.
Among those present will be more than 75 members of Valley Interfaith, which is part of the IAF network. In addition to pushing for adult workforce development and public education, Valley Interfaith members will also call for investment in border colonias.
The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville (in photo above) is a leader with Valley Interfaith. He said Valley Interfaith wants legislators to increase the state’s overall share of the cost of public education and to increase the per-pupil allotment.
“Quality public education is a question of a strong Valley economy and quality of life,” Collins said. “The state needs to step up its game and invest more in public education. Property taxes skyrocketed because the state’s share of school funding went from 50 percent to barely 36 percent. The state needs to increase investment to improve the quality of public education in Texas.”
[Photo Credit: Rio Grande Guardian]
Over 80 predominantly low-income Spanish-speaking leaders converged for a multi-day training on leadership development co-sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF and Valley Interfaith.
Trainees came from 19 different institutions of the Rio Grande Valley -- including from Rio Hondo, Elsa, Las Milpas (Pharr), Weslaco, Peñitas and McAllen -- to learn how to organize around their faith and values.
The Rio Grande Guardian named Valley Interfaith as a key group that helped pass a drainage bond in Hidalgo County that will invest millions to improve the county's storm drainage system. County Commissioners pledge that the monies will be invested as promised.
Said Andy Noriega, a leader with Valley Interfaith and St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Weslaco: “People keep talking about the June 20th floods. But in 2015, our homes flooded with just an inch less of rain than what fell on June 20th. We see that these proposed projects will take water out of our families’ homes and into retention ponds and canals. That is why we support this bond.”
Commissioners: Drainage Bond Funds Will Not be Diverted to Other Projects, Rio Grande Guardian
After summer floods in Hidalgo County left countless homes destroyed and neighborhoods damaged, Valley Interfaith leaders researched a $190 million bond proposal to upgrade Hidalgo County’s drainage system. Leaders were soon angered to discover that almost no funding was planned to be allocated for the poorest neighborhoods of Hidalgo. “Never before has Las Milpas received money to improve the drainage in this community from Hidalgo County,” said Valley Interfaith leader Eddie Anaya.
Valley Interfaith quickly mobilized, reaching out to their elected officials and ultimately negotiating upwards of $15 million in drainage work in South Pharr and $1 million dollars for South McAllen -- not originally in the bond proposal.
[Our neighborhoods] “stand to receive an unprecedented $15 million that will improve the drainage in South Pharr. We sat down with Commissioner Cantú and expressed our community’s concerns about the original design. He listened, and we like the changes.”
Valley Interfaith Endorses Drainage Proposition, The Monitor [pdf]
Community Groups Urge 'Yes' Vote on $190 Million Bond Election, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
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 Reunited, Rio Grande Guardian
Pause At the Border? Friday Marks First Day in a Month That No Parents, Children Separated in McAllen, Dallas Morning News
Trump Caves, Plenty of Reaction, Rio Grande Guardian
Cruz, Cornyn Joining Another Wave of Congressional Visits Amid Family Separations Outrage, The Monitor
Sister Norma, the Border's Fiercest Fighter, is 'Astute as a Serpent, and Gentle as a Dove', Dallas Morning News
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 â€” 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."
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 Testimony, Catholic Diocese of Brownsville
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 Report, Pathways for Advancing Careers in Education
VIDA Wins Recognition for Helping Low- Income Individuals Improve Education, Rio Grande Guardian
National Study Shows Impact of VIDA, Valley Central
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 DACA, The Monitor
Valley Interfaith Challenges Legislators to Find DACA Solution, Brownsville Herald