For those of you interested in getting some Alinskyian organizational training, West/Southwest-IAF (the western region of the Industrial Areas Foundation – IAF - network) held a five-day training in Phoenix at the Franciscan Renewal Center last November.[i] 
Not that anyone could have attended, mind you.  The “IAF has important criteria for participating.” They only accept people who have “a minimum of 6 months experience in their organizations. …committed to practicing what they have learned within their institutions.”[ii]
The trainee already has been vetted and found supportive of the fixed set of “initiatives” that were predetermined at the highest organizational levels.
The IAF Initiative on Immigration, as it appeared in 2012 on its website, declared that the IAF was “fully committed to comprehensive immigration reform,” and that “the Southwest IAF organizations have been actively working at federal, state and local levels for more humane conditions for immigrants. Affiliates organize native-born as well as foreign-born supporters for national reform, educate recent immigrants with financial and know-your-rights toolkits in predominantly-immigrant institutions, and work to support policies which protect immigrants while defeating those which would unfairly penalize them for their status.”[iii]
That means that the IAF goals for public policy and law, as it concerns immigration, were not established by the local participants of any given IAF affiliate but come from the organization’s national organizers.
Locally, it becomes the task of each “people’s organization” to create a climate that will welcome these policies and laws.  Recent IAF-affiliate “actions” focus on the problems of undocumented workers in such a way that sympathy for small, non-threatening benefits equates as support for progressive, national immigration reform.  These smaller actions include:  
·         Marin Organizing Committee in California,[iv] Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good in Oregon,[v] Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut,[vi] and Albuquerque Interfaith in New Mexico[vii] have spent a number of years fighting to get undocumented immigrants drivers’ licenses.
·         Arizona’s Pima County Interfaith held an “Education Accountability” session that focused on JobPath workforce development (a program to help “underserved,” such as undocumented immigrants get better paying jobs) and increased funding for public education (overwhelmed by uncontrolled immigration).[viii]  The Maryland IAF led the Maryland DREAM Act ballot initiative to help undocumented immigrant children obtain higher education opportunities.[ix]
·         Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) publicized the plight of “child migrants” at the US border.[x]  AMOS in Iowa exhorted local politicians to take a more “humanitarian” approach toward unaccompanied minors at the U.S. border.[xi]  Various Texan IAFs approached their politicians with similar appeals, which were also covered in the local news.[xii
·         Dallas Area Interfaith has been pushing for enforcement of wage theft laws in cases involving undocumented workers.[xiii]  Seattle’s IAF, Sound Alliance, also worked on passage of a ordinance to criminalize wage theft. [xiv]
·         One LA-IAF demanded that $11M be used to provide local undocumented and therefore uninsured people with healthcare.[xv] Another California IAF, COPA, called for a county-wide strategy to educate undocumented residents about healthcare services. [xvi
There is no question that people who enter a country in violation of that country’s sovereign laws are in a vulnerable position.  Nor is it anything but laudable when individual citizens feel inspired to wrap protective arms around the vulnerable.
Using public money to provide increased services and benefits to people who have come into the country in violation of its immigration laws, however, is a dangerous “mixed message.”  Kind-hearted as proponents of free, public healthcare, job-training, and education may be, these goods are lures dangled before desperate people, drawing them into defenseless circumstances.
A genuinely humane and ethical approach would be to create serious disincentives for employers hiring illegal immigrants while simultaneously making legal immigration a simple matter where there are employment opportunities.  Keep immigration in the light; keep manipulated religious compassion in the light, too.
[i] West/Southwest-IAF website:
[iii], accessed 9-24-12.
[iv] Jennifer Upshaw Swartz, “San Rafael council takes closer look at car impound policies,” Marin News, 4-5-10.
[v] Voters’ Pamphlet Oregon General Election November 4, 2014, pg 52. 
[vi] LeAnne Gendreau,  “Churches Fight to Allow Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants,” NBC Connecticut, 1-4-13.
[vii]  Reverend Trey Hammond, president of Albuquerque Interfaith, and Monsignor Richard Olona, “Don’t Drive Immigrants Underground,” Albuquerque Journal, 3- 5-11.
[viii] David Safier, “Speakers Give Candidates An Earful At PCIC Education Accountability Session,” Tucson Weekly, 10-2-14.
[ix] Michael Dresser, “Dream Act advocates plan push in congregations,” The Baltimore Sun, 10-5-12.
[x] “Catholic groups: protect child refugees” Catholic Voice, Archdiocese of Omaha paper, 8-8-14.
[xi] West/Southwest IAF website: “AMOS Leaders Challenge Iowa Congressman on Immigration & Unaccompanied Minors,” undated.
[xii] Abe Levy, “Interfaith group calls for just, kind policies toward child immigrants,” San Antonio Express-News,7-30-14.
[xiii] “06.18.14 Immigration Reform Rally Opening Words ~ Rev. Aaron White,”
[xiv] Seattle City Council Passes Ordinance to Criminalize Wage Theft, (undated; 2011):
[xv] Eryn Brown, “L.A. County grapples with healthcare for remaining uninsured: As Obamacare enrollment ends, county considers coverage for residents, many poor or in the country illegally, still without insurance,” LA Times, 3-30-14.
[xvi] Dennis L. Taylor, “Study: Undocumented rarely visit doctors; UCLA data suggest problems in the future,” The Californian, 5-7-14.



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Spero News columnist Stephanie Block edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequeños newspaper and is the author of the four-volume Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies, which is available at Amazon.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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