FaithAction ID Card: Turning Strangers into Neighbors

FaithAction International House, a CLINIC affiliate led by Reverend David Fraccaro, is making great strides in promoting and encouraging immigrant integration within the city of Greensboro, North Carolina.

FaithAction offers several community services in their goal to ‘turn strangers into neighbors’, including immigration legal services. One initiative in particular has garnered much attention due to its innovative approach to increasing communication, respect, and trust between two unlikely groups: undocumented immigrants and the local police department.

In 2012, FaithAction staff recognized a big disconnect between immigrant clients and the local police department. Foreign-born clients feared police officers, often concerned that an average traffic stop or an attempt at reporting a crime might turn into an immigration enforcement case. At the same time, many officers in the community were not familiar with the languages and cultures of Greensboro’s newest immigrant neighbors. As a result, many on the police force felt limited in their ability to serve and protect these communities without stronger relationships.

In response, FaithAction coordinated monthly dialogues and forums between the Greensboro Police Department, pastors from Latino and other immigrant congregations, and the immigrant community, with the goal of building bridges of understanding and trust. These dialogues provided a safe space for immigrants to share their fears and hopes of relating to local law enforcement. Officers clarified policies and expected behaviors, as well as assured participants of their role to serve and protect all residents in their community. Tremendous progress came through open, respectful dialogue and a willingness to listen and learn from one another.

In the summer of 2013, FaithAction launched the FaithAction ID initiative providing identification for those immigrants in the community who may not have access to government-issued forms of identification. Since then, FaithAction has delivered more than 1,700 FaithAction identification cards to individuals representing over 30 different nations and over 50 cities throughout North Carolina and Virginia.

Rev. Fraccaro specifically mentions the support of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, two local Catholic parishes, as instrumental in the success of this initiative. Both parishes have provided space, support, and volunteers to FaithAction as well as encouraged their parishioners to acquire the ID cards. Rev. Fraccaro notes that it is strong partnerships like these that make any community effort more successful, impactful, and transformative.

Other municipalities are interested in adopting this model in their own communities, as the initiative has been successful in increasing the trust and respect between the local police department and the immigrant community.

CLINIC salutes the innovation, hard work and dedication shown by FaithAction International House in their efforts to create an integrated community for all.

If you’d like to learn more about the FaithAction ID, visit FaithAction’s website.

If you have an integration initiative that you would like CLINIC to highlight, please contact Leya Speasmaker, Integration Program Manager, at lspeasmaker@cliniclegal.org.

Source: Catholic Charities