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
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 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
Editorial: RGV Education Program for Low-Income Gets Worthy National Praise, The 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 DACA, The Monitor
Valley Interfaith Challenges Legislators to Find DACA Solution, Brownsville Herald
Bishops Flores: Young People Will Lose Faith in Government if DACA Issue is Not Resolved, Rio 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 Library, Rio Grande Guardian
Historic Day for Las Milpas as Public Library is Officially Opened, Rio Grande Guardian
South Pharr Gets New City Facility: Development and Research Center to Offer Residents a Variety of Services, The Monitor
Las Milpas: A Case Study in How Civic Engagement Can Improve a Community, Rio Grande Guardian
Additional Background on 2015 Effort
Coverage of 2015 Accountability Assembly
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 Community, Rio 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 SB4, KXAN
Local Organizations Stand Against Sanctuary Cities Bill, KEYE
Press Release, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
Valley Interfaith Gets Out The Vote for Health District
Valley Interfaith leaders are changing hearts and minds about the creation of a health district by knocking on doors and telling their healthcare stories. Catholics and Methodists are uniting, with reverends and veterans, all to make reality a community healthcare system for the Rio Grande Valley.
Says leader Eddie Anaya, "Valley Interfaith has long had a vision of a community ...healthcare system that will take care of the most vulnerable â€” health care that will serve the uninsured, the elderly, our children and our working families. We believe that an educated vote will result in the passing of Proposition 1."
Prop 1 Supporters Work to Get Out The Vote, The Monitor
Library Breaks Ground, Valley Interfaith Celebrates Win
Valley Interfaith celebrated the construction of a new library they had fought for, marking the first time in 20 years that "we feel, as citizens, as a community that we belong to the City of Pharr...it is an historic day." The library is the result of a protracted fight between Valley Interfaith leaders and the City of Pharr; the fight included success in signing up and turning out more than 1,000 new voters from Las Milpas.
In photo, Catholic Bishop Daniel Flores and other Valley Interfaith clergy break ground with children from nearby Carmen Anaya Elementary.
Anaya: Finally, Las Milpas Residents Feel Part of Pharr, Rio Grande Guardian
Valley Interfaith Campaign Raises Wages, Changes Lives
When St. John Paul II wrote that "a just wage is the key to economic justice," Valley Interfaith leaders listened. Challenged to address the plight of parents working two to three jobs and seeing families break down under the pressure, leaders began their living wage campaign in 1997 to pressure employers across the Rio Grande Valley to increase their minimum wages from $5 /hour to $7.50 /hour or more. Valley Interfaith succeeded where others before them had failed.
In 2000, after MIT Professor Paul Osterman spent three months studying the economic impact of the wage raises, leaders learned that in just three years, their efforts had increased the salaries of 7,200 workers by an average of $1,128 annually. Employers reported costs savings due to lower turnover and absenteeism. Employment did not drop. Since then the campaign accelerated to include dozens of school districts, college districts, county governments and entire municipalities. Economic incentives are often restricted to companies paying appropriate base wages.
Click below for the rest of the story, spanning two decades of work.
Valley Interfaith's Living Wage Campaign, Part One, Rio Grande Guardian
Valley Interfaith's Living Wage Campaign, Part Two, Rio Grande Guardian