Spotlight Nonprofit: Colorado Catholic bishop targets immigrant advocacy group’s funding

Spotlight Nonprofit: Colorado Catholic bishop targets immigrant advocacy group’s funding

LatinaLista — With a worsening economy, more states passing anti-immigrant legislation and the White House endorsing the controversial program known as Secure Communities, undocumented immigrants are under siege. These men, women and children are impacted financially by the nation's attitude towards their presence in the US and can't help but be impacted emotionally by these punitive measures.

There are nonprofit organizations across the country dedicated to helping undocumented immigrants. One such organization is the Durango, Colorado-based Compañeros. Compañeros provides critical resources to all immigrants in southwest Colorado.

Compañeros' mission is to "promote the acceptance of diverse cultures, languages, and people, and we welcome everyone in our organization who stands by this core principle."

Being a small nonprofit, Compañeros depends on the funding from their biggest supporter, the Diocese of Pueblo. Knowing that there's strength in numbers, which helps stretch their small budget when it comes to helping this population, Compañeros joined the social justice-coalition Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition (CIRC).

Everything was going smoothly until Pueblo Bishop Fernando Isern realized that one of the other CIRC members supported gay and transgender immigrants. Suddenly the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) demanded that Compañeros withdraw from CIRC, simply because the other group supported gay and transgender immigrants, or the diocese would no longer fund the small nonprofit.

Believing in their mission and the mission of each of their colleagues in the CIRC coalition, Compañeros refused. The diocese withdrew their funding.

According to Compañeros:

Our continued membership in CIRC is crucial to our efforts to fulfill our mission. We cannot be an effective immigrant advocacy organization if we are disconnected from the greater statewide organization for immigrant rights.

Therefore, in response to the request from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, our Board of Directors voted to stand with all Coloradans, and to remain a member of CIRC. Compañeros stands to lose more than half of our annual operating budget.

But what can only be described as a miracle occurred.

Other Catholics from around the state, nation and world, who did not agree with the Diocese's stand, have been donating to Compañeros. A petition is circulating asking the diocese to reinstate Compañeros funding.

James Salt, executive director of Catholics United Education Fund said, "It's bad enough that the bishops are pushing an extreme political agenda that is driving a wedge between them and the Catholic faithful, but this decision (on Compañeros' funding) is particularly disturbing because they're showing that they'll even throw immigrants under the bus as part of that agenda."

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