How did PCIC first come together?
It came together in 1990. There was a group of Catholic and Protestant clergy who felt there really needed to be a united group of people who were addressing needs in the community, particularly around crime and the breakdown of society and the community.
What would you say PCIC's greatest accomplishments have been so far?
Over the 15 years, there have been a lot of accomplishments. A couple things that would stand out: The creation of JobPath, which was a long-term job-training strategy. Also, the living-wage ordinance that tied into that, because a lot of people who were working two or three jobs weren't able to be at home with the kids. The child-friendly city strategy that we worked on, which helped initiative after-school programs and summer-recreation programs for kids.
How does JobPath work?
People come into the program and develop skills for a job that is going to be waiting for them when they graduate from the program. There's also assistance available for people if they start to run into problems, such as not being able to pay utility bills or what have you, so that they can successfully complete the program and move into a higher-paying job that's on a career path.
So basically, people take classes at a place such as Pima Community College, but JobPath helps provide them with some financial and social support. Why is that important?
A lot of times in job-training programs, the retention rates of people entering the program and then graduating are fairly low. That's because people in job-training programs are right on the edge financially, so one problem with their car or one emergency can throw off their financial situation so they cannot continue going to school. (They) have to drop out in order to provide for themselves and their families. That's why the assistance that JobPath provides is important, so people can stay in school and complete their job training for that position that's waiting for them when they graduate.
They can also meet with other people who are in the same situation.
That's another big part of it: Building a community of support so that they have people they can talk with about the challenges that they're facing.
What's next for PCIC?
One thing that we're working on quite a bit is immigration, because Arizona is ground zero for real immigration reform. Arizona is experiencing the effects of our broken immigration system. We feel that in order to get the federal government to do something, we need to be doing some work here to see some real immigration reform happen at the national level.
PCIC opposed Prop 200 on last year's ballot. What kind of steps do you see yourselves taking on this immigration issue in the near future?
There are a couple of things. One is clarifying with decision-makers at all levels of government what Proposition 200 does affect and what is does not affect, so there's some clarity there. Second, fighting anti-immigrant legislation at the state Legislature. Third, creating a political climate that will allow for real, meaningful immigration reform at the national level.
What else is PCIC up to?
We are celebrating our 15th anniversary, and people are welcome to come to our celebration next Friday, April 15, at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church. Tickets are $50 for dinner and dance, and people can call the PCIC office to reserve tickets. They won't be sold at the door.