On Aug. 3, our El Paso community was viciously attacked, and we are experiencing deep grief. Yes, we need to take the necessary time to process this pain and publicly lament together. But soon we must also begin to channel this sense of loss to reclaim a sense of community that we will all be proud of.
Terrorism wants to create mistrust and deep hateful fear. Such fear works to drive people away from one another. It scapegoats the immigrant, people of color, those of different faith traditions, people of a different culture and language. It twists and turns us to make others seem not human.
That is not El Paso, and we must not let fear succeed....
We Must Not Let Fear Succeed in Creating Distrust, Hateful Fear, El Paso Times [pdf]
Standing Against Fear: Catholic Church Hosts Interfaith Gathering After Mass Shooting, El Paso Times [pdf]
Multiethnic Group Holds Vigil to Remember Victims of El Paso Shooting, FOX News
What Next? El Paso Faith Community Shares Stories of Fear and Anger in Shooting Aftermath, America Magazine [pdf]
For immediate release: August 4, 2019
|Media Contacts:||Dr. Kathy Staudt||915-240-5826|
|Fr. Pablo Matta||915-500-9919|
EPISO/BI Assembly: Thursday, August 8, 2019, 7PM
St. Paul’s Catholic Church: 7424 Mimosa Ave., El Paso, TX 79915
We are heartbroken over Saturday morning’s attack on innocent victims in our community. This Thursday, August 8th at 7pm, EPISO/Border Interfaith (BI) leaders will come together to demonstrate that this hate-filled act has no place in El Paso, and we will stand as a united effort to grieve and rebuild the bonds of trust to overcome fear and hate.
We as Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders representing 19 local institutions from all walks of life and backgrounds, condemn yesterday’s attack. El Paso is the largest US city on the border and among the safest in our country. We will not let this senseless act of violence define us or define who we are as a border community. We recall the story of the Good Samaritan. In it, we are challenged to see the humanity in those we have been taught to despise and to practice neighborliness, not to be divided by senseless acts of violence.
This week EPISO/BI recommits to its long-term political work of building vital public relationships, rooted in trust. This entails the following:
1) Urging our community to come together and publicly demonstrate our unity and sorrow through the many prayer vigils and gatherings. We must confront this fear together as a community and in local congregations and not allow those most fearful to withdraw into their isolation, whether they require medical care, grief counseling, or simply the caring support of their neighbors.
2) Working to publicly reassure our communities, especially the most vulnerable, to trust law enforcement and local government. On August 8, we will convene with local officials to recommit to our mutual work of creating a safe, vibrant community.
3) Meeting with Congressional members and legislative delegation to propose common sense legislation to prevent such violence in the future.
Most of all, we urge the people of the El Paso area to reach out to those who might feel isolated or fearful and with that same intent and seek fruitful relationships not just in the coming days and weeks, but for the long term. Those kinds of efforts can forge new relationships with people who are different, and to strategize together on building long-term solutions.
EPISO/ Border Interfaith is a multi-ethnic group of institutions, primarily congregations, in the El Paso metro area. EPISO and BI are non-partisan organizations and never accept government funds or supports any candidate. The purpose of EPISO/ BI is to give ordinary citizens a structure through which they can negotiate effectively with the government and private institutions that affect their lives. EPISO /BI are the vehicle through which member congregations and organizations act on the interests of their families and local communities, helping them become an effective force for promoting faith values and democratic traditions.
EPISO and Border Interfaith quizzed 10 of the candidates vying for seats on the El Paso City Council and County Commissioners Court about their positions on a local jobs program, immigration, infrastructure, and restorative justice Sunday.
The accountability session, an El Paso election season tradition staged by... El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization and Border Interfaith...was held at Christ the Savior Catholic Church...in Northeast El Paso.
Each candidate is asked to give yes or no answers to four questions, and is then given 1.5 minutes to explain their answer. About 300 people attended Sunday's event.
[Photo Credit: Sara Sanchez, El Paso Times]
Details on candidate commitments in first article below.
"In light of ...sacred traditions and in light of our immigrant story as a nation, EPISO and Border Interfaith call upon the federal government to negotiate a fair and humane immigration reform policy that serves the common good of both our country and those who seek a better life here, fleeing from fear and violence in their countries..."
Read Statement below:
EPISO, Border Interfaith Call for Human Immigration Policy, El Paso Times [pdf]
[Photo Credit: Mark Lambie, El Paso Times]
With teaching provided by senior IAF organizers Sr. Maribeth Larkin and Joe Rubio, 83 leaders and potential leaders from religious congregations, educational institutions and nonprofits across El Paso convened at Christ the Savior Catholic Church for two-days of leadership development training. Full write-up below.
Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters, Border Interfaith
Over 20 years ago, a developer in the City of El Paso bought acreage in a plot of land, an undeveloped “island” landlocked by, but not included within, El Paso’s municipal lines. The developer recorded the purchase with the County, but then -- unbeknownst to anyone -- illegally partitioned the land and sold the reduced-sized lots to low-income families without providing certificates of occupancy.
120 families built their homes in the Norma-Georgia-Seventh-La Mesa colonia, having little idea they had purchased and were residing in illegal subdivisions. Because the land was not part of the City, and illegally partitioned in the County, neither local nor state entities assumed responsibility for ensuring access to safe water.
Some of the families from this subdivision who were members of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church expressed their struggles at a house meeting convened by Fr. Pablo Matta, and later partnered with Border Interfaith to bring infrastructure to their colonia.
While working with the families, Border Interfaith leaders discovered the unauthorized nature of their tenancy and soon after began organizing to explain to the county why they didn’t have certificates of occupancy. Their first victory consisted of compelling the County to formally recognize and register their occupancy in County records.
The fight for the extension of city water lines into the neighborhood continued as they organized to request funding from the Texas Water Development Board and financial assistance from the Economically Distressed Areas Program. Unfortunately, they received news that the state funding was depleted.
Finally, after many obstacles, the second victory came when Border Interfaith and EPISO approached the CEO of the El Paso Water Utilities and requested the authorized expenditure of $2 Million from the Public Service Board budget to extend public water utility lines into Norma-Georgia-Seventh-La Mesa. Together, the CEO and the leaders worked to secure the necessary votes from the Public Service Board, and on February 8, 2017 the Board voted unanimously in favor of the $2 Million funding.
Construction is programmed to begin in October of 2017.
[In photo above, Fr. Pablo Matta leads celebration.]
One day before the launch of early voting, hundreds of Border Interfaith and EPISO leaders assembled to challenge candidates for Mayor, City Council and the Board of Trustees for El Paso and Ysleta School Board around the issues most impacting residents’ daily lives.
Specifically, leaders asked candidates to commit to: on-time completion of specific infrastructure projects, opposition to statewide anti-immigrant legislation, and funding for Project ARRIBA to the tune of $1.5 million over five years. City candidates were also challenged to publicly support a living wage for subcontractors who work for the city government.
With the exception of one candidate, the El Paso Times reports that “nearly all the candidates answered yes on all the issues and pledged to support Border Interfaith and EPISO on their agendas.”
At the conclusion of the assembly, leaders in the audience were challenged to take note of candidate responses and communicate what they heard to at least ten voters each before the final Election Day in May.
[Photo Credit: David Burge / El Paso Times]
Grassroots Democracy on Display During EPISO Event, El Paso Times [pdf]
Organizaciones Religiosas se Reunen Con Candidatos Antes de las Elecciones, Entravision / Univision
Civic academies organized by Border Interfaith are drawing upwards of 50 parishioners per session ready to learn how to use their civil rights to protect family members from deportation. At a recent session, Rev. Pablo Matta, the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church told parishioners “You are not alone.” He additionally explained, “We are not asking anyone to violate the law. We are using the laws that exist.”
Organizers reminded immigrants that they have the right to remain silent, a right to an attorney and not to sign any document given to them by immigration agents without first talking to a lawyer. They also advised family members not to open the door to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without a warrant.
“Once they enter, many things can happen. There could be other people in the home. The immigration agents may starting asking, ‘You, what’s your name? How long have you been here?’ … They came in looking for Arturo and they took Maria, Jose, Raul and several people. So, don’t do it. Don’t do it.”
[Photo Credit: Victor Calzada, El Paso Times]Read more
At St. Joseph’s Catholic Catholic Church, Border Interfaith leaders brought in voting machines for a hands-on lesson on the mechanics of voting. Click below for video in Spanish.
Imparten Clases Para Saber Votar, Telemundo
Over 150 leaders of Border Interfaith participated in three meetings with El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles (including Lieutenants and Deputies) over the course of two months to build relationships of trust and to address community concerns.
Said Lead Organizer Arturo Aguila, “People were sharing their struggles…but then deputies and lieutenants had a chance to speak. People were able to see them as human beings and that they were afraid at times when they would come to some neighborhoods. It really changed the whole dialogue.”
Meetings Aid Relationship with Sheriff’s Office, El Paso Times [pdf]