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TOP announces community demands for City of Dallas, Dallas County to aid residents during COVID-19 crisis

The Texas Organizing Project (TOP) today released a list of demands for City of Dallas and Dallas County officials, as well as local business leaders to address the economic and health needs of local residents during the spread of COVID-19.

For a decade, TOP has been carrying the torch of the social justice movements that have come before us, fighting for a more just and equitable world, centering in particular racial and economic justice. In moments like this, during national and global catastrophe, our fight for change that dares to imagine a world where everyone can thrive is pulled from the margins, and becomes the destination.

“This pandemic is endangering not only public health, but also the financial stability of hundreds of thousands working-class residents in Dallas County, a substantial amount being Black and Latino families living paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Brianna Brown, TOP’s deputy director. “We must prioritize the needs of our community’s most vulnerable. Full stop. This includes low-wage workers struggling to make ends meet, immigrant families afraid to access health services due to the threat of deportation, detained and incarcerated people in crowded jails who cannot self-quarantine, and Black and Latino families burdened with the reality of being uninsured.”

With confirmed cases increasing at an exponential rate across the country, TOP is announcing these demands to spur local elected officials to prioritize the well-being of working-class Dallas County residents who will inevitably bear the brunt of the pandemic.

“The City of Dallas and Dallas County must rise to this moment, and do all in their power to ensure that working families, our local economic engine, have their basic needs fully addressed in this crisis,” said Eric Mata, TOP board member. “More must be done by our local governments to direct resources toward our historically-neglected Black and Latino communities that will very likely be left on the verge of financial ruin as a result of this pandemic.”

Right2Justice in Dallas County Jails and our legal system
We demand measures be taken to reduce the number of people detained, and that steps are taken to limit the spread of the COVID-19 within Dallas County jails and our legal system to the maximum extent possible. We demand:

  • Immediate release of people currently incarcerated pre-trial unless there is clear evidence that release would present an unreasonable risk to the physical safety of the community, with special consideration to the populations that the CDC has classified as vulnerable, such as the elderly and pregnant women)
  • Immediate release of people in Dallas County jail who are within six months of completing their sentence, unless there is clear evidence that release would present an unreasonable risk to the physical safety of the community
  • Stopping arrests of poor people for failure to pay traffic tickets or civil fines
  • Prosecutors decline criminal charges whenever possible and divert to public health, community, and court solutions, and for charges not declined, reduce as many as possible to citations or non-warrant, non-arrest charges

Economic protections for working families
We demand a moratorium on evictions, and a halt to all utility shut-offs to ease the financial burden of COVID-19 recovery for our families. We demand:

  • A moratorium on water, light, and gas cut-offs while expanding utility assistance programs
  • A moratorium on evictions and an expansion of rental assistance programs
  • Creation of a fund to provide childcare options for parents/caregivers/guardians who are affected by COVID-19
  • Accelerating enforcement of the Earned Paid Sick Time Ordinance in Dallas before its scheduled date of April 1, 2020

Ensuring voter safety and fair elections
Dallas County has a unique opportunity to listen to the community, plan, and act to prevent further confusion at the polls during elections later this year. In efforts to greatly reduce the amount of issues that voters may encounter during the November 2020 general election, we demand that:

  • An adequate number of poll workers are secured for all polling locations along with enough substitute workers, and ensure that there is sufficient election administration staff and call lines to timely handle inquiries from both poll workers and the public
  • Poll worker trainings be strengthened and expanded so that poll workers are equipped to handle any issue that may arise and are fully proficient in the County’s election technology
  • The Dallas County Elections Department ask the Texas Secretary of State’s office to allow all eligible voters to vote by mail in the upcoming May elections —
  • This must be done without delay, and depending on the status of public health in the coming months, widespread eligibility for vote-by-mail must be extended to the November 2020 general election.

Public education justice
We call on Dallas ISD and neighboring school districts in Dallas County to ensure sure every child has the opportunity to receive a quality public education during this time.

  • Nutritious meal delivery options for families in need.
  • Staff and/or social workers to help students and parents obtain internet access, social services, and housing support. The school districts should find ways to provide temporary shelter for homeless students.
  • Access to technology, including laptops, tablets, and/or computers should be provided to all students to continue schooling from home
  • Intentionality about meeting the needs of special needs, special education and ESL students as students continue schooling at home. Additional support should be provided to these families.

Healthcare justice for all
We demand free testing, treatment and medical care for all families impacted by COVID-19 regardless of race, gender, religion, criminal background or citizenship status. Healthcare for all families, including COVID-19 testing, treatment, as well as access to other life-saving medications, should be a right. We demand:

  • An expansion of mobile testing and an increase in the number of tests available in Dallas
  • Free treatment and medication should be accessible to all, regardless of income, race, gender, or status

Ensuring the rights of immigrant families
ICE has a track record of abuse and neglect toward immigrants in detention centers. This has resulted in a disturbing amount of people dying in the agency’s custody due to lack of basic medical attention. We demand:

  • The release of immigrant families, an end to local collaboration with ICE enforcement operations or raids, and humane medical attention for all immigrants
  • No citizenship status checks at testing facilities to ensure that undocumented communities feel safe in getting the medical attention they need. Citizenship should not be a barrier to free health services as well.
  • Dallas County not honor ICE detainers pre-trial
  • Eliminate ICE check-ins and mandatory court appearances

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Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.

This press release was sent out March 18, 2020.