The parish identification strategy was developed in the context of federal and Texas state policy failures that fomented fear among immigrants.
With no path to legalization for millions ready to embrace the responsibilities of living in America, changes in Texas state law increased the vulnerability of families and communities. In 2008, Texas began denying licenses for immigrants unable to show proof of legal residency. In 2017, Texas passed Senate Bill 4, allowing law enforcement officers to inquire about immigration status and to ask for proof of legal residency. This forced local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Newly trained through Recognizing the Stranger, Dallas Area Interfaith leaders began educating their parishes about the local implications of state legislation.
Bishops and clergy of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) decided to negotiate recognition of parish-based identification cards from local law enforcement. They convened an assembly with 1,500 members of the community to pressure local police chiefs to participate in a new program that would allow immigrants to drive to work and take their children to school without fear of deportation. Specifically, the community sought public agreements from the chiefs of police to accept parish-issued identification cards to help immigrants avoid legally mandated fingerprinting and detention when state-sponsored identification cannot be presented. Under the watchful gaze of thousands of immigrants (and nonimmigrants participating in solidarity), three police chiefs consented.
Since then, agreements with law enforcement have been instituted within the Dioceses of Dallas and Brownsville (with Valley Interfaith), reducing the risk of deportation for tens of thousands of immigrants.
Parish identification is part of a larger strategy of leadership development and local, state and federal policy reform so that all families and communities can live without fear and participate more fully in public life.
[Photos are from the DAI assembly that secured police acceptance of parish IDs.]
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