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Catholic fund stops aid to immigrant advocates over link to LGBT group

In February, Catholic Charities testified that if Colorado lawmakers legalize civil unions, it may stop providing adoption and foster care services. Now, it seems that another Catholic organization, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, has cut off funding to an immigrant advocacy group in Durango because it belongs to a coalition that has partnered with an LGBT advocacy group -- one that's pushing for the aforementioned legalization of civil unions.

Durango's Companeros is an immigrant resource center that helps southwestern Colorado's immigrants navigate American systems. Founded in 1999, it has one full-time employee and a budget of about $55,000. Most of the services it provides -- from helping immigrants enroll their children in school and prepare their taxes to organizing Know Your Rights trainings and advocating for political issues -- are handled by volunteers.

"These are all things that we all thought CCHD wanted to do, supporting the immigrant population here," says board member Danny Quinlan. "If we did have to fold as result of this funding situation, it would leave immigrant families high and dry."

For the past three years, Companeros has received a $30,000 annual grant from CCHD, Quinlan says. The Catholics' contribution made up over half of Companeros's annual operating budget, he points out. But in February, Companeros received a letter from CCHD that said Companeros's membership in the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition was unacceptable. Why? Because back in November, CIRC formed an alliance with One Colorado, an LGBT advocacy group that's backing a bill to legalize civil unions.

"They told us we either had to drop our membership in CIRC or they would discontinue the funding," Quinlan says. Companeros has a long history with CIRC, he adds; its executive director, Nicole Mosher, sits on CIRC's board of directors, and Companeros's previous director was a founding member of CIRC, which is a statewide, membership-based coalition founded in 2002 to make Colorado more immigrant-friendly.

In the end, Companeros decided against severing ties with CIRC. "To us, that was way more important than giving in to CCHD's demands, which we felt were fairly unjustified," Quinlan says. "Companeros has never taken a stand on civil unions. We don't have a position.... It was kind of guilt by association."

One Colorado also thinks the demand was unjustified. It has started an online fundraising campaign to fill the hole in Companeros's budget. "I think the real issue here is that fighting against the rights of gay people seems more important to the Catholic hierarchy than supporting immigrant families," says One Colorado executive director Brad Clark.

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In a New York Times story about the situation, CCHD's director, Ralph McCloud, gave this explanation: "We can't in any way have groups who are collaborating with other groups whose main focus is objectionable or contrary to Catholic teachings," he told the Times. Nine groups, including several that help the homeless, have lost funding since 2010 because CCHD found their values conflict with Catholic principles, the Times reported.

Quinlan says he's hopeful Companeros will find another funding source. Since the Times story, he says the organization has gotten several donations. The majority, he says, have come from progressive Catholics who disagree with CCHD's decision.

More from our Immigration archive: "Feds may investigate collaboration between school resource officers and ICE in Colorado."

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