Lobbies on behalf of illegal immigrants in Maryland
Is funded by George Soros' Open Society Institute
Has received awards from the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Council of La Raza, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
The Central American Solidarity Association of Maryland (CASA de Maryland) began operating in 1983 in the basement of the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, which served as a sanctuary for refugees who had come to the U.S. illegally as they fled the civil strife and wars that were plaguing nations like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. But CASA was not officially incorporated until February 28, 1985. Its official founder was a young activist named Bette “Rainbow” Hoover, who has also been a key figure with such groups as ProNica, Just Peace Circles, the American Friends Service Committee, the Washington Peace Center, and the National Organization for Women. From its church-basement headquarters, CASA providedclothing, food, immigration assistance, and English instruction to new arrivals.
With the growth of Maryland's local immigrant population (both legal and illegal), CASA expanded the scope of its activities during its early years. In 1991, for instance, with the help of Montgomery College and a number of private foundations, the Association set up a temporary trailer from which it provided assistance in legal and employment-related matters for the increasing numbers of day laborers who were congregating on street corners in the Long Branch neighborhood of Silver Spring. Two years later, Maryland's Montgomery County gave CASA the funding and office space it needed in order to open its first Center for Employment and Training.
Since then, CASA has become the largest Latino immigrant-advocacy organization in Maryland. It now operates five day-laborer centers where men seeking work can congregate, without fear of being questioned regarding their immigration status, and wait for an employer to hire them for the day. Well aware that a large percentage of the day laborers who use these centers are in the U.S. illegally, CASA in 2006 acknowledged that if Congress were to pass HR4437—legislation designed to criminalize the act of employing or aiding an illegal alien—the day-laborer centers would be forced to close.
CASA also runs a community education center, a vocational training school, and an 18,000-square-foot, 28-room headquarters situated in Langley Park Mansion, located near Takoma Park. This facility was renovated in approximately 2010-11, with the aid of some $10 million in taxpayer funds.
Today CASA describes itself as “a group of passionate, community-conscious people working to organize, advocate for, and expand opportunities for Latino and immigrant people in the state of Maryland.” Its stated mission is “to create a more just society by building power and improving the quality of life in low-income immigrant communities.” Operationally, this means that CASA lobbies for blanket amnesty on behalf of the millions of illegal aliens residing in the U.S.—on the theory that they will eventually become citizens who vote reliably Democrat. As CASA ally and longtime labor activist Eliseo Medina candidly told a “Take Back America” conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future in 2010: “If we reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters. Can you imagine if we have … even two out of three, if we get 8 million new voters … we will create a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.”
Such a strategy is consistent with CASA's “New Americans Initiative,” which seeks to naturalize at least 270,000 legal permanent residents in Maryland and the surrounding area. By CASA’s reckoning, the mass naturalization of immigrant non-citizens would serve to completely restructure the hierarchy of power in the United States by “addressing, on a systemic level, th[e] … conditions of economic and social inequality.”
Exhorting Congress to pass “comprehensive immigration reform” that provides a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegals, CASA supported President Barack Obama’s controversial “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program, initiated in June 2012 to guarantee that most DREAM Act-eligible individuals would be granted legal status, work permits, temporary protection from deportation, and, in many cases, eligibility for tax credits as well as publicly funded healthcare, housing, food, education, child care, and job-training benefits.
CASA likewise supported President Obama’s November 2014 executive action on immigration, known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), which authorized similar benefits for millions of illegals not covered by the DACA edict.
Today, CASA's programs and services reach some 20,000 low-income Latinos and immigrants in Maryland each year. Specifically, these programs provide:
employment placement services that connect workers with employers who need short-term help;
vocational training in fields like electrical work, building maintenance, drywall installation and painting, computer repair, cabinetry, HVAC installation and repair, blueprint reading, power tool usage, sewing and dress-making, child development, security, solar paneling, and hospitality;
case management assistance to help immigrants access publicly funded social services in the community;
health outreach and education services, including a multilingual telephone hotline, a medical interpreter program, and a comprehensive public benefits program that helps immigrants enroll in a variety of government-assistance and health-insurance programs including those made available through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare);
legal services for low-income immigrants in matters related to housing, employment, and immigration;
English instruction for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL);
Spanish literacy instruction;
training in techniques of community organizing and advocacy that are geared toward catalyzing “social change” and building “power in the low-income Latino and immigrant community”;
financial literacy training and counseling in matters like tax preparation, opening a bank account, writing checks, using debit cards, debt analysis, financial planning, and creating a budget;
citizenship assistance, provided by trained members of AmeriCorps, in the form of pre- and post-naturalization support, mentoring, interview preparation, and application assistance; and
a low-interest microloan program to help Legal Permanent Residents pay their naturalization application fees.
Over the years, CASA has established a number of departments and initiatives on behalf of Maryland immigrants, both legal and illegal: (a) Its Department of Politics, Communications and Community Developmentadvocates for regulatory and legislative changes on the local, state, regional and national levels, and works to derail “anti-immigrant legislation and regulatory changes.”
(d) Its Learning Together program is a family-engagement initiative designed to help uneducated, illiterate parents “navigate the U.S. education system” on behalf of their children.
(e) Its Community Schools program has worked in partnership with Prince George’s County Public Schools and the Internationals Network for Public Schools, to establish in Langley Park a new public high school for “low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education.”
Periodically, CASA sponsors “know your rights” training sessions to teach illegal aliens how to evade punishment in the event that they are questioned or apprehended in an immigration raid. To supplement these trainings, CASA in 2007 produced—in conjunction with the Detention Watch Network and the National Lawyer's Guild—a “know your rights” pamphlet titled Protect Yourself from Immigration Raids. This publication, which was subsequently updated in 2008,features drawings of armed black and white police officers escorting Hispanic men in handcuffs, and of babies crying because their fathers are in prison. Included in the pamphlet is a "Know Your Rights" card which bears a message stating that the cardholder refuses to answer any immigration-related questions unless his or her attorney is present. Among other things, Protect Yourselfadvises:
“[D]do not carry with you any documents from your country of origin or false documents.”
“Talk with your co-workers to see if they are willing to make a collective decision that everyone — regardless of their immigration status — will remain silent and ask to speak with an attorney in the event of a workplace raid.”
If there is a raid, says the pamphlet:
“Do not open the door. Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door.”
“Do not answer any question, or say only, ‘I need to speak to my lawyer.’”
“Remember you have the right to remain silent and to refuse a search. Do not say anything about your immigration status or where you were born.”
In 2008, CASA organized a May Day demonstration that included contingents from the American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party.
In 2011, CASA led the effort to pass Maryland’s Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which enabled illegal-immigrant students residing in Maryland to attend the state's public colleges and universities for the steeply discounted tuition rates that traditionally had been reserved for legal, in-state residents. To help orchestrate this pro-DREAM Act campaign, CASA enlisted the services of Joseph E. Sandler, a longtime Democratic National Committee attorney who, according to Accuracy In Media (AIM), “specializes in harassing conservatives with frivolous litigation threats.” With Sandler's guidance, CASA sued Maryland’s Election Commission to overturn a petition that: (a) sought to delay the DREAM Act's implementation so that it could be placed on the 2012 ballot as a referendum; and (b) contained more than twice the number of signatures that were legally required to achieve that objective. Moreover, CASA joined other local left-wing activists—both paid and unpaid—in what AIM describes as “a coordinated, quasi-military campaign of threats, interference and direct confrontation” that featured such tactics as:
“screaming racist and obscene epithets in their faces”
“blocking interested citizens from approaching petition tables”
“pleading with people not to sign”
“passing out misleading 'Think Before You Ink' flyers”
“shadowing petition locations [with paid operatives] and coordinating by phone”
“threaten[ing] businesses that allowed petitioners to gather signatures on their property,” causing business many owners, fearful of a backlash, to “as[k] petitioners to leave”
Gustavo Torres, who left his native Colombia in the 1980s to support the Marxist-Leninist Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, has served as CASA's executive director since 1993.
Other noteworthy individuals who have been affiliated with CASA over the years include: (a) Thomas Perez, who was a member of CASA's board of directors from 1995-2002; (b) Cecilia Muñoz, a onetime National Council of La Raza president who also served a stint on CASA's board; and (c) Lindolfo Carballo, a frequent CASA spokesman who was once a member of the communist FMLN.