AI Civic Academy Examines Plight of Unaccompanied Minors

Border_Emergency_-diowesttxerd.jpgAustin Interfaith leaders from the Equal Justice Center and Congregational Church of Austin hosted a civic academy, in collaboration with RAICES of San Antonio, to educate a crowd of about 100 about the dangers children are fleeing and challenges they face today.  Experts from the UT Austin Longhorn Institute for Latin American Studies laid out the political context of the Central American region while Ryan, from RAICES, shared some historical perspective on US policy towards refugees.  Two recent arrivals from Central America shared powerful testimonials about what they fled, bringing these issues to light. 

[Photo Credit: Diocese of West Texas]

In Flight from Central AmericaAustin Chronicle


Austin Interfaith Advances City Resolution on Unaccompanied Minors

In response to Austin Interfaith's call to support unaccompanied minors from Central America, Austin City Council passed a resolution officially welcoming the children and calling on the City Manager to collaborate with other governmental entities to identify ways to support children relocating to Austin.  City council also passed a resolution calling on City staff to explore ways of making a municipal ID available, which could provide a valid form of ID for adults currently lacking access to officially recognized identification.  Both resolutions passed unanimously!       

To Help Migrants, Austin Might Offer Services, Issue City ID CardsAustin American Statesman


Austin Interfaith Leverages County Vote for 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


AI Leaders Call for Coordinated Response to Crisis of Migrant Children

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


AI Leaders Offer Ideas for Use of Medical Center

At a Central Health public hearing over how to use UMC Brackenridge when it closes and a replacement teaching hospital opens in 2017, Austin Interfaith leader suggested putting an array of social services on the campus.  Services like daytime mental health care of seniors would simultaneously provide caregivers with short-term respite.  “It could be a haven of hope for Austin” residents, Zapata said.

Residents Offer Ideas for Using UMC BrackenridgeAustin American Statesman


'Lifting Up Leaders' Highlights Austin Interfaith Leadership Development

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]


Austin Interfaith, APD & City of Austin 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


Historic Win on Living Wages for AISD 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

AISD Adopts Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Scale, Plans to Conduct Living Wage Floor StudyCommunity Impact


Austin Interfaith Fights for Adoption of Davis Bacon Wages in AISD

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


AI Leaders Quoted in Statesman Article Re: 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