Austin Interfaith is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue organization of 42 congregations, public schools, and unions who work together to address public issues that affect the well being of families and neighborhoods in our community.

We are a broad-based citizens' organization committed to promoting justice and democratic values. We work to develop leaders and to provide opportunities for member institutions to negotiate effectively through the political process with local government and community leaders around issues of common concern. Austin Interfaith is strictly non-partisan. Austin Interfaith is one of thirty organizations of the West / Southwest IAF network and one of sixty-five organizations that make up the Industrial Areas Foundation.  


July 30, 2014

AI Leaders Leverage Vote for New Public Defenders’ Office

1407-KUT-Ofelia-Zapata-300x200Austin Interfaith reported to the Austin American Statesman that the organization teamed up with judges to build a hybrid model that would improve indigent defense.  She lobbied County Commissioners to support the establishment of a defender’s office that would assign lawyers to the cases of poor defendants.  

The first year, Travis County would receive about $700 thousand to establish the new office, which would ensure that indigent defendants would have an opportunity to meet with their lawyers so that they understand their situation before going to trial.

[Photo Credit: Felipa Rodrigues, KUT News]

Travis County Accepts State Funding to Create Private Defender’s OfficeAustin American Statesman

July 23, 2014

AI Leaders Call for Coordinated Response to Migrant Children at Border

1407-ATX-FOX7-Presentation-to-Travis-County-CommissionersAustin Interfaith is calling for an organized, coordinated effort to receive a large number of unaccompanied minors.  This, they say, shouldn’t be political.  For AI strategy team leader Ofelia Zapata, the future of migrant children hits close to home.  She sees the face of her own grandchild when she looks at them.

In a presentation to the Travis County Commissioners Austin Interfaith described the arrival of unaccompanied children a humanitarian crisis that requires a thoughtful and proactive response.  Specifically leaders are calling on the County to coordinate the use of public buildings to temporarily house children before they are sent to relatives or a foster family and wait for their day in immigration court. 

Groups Want to Bring Large Number of Migrant Children to Austin, KXAN

Religious Leaders Push for Relief Center for Unaccompanied Children, FOX 7 News

Religious Groups Ask County for Immigration Aid, Time Warner Cable News

Faith Based Groups Ask Travis County to Help, KEYE TV

Austin Interfaith Urges Travis Officials to Aid Migrant Children, Austin American Statesman

Grupos Religiosos Se Unen Para Ayudar a Undocumentados Que Lleguen a Austin, Telemundo Austin

Piden Trato Humano Para Los Niños Migrantes, Univision

June 26, 2014

Austin Interfaith Leadership Development Takes Center Stage

1406 - ATX - NCR - Koreena Malone

Koreena Malone knew she couldn’t do it alone. The single mother of three didn’t know how she could lead the charge to save 173 affordable housing units at her apartment complex.  But if she did nothing, she risked losing her family’s apartment on a quiet tree-lined street that was close to her children’s school. 

'I begged people – I can’t do this right now,” Malone said. “I was studying for the CPA, I’m a mother. I was, like, someone else has to take this on. There has to be somebody else.'  

There wasn’t."

Lifting Up LeadersNational Catholic Reporter [Photo Credit: Nuri Vallbona, National Catholic Reporter, Global Sisters Report]

June 26, 2104

Austin Interfaith, APD & Allies DeNOUNCE Secure Communities

At the urging of Austin Interfaith, Central Texas Bishops, Catholic Charities and immigration reform allies, Austin City Council unanimously passed an official denunciation of Travis County's "Secure Communities," directing the City Manager to explore alternative ways to book arrests.  High achieving 13-year old Alan Gonzalez Otero, from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and Austin Interfaith, testified against Secure Communities, describing an occasion when he was 9 years old and thought he might never see his father again.  Rev. Thomas VandeStadt of the Congregational Church of Austin reminded the Council that Central Texas Bishops opposed cooperation between law enforcement and immigration, and that "on principle" was opposed to Secure Communities. City Hall Chambers, filled with 300 supporters of the resolution, erupted in cheers as the Mayor announced the 7-0 vote.

City Council Deposes ICE Detainer ProgramThe Horn

Austin Rechaza Participación del Condado en el Programa "Comunidades Seguras", Telemundo Austin

June 16, 2014

Historic Living Wage Victory for AISD School Construction

1406 - AAS - AISD Living WagesAfter Austin Interfaith leaders and allies rallied at AISD to urge school board members to vote in support of federal prevailing wages for bond project construction workers, the AISD votes in support of living wages a little before midnight.  Barbara Budde of the Austin Catholic Diocese started off testimony that night with a letter from Bishop Joe Vasquez urging the school board to support the proposal.   Leaders of Austin Interfaith member institutions IBEW, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Education Austin, LiUNA, Workers Defense Project, Painters Local 1779 and the Equal Justice Center delivered impassioned testimony to the same end.  

In the 5-4 vote, trustees Tamala Barksdale, Gina Hinojosa, Jayme Mathias, Ann Teich and Amber Elenz voted for the federal prevailing wages.  [Photo Credit: Austin American Statesman]

Austin District Approves Prevailing Wages for Bond WorkAustin American Statesman

June 4, 2014

Austin Interfaith Fights for Adoption of Davis-Bacon Wages

1406-ATX-AISD-Fight-for-Davs-Bacon-WagesDozens of Austin Interfaith leaders convened at an AISD school board work session to ask the board to abandon the use of an outdated 2005 wage standard and adopt federal Davis-Bacon wage standards, in line with what the City of Austin, Travis County and Del Valle ISD use when paying construction workers for school projects.  Leaders from Education Austin, LiUna, Workers Defense Project, Travis Heights Elementary, IBEW, Temple Beth Shalom, St. David Episcopal Church and the Equal Justice Center testified about the benefits to workers, families, the school district and the economy at large. In photo, Minerva Camarena-Skeith explains to Telemundo Austin how Davis Bacon wage standards would benefit construction workers.

Activistas Presionan A Distrito Escolar de Austin para Aumentar Salarios, Telemundo Austin

June 2, 2014

Statesman Quotes AI Leaders About District 10

Rabbi Alan Freeman and Harmon Motch reflect on a 10:1 redistricting civic academy held at Temple Beth Shalom last month in District 10, and what this means in the upcoming election. 

In Austin’s District 10, a Focus on Preserving the Good Things, Austin American Statesman

May 20, 2014

Leaders Urge AISD to Pay Construction Workers Fairer Wages

1404 - AISD - Fair WagesAustin Interfaith leaders (including representatives from Education Austin) descended on an Austin Independent School District (AISD) meeting to urge Board members to support fair wages for construction workers on AISD-funded projects.  Philip Lawhorn, of member institution International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), urged the Board to adopt the Davis-Bacon wage rate, which relies on federal wage standards for laborers.  AISD is currently using wage rates based on a 2005 study, something Kayvon Sabourian of the Equal Justice Center notes "doesn't cut it in 2014 Austin."

KUT Reports on Living Wage FightKUT Austin

Austin ISD to Reexamine Wage Rates for Construction WorkersCommunity Impact 

Labor Groups Ask Austin District to Adopt Federal Wage Rates, Austin American Statesman 

April 17, 2014

Holy Week Remarks by Rev. John Elford

Whenever I, or one of my colleagues from Austin Interfaith, speaks in support of an issue of consequence before the halls of government, I can almost guarantee that someone will say, why don’t those preachers stick to spiritual stuff, stick with the Bible. Why do they have to stick their noses in politics?

In the western Christian tradition, it’s Holy Week. Today is Maundy Thursday. Over the next several days, in powerful and dramatic worship services, each of our faith communities will recall the final days of Jesus’ life to discern meanings for life in our own time.

Whenever I return to these readings from our sacred texts, I’m struck not by how spiritual they are, but by how earthy and political they are. Jesus, who could not remain quiet, who spoke up against empire and the powers that be, was arrested, tried, jailed, beaten, tortured and executed. It doesn’t get much more physical than that. And his crime?

Proclaiming a vision of a new world, an egalitarian world where the poorest among us are lifted up, where everyone has a place at the table, where every family has their own vine and fig tree, which means everyone has what they need for a life of dignity and purpose and no one lives in fear….

See Complete Statement Here

April 17, 2014

Clergy & Lay Leaders Fight Housing Discrimination During Holy Week and Win!

1404 - S8 - Evita CruzWith 9 out of 10 apartment owners turning away Section 8 voucher users, single mothers like Evita Cruz have few options about where to live.  This affects what school her daughter attends, how far she travels for work and how safe she feels in her neighborhood.  During Holy Week, Austin Interfaith clergy and lay leadership stood up for people like Evita to demand that the council advance a resolution that would prohibit discrimination based on Section 8 vouchers.  Council responded with a 6-0 vote, directing the City Manager to draft language for a formal policy proposal.  In photo, Evita Cruz tells her story.  More photos here

Council Approves Voucher OrdinanceKVUE-ABC 

Council Passes Resolution to End Housing DiscriminationKXAN

Council Could Ban Landlords from Section 8 DiscriminationTime Warner Cable News

Council: Getting a Round TuitAustin Chronicle

Policy Austin City Council Says Landlords Can't Discriminate Against Housing Voucher-HoldersAustin American Statesman

Reverend John Elford's Remarks

January 7, 2014

Austin Interfaith Saves 173 Affordable Homes in Oak Creek Village

Koreena Malone, President of Oak Creek Village Tenant's Association, Capital IDEA Graduate, Austin Interfaith leader.When Koreena Malone, an accounting graduate of Capital IDEA, was confronted with the threat of losing her home at the hands of a developer with a plan to raze her apartment and replace it with a higher cost unit, she developed her own plan.  In collaboration with Austin Interfaith she formed a tenant’s association and negotiated a new deal on the redevelopment with Travis Heights Elementary School, the neighborhood association, and the developer.

“‘I strongly believe that the redevelopment of Oak Creek Village won’t just lead us to a better community but a model for the city of Austin,’ Malone said.

[Photo Credit: Deborah Cannon, Austin American Statesman]

As Austin Becomes More Expensive, Some Fight to Keep it AffordableAustin American Statesman [pdf]

October 24, 2013

Leaders Victorious in Passing Living Wage Ordinance

Meredith Reid of Education Austin stands for a living wage at City Hall.Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated the passage of a historic living wage ordinance they had fought for over the course of five years.  Institutional representatives from congregations, schools and workers associations challenged city council candidates in 2012 to craft an ordinance requiring that jobs emerging from taxpayer incentives pay at least a living wage or prevailing wage, if higher.  An economic incentive team put together language, which included an exception process, that was later adopted by a Special Committee on Economic Incentives and proposed by Councilmembers Martinez, Tovo and Morrison Thursday night.  Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez intervened reading a statement of support for the ordinance at a 6pm rally, which was later read by an Austin Interfaith leader in Council chambers.  After four hours of testimony and debate, the City of Austin passed, for the first time ever, a requirement that corporations receiving tapayer incentives be required to pay the City established living wage of $11 per hour or prevailling wages, whichever is higher.   

Council OKs Economic Incentive RulesAustin American Statesman

Living Wages in AustinAustin Interfaith

October 6, 2013

Chamber Leaders Join Central Texas Clergy in Immigration Education Effort

131006 - Clergy - Immigration EventFor the first time in Central Texas, leaders from two Chambers of Commerce joined clergy from Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith traditions for an afternoon of education about economic, business and legal perspectives on immigration reform.  This second event in a campaign organized by clergy leadership, drew 220 participants — about twice as many as the first one.  Testimonies from workers, divided families and DACA leaders highlighted the human cost; presentations by business leaders and legal experts outlined the economic and business costs of a lack of reform.  All urged participants to meet with their legislative representatives and to demonstrate a constituency of voters that support compassionate reform. 

Austin Interfaith Hosts Immigration Reform EventAustin American Statesman

September 17, 2013

Austin Leaders Leverage $2.38 Million for Investments in Youth & Young Adults

After founding Prime Time, an after-school program, Austin Interfaith fought for its continued funding."Austin Interfaith worked from the ground up to get its priorities included in the budget….It represents the interests of low-income families and has become a familiar presence at City Hall in recent years. Austin Interfaith leaders mobilized members to show up en masse to city budget hearings to plug these programs, meet with council members and bombard council offices with calls and emails in the days leading up to the final budget vote. The nonprofit was elated that council members agreed to spend money on all of Austin Interfaith’s priorities, totaling $2.4 million."

[Photo Credit: Felipa Rodrigues, KUT News]

Well-Organized Groups Won the Day in Austin Budget Vote, Austin American Statesman

Austin City Council Adopts New Budget, YNN

Austin City Budget Restores $1 Million for Youth Programs, KUT News

Details on Austin Interfaith Priorities, Austin Interfaith

August 28, 2013

Texas IAF Reconstitutes Launchpad (Job Training) Fund to $5M

Photo of compressors and mechanical drives class at Texas State Tech in Waco“The Launchpad Fund, which gave nonprofits $10 million starting in the 2010-11 biennium to support career training programs for low-income students, will be replaced by the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Grant program. The ACE grant program will award about $5 million under a similar model to nonprofits for the next biennium. It will be administered by Austin Community College, which will step into the comptroller’s office’s current oversight role….

Said Minerva Camarena-Skeith, a representative of Austin Interfaith, the nonprofit that helped found Capital IDEA with business community members and advocates for public funding: “It still gives these job-training programs the opportunity to apply for these $5 million, and also be able to leverage more city and local funds.”

[Photo Credit: Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune]

Job Training  Program Adjusts Amid Funding CutsTexas Tribune

Governor Signs Bill: $5 Million for Adult Career TrainingNetwork of Texas IAF Organizations

August 27, 2013

Austin Interfaith's First In-District Charter Leads the Way

Travis Heights parent drop off her daughter in a dual language kindergarten classroom at new in-district charter school Travis Heights Elementary School.  Lead Organizer: Jacob Cortes"The switch at Travis Heights has been in the making for nearly three years.  Austin Interfaith, a coalition of schools, churches and unions, and district labor group Education Austin …reached out to 100 campuses before they found a partner in Travis Heights willing to become a charter.

Their volunteers then went door-to-door, garnering support and hosting school meetings to find out what parents and teachers wanted in a school. They reached 90 percent of the school’s households and got 99 percent support from parents and 97 percent support from staff…."

[Photo Credit: Ralph Barrera, Austin American Statesman]

Switch to Charter Means More Innovation at Travis Heights, Austin American Statesman

How Travis Heights Elementary Could Change Schools in Austin, KUT News

AISD's First Homegrown Charter School Promises Real Life Lessons, KVUE & KHOU

August 8, 2013

Austin Interfaith, Workers Defense Project & Allies Victorious in Defense of Workers

Jacob Cortes, Austin Interfaith, Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez, Rev. John Elford, Rev. Fred Krebs

In the latest segment of a long-standing battle for living wages in Central Texas, 200 supporters of construction workers, including Austin Interfaith leaders, Bishop Joe Vasquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin and Workers Defense Project, rallied on the steps of City Hall demanding that workers receive the pay promised to them by developers of White Lodging, in exchange for $3.8 million in fee waivers granted by the City.  Photo shows Bishop Vasquez, Rev. Fred Krebs (ELCA) and Rev. John Elford (UMC) as they deliver their statements in support of workers. 

In the wee hours of Friday morning, City Council voted unanimously to stand by its revocation of economic incentives in light of the developers’ refusal to pay the promised prevailing wages.

[Photo Credit: Alberto Martinez, Austin American Statesman.]

How Austin's Marriott Incentive Deal Fell Apart, Austin American Statesman

Council Approves Revoking of Marriott Incentives, Austin American Statesman

City Council Affirms Original Agreement with Marriott Developer, ABC – KVUE

June 28, 2013

Austin Interfaith Preserves 173 Affordable Housing Units

…Koreena Malone, president of the Oak Creek Tenants Association, said a cohesive agreement was reached on the redevelopment through the partnership of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association, the tenants association and the developer.  ’I strongly believe that the redevelopment of Oak Creek Village won’t just lead us to a better community but a model for the city of Austin,’ Malone said.

The Oak Creek Village complex, located at 2324 Wilson St., has 173 units that qualify as affordable housing. According to city documents, the developer is planning to keep all of the affordable housing units in the complex and build up to 313 new market-rate units…The developer also entered into an agreement … to provide on-site, affordable housing for 35 years. Said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, an Austin resident and leader of Austin Interfaith,… ‘It will lead to a more livable neighborhood and will lead to a more livable Austin.’”

Oak Creek Village Strikes a New Deal, Austin Chronicle

Oak Creek Village Redevelopment Approved by Austin City CouncilCommunity Impact

Exiled From Main Street, Austin Chronicle

June 17, 2013

Central Texas Bishops & Religious Leaders Call for Immigration Reform

Jacob Cortes, Austin Interfaith, Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez

In a prayer service and press conference organized by Austin Interfaith, Central Texas Bishops and clergy from six religious denominations “pressed Tuesday for reforms centered on keeping families together and allowing unauthorized immigrants to earn legal residency with a path to citizenship….[stating] such principles are key to what they called just and humane immigration reforms.”

Central Texas Religious Leaders: Immigration Change Must be Just, Humane, Austin American Statesman [Printable version]

Lideres de Diversas Iglesias Alzan sus Plegarias por la Reforma Migratoria, Univision 62