Roman Catholic parishes in Texas are providing church-issued identification cards to illegal immigrants who, because of their status, are not eligible for ID issued by the state. Police in Dallas, as well as nearby Carrollton and Farmers Branch have been officially given discretion to accept the church-issued cards as valid identification.

As recommended by the Diocese of Dallas, the ID cards include the applicant’s photograph, date of birth, address, church logo and church membership number.  On a recent weekend, 300 persons received cards at San Juan Diego parish in Dallas. According to Dallas News, approximately 500 applications for IDs were received at a recent parish event. San Juan Diego parish requires ID applicants who are 18 years or older to first become active church members for at least six months. They must also provided active or expired government-issued photo ID from their country of origin and be accompanied by a legal U.S. resident or citizen who can vouch for their identity. 

Mary Immaculate Catholic parish in Farmers Branch is also providing church-issued IDs. According to Dallas News, Fr. Michael Forge has claimed that immigrant parishioners are afraid to drive their children to school or attend Mass because they are prohibited from obtaining a Texas driver’s license. The parish requires applicants for the church-issued ID to provide active or expired government-issued identification from their country of origin, or an affidavit to prove their identity. They are not required to be Catholic. That parish has issued nearly 250 such IDs since March.

This followed a November 2017 interfaith event at Mary Immaculate Catholic parish in Farmers Branch, which is a northern suburb of Dallas. Catholic Bishop Edward Burns processed into the church in the company of police chiefs from Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch and told about 1,500 people assembled there that officers had been given the discretion to accept the church-issued ID cards. In addition, police officials told the crowd that their officers would take into consideration library cards, church membership cards, and utility bills as acceptable forms of identification despite a state law that bans so-called sanctuary cities in Texas.

“Having this ID can be the difference between paying a traffic ticket or being arrested for not having a form of identification,” said Father Walsh, according to Texas Catholic. “Also if the police officer need to call to verify the ID information, is easier to take the call and say ‘yes, this person is a parishioner here.’” Bishop Burns said, according to the report, that the Catholic Church will “always be with the members of the immigrant community, because Our Lord Jesus Christ was a member of the immigrant community.”

Among those who organized the interfaith effort was Socorro Perales, an activist Dallas Area Interfaith, which is turn part of the Alinskyian Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network. Formerly in law enforcement at the Texas Department of Public Safety, Perales has more than a decade’s experience with IAF in get-out-the vote efforts. 

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a "sanctuary cities" in May 2017 that allows local police to ask anyone they detain or arrest about their immigration status. Jurisdictions that violate the state law are subject to fines of as much as $25,000 per day, while officials who break the law can be removed. Abbott said that laws prohibiting racial profiling would be strictly observed and that no one would be pulled over by police and questioned if they had not committed a crime. 

The church-issued ID can can be used to enroll for classes in citizenship, GED, and English as a second language to be provided by the Dallas County Community College.

In March, a federal appeals court ruled that most of Texas' "sanctuary cities" law (SB-4) will remain in effect until a relevant ruling is issued in a lower district court. With the exception of a statute that would punish officials for endorsing sanctuary policies, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the rest of the law to stand. Officials who limit their jurisdiction's cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, however, are still subject to punishment. "With one exception, SB 4's provisions do not, on their face, violate the Constitution," the court's opinion reads.

In an email response to Spero News, Jolene DeVito -- public information officer for the Carrollton police department -- wrote: "The ID cards are just that and nothing more— a way to Identify yourself. Our officers in the field accept any number of forms of identification as a matter of just confirming someone’s identity. Work ID, utility bill, etc. This is just a new one and something the church wanted to do for its parishioners. It of course doesn’t give you license to drive. Anyone driving without a license faces either a citation or arrest at the officer’s discretion."

The Dallas police department did not respond to a query by deadline, while a public information at Farmers Bureau relayed Spero News's questions to the police department, which also did not answer by deadline. 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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