CASA of Maryland

CASA of Maryland

CASA of Maryland ("CASA") (also known as CASA de Maryland) is a Latino and immigration advocacy and assistance organization based in Maryland. It is active throughout the State of Maryland but has a major focus in Prince George's County, Montgomery County and Baltimore. CASA's influence in current Maryland politics has a profound influence on a wide range of policy ranging from law-enforcement to education. In Maryland politics, CASA is the equivalent to in national politics.


CASA was originally known as "Central American Solidarity Association of Maryland". It is also known as "CASA de Maryland", as well as "CASA Maryland".

CASA was founded in 1985 in the basement of the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church by concerned U.S. citizens and Central American immigrants. It has since expanded its scope [ Feola, Carolyn, "Washington Post", page H01, July 6, 2002] It is affiliate organization of the National Council of La Raza. [ [ National Council of La Raza: NCLR Affiliates ] ] It has received funding from a variety of sources, including a two-year grant funding operations in Baltimore from George Soros's Open Society Institute. [ [ CASA of Maryland, Inc ] ] CASA of Maryland is also a founding member of the National Capital Immigration Coalition ("NCIC")] which promotes "comprehensive immigration reform". [ [ NCIC ] ] Other funding sources include the Annie E. Casey Foundation and United Way. They are a member of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. [ [ Welcome to the Frontpage ] ] CASA also has received 1.4 millions from Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez by way of CITGO, the state-owned Venezuelan petroleum products corporation. [ [ Lazo, Alejandro, "Citgo Giving $1.5 Million to Maryland Charity, "Washington Post", August 5, 2008, page D8"] ]

CASA operates five day labor centers throughout the state, with public and private funding, three in Montgomery County, where there efforts have been the center of controversy. There is both significant support, and significant opposition, to their efforts to provide central sites where contractors can pick up day-laborers. [ [ Day-Laborer Center Draws Protest - ] ] Much of the support centers around removing day-laborers from informal settings to more formalized centers. Most of the opposition centers around the assumption that many of the day-laborers in Montgomery County are illegal aliens, mostly from Central America.


CASA offers health assistance, medical interpretations, English classes, financial literacy classes, vocational training, social services, leadership development, legal services and employment placement for low-income families, particularly Latino immigrants and other immigrants. CASA has been extremely active in terms of providing legal support to the large and growing community of immigrants -- legal or otherwise -- in the Greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area. They have successfully promoted a wide range of legislation in support of the immigrant community, including a Maryland law which requires reasonable access to government services for people with limited English proficiency. [ [ Michie's Legal Resources ] ]

CASA is very aggressive in pursuing absconding employers, contractors who do not pay their day-laborers.

CASA is also involving itself in housing law and advocacy, and represents "immigrants who are targeted by landlords if they raise concerns or try to form residents' associations, according to CASA attorney Kimberley A. Propeack. [Hurley, Lawrence, Baltimore Daily Record, July 16, 2004]

CASA has involved itself in the prosecutions of several local cases of domestic slavery, also known as Trafficking in human beings. [ [ Woman Convicted of Enslaving Girl Flees ( ] ] While slavery is illegal in the United States and in Maryland, nonetheless it is a practice which some maintain is almost commonplace within certain communities of immigrants. In most cases which have come to light, generally legal immigrants have convinced other immigrants to come to the United States, ostensibly for a good job, but when the newcomers arrive, threats of imprisonment, deportation, or violence are often combined with very low or nonexistent pay to keep the victims effectively as captives or slaves in all but legal name.

Governor Martin O'Malley recently joined CASA at the launching of a three-year $30 million campaign to restore the George Oakley Totten, Jr. designed historic Langley Park mansion in Langley Park, Maryland, to be converted into a multicultural center. The center will offer English lessons, legal assistance, job placement assistance, and a variety of other services intended primarily to benefit low-income immigrants and their families. [ [ Project highlights immigrant issues ] ] Governor O'Malley's Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) is Thomas E. Perez. [ [ Thomas E. Perez, Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing, & Regulation ] ] According to the Maryland State Archives website, Mr Perez was a member of the CASA of Maryland board of directors from 1995 to 2002, and served for some time as the president of the board. [ retrieved October 24, 2007)] .

CASA opened a new worker's center in Baltimore [ [,0,5895890.story Day-labor center opens - ] ] on December 20, 2007. According to Maryland Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Thomas Perez, "Labor centers are the most cost-effective investment of government money I can imagine ... We're providing employment, addressing public safety by creating an orderly process, keeping people from street corners and protecting workers."


CASA works on many issues of concern to the immigrant community in Maryland and as a result, CASA has been a source of controversy. Most of the controversy centers around allegations that these centers are primarily used by illegal aliens, who may not legally be employed in any capacity in the USA.

The award to CASA of a contract to develop a new day-labor center in the vicinity of Gaithersburg, MD ignited some controversy, which is well covered in the Montgomery Gazette [ [ Gazette.Net Maryland Community News ] ] . The opinion of Brad Botwin, leader of Help Save Maryland can summarize the controversy from the viewpoint of opponents of CASA and the day-labor center. [ [ New group opposes labor center in Shady Grove area ] ] A more neutral article covering the start of the controversy notes that the decision of the site was an executive action by County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett, without giving the public the legally mandated opportunity for discussion and comment, and without the legally mandated consideration by the Planning Board. [ [ Montgomery picks day-laborer site ] ] [ [ Labor center gets initial nod from planners ] ] The Planning Board later approved the executive decision amid opposition within the target community [ [ County gets mixed reaction to choice for center ] ] .

Two immigration raids created significant fear in the community of illegal aliens and persons whose relatives or loved ones were illegal aliens. In response, CASA published a pamphlet with basic information about rights such as the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin raised concerns on her website about the publication, stating that [] According to the Washington Times, the pamphlet "...features cartoonlike drawings of armed black and white police officers escorting Hispanic men in handcuffs and shows babies crying because their fathers are behind bars..." and " the product of CASA of Maryland Inc., working with other organizations" [Seper, Jerry, Washington Times, May 14, 2007] .

CASA, as part of its mission to promote the ostensible rights of illegal aliens in Maryland, has launched a variety of lawsuits.

One such lawsuit was against the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to improve the administration of drivers licenses for out of country applicants. [ [,2933,175678,00.html - Lawsuit Charges Md. MVA Denies Immigrants Driver's Licenses - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum ] ] The lawsuit is ongoing, but may be affected by implementation of the Real ID Act of 2005. In response to REAL ID, the Motor Vehicle Administration considered a two-tiered system, issuing Maryland drivers licenses and then another REAL-ID compliance identification that would permit entry into federal buildings and the boarding of airplanes. [ downloaded Jan 13, 2008] . Maryland, along with several other states, was given an extension of time to comply with Real ID requirements. Governor Martin O'Malley decided that he would direct the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to phase in compliance with Real ID starting in 2010 [ downloaded Jan 16 2008] , and CASA's Kim Propeack characterized this as "... prioritizing political pandering over good policymaking".

The two-tier approach was opposed by CASA and their staunch ally Ana Sol Gutierrez. Gutierrez has remarked " [i] n this climate, that's a scarlet letter", and CASA attorney Kimberly Propeack remarks "We think the best system is to retain the license ... We believe the vast majority of people will want to keep the system the way it is". Yet without changes, the Maryland driving permit and non-driver identification cards won't be usable to enter Federal buildings, board airplanes, transact business at Federally-insured banks, or for many other purposes. CASA and others propose as an alternative that the default Maryland ID and driving permits will continue to be issued to people illegally present in they USA, and qualified Marylanders can apply for and be issued a special ID conformant to the Real ID standards [ downloaded Jan 13, 2008] . Maryland has been granted an extension on compliance to REAL ID by the Department of Homeland Security.

CASA of Maryland is also controversial because of some of the statements to media by some of its leadership. Gustavo Torres, the Executive Director of CASA, remarked to a reporter for the local Gazette newspaper that CASA was determined to track the leadership of a local unit of Minuteman Project, and take the following actions: "We are going to target the Minutemen in a specific way... we are going picket their houses, and the schools of their kids, and go to their work. If they are going to do this to us, we are going to respond in the same way, to let people know their neighbors are extremists, that they are anti-immigrant." [Montgomery Gazette, February 22, 2006 [] Mr Torres later backed off from this threat. [ [ Casa leader backs off call to picket schools of Minutemen’s children ] ] One of the people threatened in the original statement, Steven Schreiman, said of CASA of Maryland, " [t] he threat shows an intent and it shows their mentality, and it shows them for what they are ... They’re a bunch of thugs and bullies and they have a political agenda and they want to push that agenda regardless of the costs or consequences. Furthermore, they’ve threatened to go after us at our homes and our places of business, which is harassment." [Montgomery Gazette, March 8, 2006]

CASA promotes community policing over local police enforcement of immigration enforcement, a power historically reserved to the federal government. Montgomery County officials expressed support for this notion, yet the government's inclusion, in 2002, of hundreds of thousands of civil matters into a national database threatened to undermine Montgomery County's efforts. [ [ Database Is Tool in Deporting Fugitives - ] ] CASA advocated that the Montgomery County Department of Police not enforce these federal fugitive warrants. [ [ Database Is Tool in Deporting Fugitives - ] ] [ [ Police worry about growing distrust among immigrants ] ] "These are people who haven’t broken any laws other than getting a traffic ticket, and they’re being arrested and taken to jail"] , declared Ms Propeack [Montgomery Gazette, March 21, 2007] . Police Chief J. Thomas Manger shortly thereafter made a remark to the effect that if higher officials debarred him from using the NCIC databases to run wants-and-warrants checks, the County had better start looking for a new police chief, and then subsequently clarified that he was not looking for a new job. [ [ Immigration debate leaves chief torn ] ] As of June 2007, Montgomery County police were still checking, and honoring, the NCIC wants-and-warrants notifications, albeit with some reluctance as evidenced in this statement from Chief Manger: "It's very important for the local police department to develop strong relationships with the community ... That trust is being jeopardized [ "(Londoño, Ernesto, "the Washington Post", Page A01, June 13, 2007)] CASA has advocated to have County Executive Isiah Leggett order the police department to stop enforcing civil deportation orders. CASA's executive director Gustavo Torres said, "enforcement of civil immigration law has severely damaged the faith of the immigration community in its county". [ [ Immigrant arrests will continue, chief says ] ]

CASA will receive some $1.5 millions from CITGO, which is a state-owned petroleum products refiner and distributor. Hugo Chavez president of Venezuela, has himself been the subject of considerable controversy, and is said to have directed that this contribution be made by CITGO to CASA. CASA spokesperson Kimberly Propeack defends receipt of foreign funding by saying "CITGO is a large corporation, and it is all too rare in this world that large corporations have a responsibility to the community that garners them profits." However, it is arguable that by engaging in efforts of lobbying state and local government, and receiving money from a corporation controlled by a foreign government, CASA may be in violation of the [ FARA] , the Foreign Agents Registration Act.


External links

# [ CASA of Maryland Website]
# [ Md. Workers Receive Settlement for Back Wages, (Castaneda, Ruben, "the Washington Post", Page B06, August 30, 2007)]
# [ University of Maryland School of Public Policy, Office of Executive Programs webpage]
# [ National Council of La Raza, NCLR Affiliates information webpage]
# [ Soros "Open Society Institute" grantee webpage]
# [ Md. Immigrants Sue Over License Process (Aizenman, N. C., "the Washington Post," Page B09, November 16, 2005)]

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