News

CASA de Maryland: The Illegals’ ACORN

Oct 14, 2011

Note: Be sure to check out the “Radical Connections” supplement to this report which explores in detail CASA de Maryland’s extremist pedigree.


Headquarters of CASA de Maryland

The illegal immigration debate has become an urgent focal point of American politics. Liberal politicians from the White House on down have vigorously advocated for illegal immigrant amnesty and lax border enforcement in a naked attempt to bolster prospective voter rolls.[1]

This controversy has been brewing for some time in Maryland, whose Hispanic population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010.[2] Under Governor Martin O’Malley’s sanctuary policies the state has become an illegal alien magnet.[3] The current cost of illegals in Maryland is estimated to be $1.7 billion per year, more than three-quarters of the state’s $2 billion structural deficit.[4]

Taxpayer ire overflowed this March with the passage of Maryland’s Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, granting in-state college tuition rates to illegals. A nonpartisan coalition of concerned Marylanders launched a petition drive to delay the measure and place it on the 2012 ballot as a referendum. They needed 55,736 signatures. They received twice that amount.

CASA de Maryland
The driving force behind the DREAM Act was CASA de Maryland, an increasingly vocal advocate for Maryland’s illegals. The group’s aggressive tactics and questionable dealings helped provoke the outrage that drove the DREAM Act petition to overwhelming victory. CASA’s defeat, however, did not deter them. They recruited longtime Democratic National Committee chief lawyer, Joseph E. Sandler, an attorney who specializes in harassing conservatives with frivolous litigation threats. They have now sued Maryland’s Election Commission to overturn the petition.5

CASA receives about 40 percent of its funding from Maryland state and local governments—almost $5 million of taxpayer dollars in 2010—and spends most of it lobbying for illegal immigrant perks and exceptions. Their recent lawsuit is a blatant attempt to derail the democratic process itself. So it is a fair question to ask: what is CASA de Maryland?

CASA de Maryland was founded by a young activist named Bette “Rainbow” Hoover. CASA’s name is a metaphor for the organization’s duplicitous nature. CASA means “house” or “home” in Spanish; however, “CASA” is actually an acronym for Central American Solidarity Association. It is more in keeping with the designs and philosophies of other Central American solidarity organizations formed at the time, like the communist-founded6 Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).

It was incorporated on February 28, 1985, but Hoover said it actually began operating in 1983,7 based out of Takoma Park Presbyterian Church in Takoma Park, Maryland. From its modest beginnings, CASA has grown into a multi-million dollar operation, with influence reaching to the Obama White House. It is headquartered in the newly-renovated (with $10 million in taxpayer dollars), 18,000 square foot, 28-room, Langley Park Mansion, right up the street from Takoma Park. It boasts a community center and five day-labor centers spread over a 35-mile radius from the Washington, D.C. metro area to Baltimore. Recently, CASA created a political-action arm, “CASA in Action,” based at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, bringing CASA full circle back to where it all began.

Hoover described CASA’s early days: “We just had to do something. People were coming here who really needed help…” She said that virtually all were illegals fleeing El Salvador’s civil war. Hoover added that they decided early on to help all comers, including communist guerillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN)8.

The Sanctuary Movement
Most Central Americans came to America via the Sanctuary movement.9 What began informally on the Southwest border in the early 1980s grew into a nationwide network of “underground railways” terminating in hundreds of “sanctuary” terminals before the end of the decade. One source identified 399 discreet sites.10 Another claimed there were as many as 3,000.11 In 1985, the same year as CASA’s founding, Takoma Park became one of the first “Sanctuary” cities.12 Takoma Park Presbyterian Church was DC’s Underground Railroad terminus (there were ultimately six in Maryland),13 and remains an official Sanctuary Church.14

As it grew, the movement formed two main camps, the Tucson Ecumenical Council (TEC) and the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America (CRTF), based out of Chicago, Illinois. The two groups clashed on movement goals. TEC wanted to assist whoever needed help. The CRTF was a nominally Catholic organization promoting Liberation Theology—the Catholics’ own version of Marxism, and was formed “with the explicit objective of challenging U.S. foreign policy.”15

The CRTF even went so far as to demand an ideological litmus test for refugees. At its height, the movement vetted prospective refugees for their ideological pedigree through the Catholic networks in Mexico and Central America, before they even reached the border.16

How did this happen? Much of Chicago’s Catholic Church had already been captured by the Left. Radical organizer Saul Alinsky collaborated with local Catholics who helped him found his Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).17 The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, today’s funding arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, (and a funder of CASA) was started in 1969 specifically to provide adequate funding for Alinsky’s IAF.18

Illegal Alien Advocacy
The 1980s flood of illegal aliens escaping instability in Central America was the impetus for CASA’s creation. It has since morphed into a multi-million dollar institution whose primary mission is illegal alien advocacy. Following is a partial list of its activities:

1.Day labor centers—a hub for illegal aliens
2.Instruction in avoiding police/immigration officials
3.What to do if detained by police/immigration officials
4.English as a second language
5.Counseling on available government benefits
6.Agitating for driver’s licenses for illegals
7.Agitating for bi-lingual education
8.Agitating for social services, like in-state tuition for illegals (i.e. the DREAM Act)
9.Undermining security and border laws
10.Interfering with law enforcement efforts against illegals.

On the website Somos Baltimore Latino CASA advertises membership with a drawing depicting the CASA membership ID card, (translated into English via Google with corrections):

BECOME A MEMBER OF HOUSE [CASA] - The organization CASA de Maryland is re-launching the campaign “BECOME A MEMBER OF [CASA]“ in order to register more Latinos brothers. To date, CASA [has] more than 10,000 members.

Membership allows us to achieve many legal and civil rights [victories], the most recent is that of Maryland’s Dream Act favoring undocumented students. CASA is currently working alongside other organizations to promote immigration reform.

CASA membership gives you access to services as well as take classes in English, computer, citizenship, health care, legal advice and participation in activities and programs of CASA.



State offices are allowing Illegal immigrants to use this card to register for welfare benefits, in violation of state and federal law. More about this later.

CASA collaborated with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) through its “Detention Watch National Immigration Project” on a brochure explaining how illegals can protect themselves during immigration raids and arrest. This brochure is readily available at CASA locations. Text on the cover says:

Some people who are not United States citizens have been arrested or detained by the U.S. government. Learn how to protect yourself if this happens to you.




It essentially tells you how to evade the law, or if caught, minimize the impact and avoid deportation. It explains what you should do if you are arrested, questioned by police, accused of a crime, if immigration officers come to your home or workplace, or if you are stopped by police on the street. In each case it is either “call your lawyer” or “don’t say anything” and suggests you carry cards that say things like, “I want to speak to my lawyer.” If you don’t have a lawyer, it says, get one. It suggests you post your lawyer’s phone number in a handy place and keep a copy with you. It instructs you to develop an “action plan” in case of a workplace raid. All of the pictures depict Hispanic-looking people. What do you do if you are Somali?

The DREAM Act
During the petition drive to stop Maryland’s DREAM Act, CASA revealed its deep contempt for American democratic processes. CASA and other local leftist activists—paid and unpaid—shadowed and confronted petitioners in what can only be characterized as a coordinated, quasi-military campaign of threats, interference and direct confrontation. Behavior reported by petitioners included:19

•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
•Field Works paid operatives shadowing petition locations and coordinating by phone
•Calling police
•One petitioner even reported being spat at
In other cases, CASA and other activists threatened businesses that allowed petitioners to gather signatures on their property. Business owners, fearing a backlash, often caved and asked petitioners to leave.

They were aided and abetted in this campaign by unidentified sources within Maryland government, for when CASA activists called police, they would immediately appear, and despite their legal rights, petitioners were sometimes ordered by police to leave.20

The End Game
CASA’s true goal is blanket amnesty. Democrats are pinning their future on the illegal vote. Eliseo Medina21 is the honorary Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, and International Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In 2008, he spoke at a “Take Back America” conference sponsored by the radical leftist Campaign for America’s Future. He said:

…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.


The actual number of illegals in the U.S. is more likely between 20 and 30 million,22 hence the Democrats’ blind obsession with servicing illegals.

Eliseo Medina was the guest of honor last December at an event heralding CASA’s 25 year anniversary:

“I’ve started to lobby Gustavo,” Medina says. “Are you just a CASA of Maryland? How about a CASA of the East? A CASA of the United States?”23

CASA de Maryland has published a plan called the “New Americans Initiative.”24 Through this plan they hope to naturalize the approximately 270,000 legal permanent residents in the area. CASA wants them to: “…take the final and critical step of political integration by naturalizing and becoming citizens.”

President Obama’s most recent vote-buying scam is to promote mortgage subsidies to illegals through the National Council of La Raza. Why NCLR? Obama’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cecilia Muñoz, is a former NCLR Vice President. She also served on the Board of CASA de Maryland:

The new [Spanish-language] campaign warns Hispanics [both legal and illegal] that time is running out to get up to $50,000 from Uncle Sam to pay their mortgage, past due charges, taxes, insurance and even legal fees associated with their home.25


It bears repeating that this kind of encouragement is exactly what caused the subprime mortgage meltdown:

In 2008 the [Department of Housing and Urban Development] revealed that some 5 million fraudulent or defaulted home mortgages were in the hands of illegal immigrants, who obtained the loans from banks that were pressured by the government to offer them.26


Why Maryland?
CASA de Maryland has enormous influence in state politics. But it also has disproportionate influence at the White House. Two former CASA Board members, the current Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, and the aforementioned Cecilia Muñoz, have powerful positions within the Obama administration and have used their positions to assist CASA.

Maryland is a secure base of operations for field-testing a new kind of community organization. In discussing his New Americans Initiative, CASA Director Gustavo Torres recently said:

“My goal is to build 200,000 members in the next five years”… [And to someday] “build a powerful … movement of immigrants and other minorities including the African American community to fight for justice—and they decide what justice means.” (Emphasis added.)27


CASA wants to become the illegal immigrants’ ACORN. And Torres has a good teacher: ACORN founder Wade Rathke, with whom he has become fast friends.

Gustavo Torres
Gustavo Torres’ career has enjoyed a meteoric rise since his arrival in the U.S. in 1991. Starting as a CASA organizer that year, he became Director in 1994. He was an awardee of Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World in 2001 and was one of 15 Washingtonians of the Year in 2002. Under his leadership, CASA has also received the Institute for Policy Studies’ Letelier-Moffitt award (2003), National Council of La Raza’s Affiliate of the Year award (2004), the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund Community Service award (2006) and others.

Torres has connections to the Obama administration and has visited the White House. He was co-chair of Governor O’Malley’s transition team, serves on O’Malley’s Council for New Americans where they meet regularly behind closed doors, and has many friends in both the state legislature and Montgomery County government. His current wife, Sonia Mora, works for Montgomery County and serves on O’Malley’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

Mystery Man
For years, the only information publicly available about Torres was an abbreviated bio on the CASA website and a few Washington Post articles that parroted that information.28 He had apparently fled Colombia in 1987, where his brother was killed a few months later by “paramilitary forces,” went to Nicaragua or El Salvador, depending on the version, and came to the U.S. four years later.

None of CASA’s early leaders were willing to discuss him. Bette Hoover stated flatly, “If you want to know anything about Gustavo, you will have to ask him yourself.”29

We attempted to do that—for three months. We were initially scheduled for an interview on March 4th. The morning of the interview, they cancelled, but assured us they would reschedule… later. Over the ensuing months, requests were met with delays, apologies or simply unreturned calls.

CASA’s community organizer, Kim Propeack, finally informed us, “Mr. Torres is very busy and while he makes himself available for many interviews, we must prioritize them based on size of readership. In light of that, we have decided that your outlets are not a priority.”30

On July 14, 2011, however, The Washington Post published an obsequious profile of Torres by reporter David Montgomery. It gave the first detailed account of his life prior to coming here.31

Torres supposedly grew up in Medellin, Colombia. He came to the U.S. with a woman he met in Nicaragua, and married here. In 1995 he obtained citizenship, and divorced in 1996.

Between 1987 and 1991, he worked for a Sandinista newspaper in Nicaragua, which means he supported their communist revolution.

Prior to the Post article, he went to great lengths to keep a low profile. His Facebook page, shown here, provides little information, not even acknowledging his marital status.

The “friends” connections, however, establish this to be Torres. Among them are CASA de Maryland, friendly Maryland legislators and significantly, ACORN founder, Wade Rathke.

Torres’ Politics—No Mystery
Torres has organized public rallies and functions with the American Communist Party, Free the Cuban Five Committee (a Cuban front group demanding release of convicted Cuban spies), FMLN (DC branch), CISPES, and a litany of other communist, socialist and radical leftist open borders groups and individuals.

The YouTube screen capture (left) shows Torres protesting deportation of illegals in front of DHS. Watch the video.

In 2007, Torres participated in a five-day conference in Venezuela debating prospects for communist revolution in America. Torres was joined by such luminaries as Ward Churchill, the college professor fired for comparing 9-11 victims to “Little Eichmanns,” Dada Maheshvarananda, founder of the communist-alternative Prout Institute, representatives from the Socialist Workers Party, the Black Panther Party, and many others.32

Torres emphasized the importance of securing the Hispanic vote:

Both Torres and Antonio González, president of the Southwest Voter Education and Registration Project, said the road to “empowerment” is organizing Latinos to vote. “What does a revolutionary do in the U.S. today?” asked González. “Take power wherever you can” by electing Latinos to city, state, and federal offices.33


Torres serves on the Board of Directors of Organizer’s Forum, founded by Community-Organizer-in-Chief, ACORN’s Wade Rathke. Despite the complete lack of biographical information about him here, membership on this board marks Torres as a prominent member of America’s radical left.

This fall, 2011, Forum members are taking a trip to Egypt:

“There are exciting changes and developments that are currently taking place in Egypt with elections coming soon to determine leadership transitions in what has been an autocratic regime, now challenged by the Muslim Brotherhood and succession and democracy issues. (Emphasis added).”


It is believed that American radicals were involved in fomenting this year’s Middle East unrest.34 Was Torres involved in that too?

Torres’ Attitude—No Mystery
Reporting on the 2009 May Day rallies that occurred all over the United States, Socialist Worker quotes Torres, the leader of DC’s rally:

Emcee Gustavo Torres stressed that “Obama is our president not our savior,” arguing that only struggle will win broad legalization for the undocumented, (emphasis added).35


Torres threatened Minutemen volunteers monitoring CASA’s day labor centers for illegals:

We are going to target them in a specific way… Casa representatives will go out with cameras and video cameras to record the Minutemen, but that will only be the first step. Then we are going to 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. They are going to hear from us.36


Torres participated in a large demonstration on the eve of the vote for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill in 2006. CISPES quoted him as saying: “if they don’t pay attention to us now the next step is civil disobedience.”37

Torres has said: “This is the country I chose to live in… But I didn’t choose to be quiet, and to not push for changes. If I did these kinds of things in Colombia, I’d have been killed a long time ago.”38

And what could he be doing that would make him say such a thing? Helping poor “immigrants?” No.

He wants to do just what he was doing in Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela: agitating for communist revolution, this time in America.

All on your tax dollars.

CASA’s Radical Connections
Maryland Delegate Pat McDonough characterizes CASA as “a globally significant organization.”39 He is right. Torres’ and CASA’s radical associations place CASA among a vast network of communist, socialist and radical leftist organizations with international reach.

These associations are too extensive to explore in this essay. For an in-depth description of CASA’s radical connections, including a blowup of the flowchart illustration below, go to the following web link:

CASA de Maryland’s radical connections (PDF)

CASA’s Own Communist Guerilla
Given that many of those fleeing El Salvador in the 1980s were communist guerillas and FMLN supporters, it is not surprising that at least one of them should now be working for CASA. This past March, CASA representative Lindolfo Carballo spoke at a “Bring the War Dollars Home” conference sponsored by Fund Our Communities. Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin also spoke at this event.

In a video of the event, Carballo admits (right past minute 2) that he fought against both the Salvadoran Army and US forces. If true, this admission tags Carballo as a former member of the communist FMLN. While an apparently frequent CASA spokesman, Carballo is not listed among the staff on CASA’s website. Another mystery man…

Corruption and Abuse in High Places


Between August 2003 and March 2007, the State of Maryland’s Office of Legislative Audits conducted an in-depth audit of the Family Investment Administration (FIA) of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (DHR).40 The audit found glaring problems; among other things, in 2006 alone, approximately 52,000 public assistance recipients had invalid or non-existent Social Security numbers. However, “shortcomings” were identified, “solutions” proposed and implemented. Problems solved!

Fast forward to 2009.
Paulette Faulkner has been a benefits administrator for most of her professional career. In 2009, she took a job with Montgomery County’s Office of Child Support Enforcement. Paulette is a lifelong Democrat.

Her job was to ensure compliance with child-support laws and thus had to approve all applications for welfare. Applicants are required to provide a Social Security card, picture ID and birth certificates for children.

She said that applicants began showing up with no Social Security card, expired visas and many only had a CASA ID. She would deny their benefits, as required by law.41

These applicants would then turn to her Hispanic supervisor who would reverse her decisions. Those cases that weren’t reversed were appealed and later approved by a judge.

This all struck her as very wrong, but no one in her office seemed willing to deal with the problem, so in September 2009 she wrote an e-mail to Governor O’Malley. She concluded:

What I’m confused about is this: how can an illegal immigrant appeal my decision when they are breaking the law by being in this country? Secondly how can they receive State benefits if they are illegal? … Am I aiding and abetting illegal activity? Shouldn’t I be reporting these people to ICE…?42 I am really concerned because I am a candidate for the Central Democratic Committee in my District… and I want to make sure that I am following the law.43


On October 2nd Faulkner met with DHR Deputy Secretary Stacy Rodgers. (Rodgers sits on the Governor’s Council for New Americans along with Gustavo Torres). Rodgers told Faulkner not to contact the Governor, adding that it was not her place to call ICE, and she must accept any ID with a picture on it.

Faulkner asked, “What about a CASA ID with no expiration date?” Rodgers responded that the CASA ID was a proper credential.

Faulkner informed her superiors that she would not aid and abet illegal activity. They accused her of insubordination.

On October 22nd she was called into Child Support Enforcement Director John Castellano’s office. The Director accused her of failing to inform them that she had a website for her Central Committee campaign listing her office phone. He threatened punitive action. In Faulkner’s words:

I asked Mr. Castellano if this was in relation to me sending the information regarding the applications of illegal immigrants being approved, he said to me “well did you think about the repercussions before you did that?” I told him that it should not be any repercussions because what we were doing was illegal [sic].


The next day she was ordered by her superiors to explain in writing why she was running for Democratic Central Committee in P.G. County. She went to her desk to type it but according to Faulkner, Assistant Director Debbie Hinds ordered her, humiliating her in front of her co-workers, to write her response by hand. Faulkner related:44

“I tried to explain that I suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and that I could not write that much information by hand.”


She said that Hinds replied:

“Oh well! Mr. Castellano says you have to hand-write it.”


Faulkner says she wrote a three-page response and called her doctor because she knew she would be hurting.

On October 28, Faulkner was asked to resign or be fired. She refused to resign. She said:

“I thought it was a joke until they had the attorney in the office escort me out of the building, and they said that they would mail my belongings.”


Faulkner was fired for having a campaign website with the office number on it. But at that point, the website was not yet public. She had changed that information prior to taking the site public. Investigators had accessed her site before it was operational.

On November 2nd she appealed to the Department of Human Resources. On the 5th she filed a complaint with the Maryland Department of Budget Management for whistleblower retaliation and a complaint with the EEOC.

No Maryland legislator would help.
On November 9th, Faulkner sent another letter to O’Malley, this time to express her disgust. It read, in part:

This termination was blatant retaliation for me contacting your office… How can you as Governor continue to condone this type of behavior…? Nepotism, racism, and manipulation of power are so prevalent in this agency… This is wrong, and I should not have been fired. I’m asking you to step in to correct this wrong…


O’Malley did nothing. On November 18th she was denied unemployment benefits. On December 7th she went to the DHR hearing with union representation. Still no.

Faulkner was unemployed for a year, during which time she had to declare bankruptcy. She is back at work now as a supervisor for a private health insurance applications processor.45

All of these documents can be examined in full on the Citizen’s District blog of U.S. Senate candidate William Capps. Capps was inspired to run by Faulkner’s story, which he broke in January of 2010.

As a fitting conclusion, the 2010 audit of the FIA reported many of the same problems identified in 2006, including 28,700 fraudulent or non-existent Social Security numbers.46 Are these the illegals being allowed to slip through the cracks that Faulkner identified? Not surprisingly, it has just been reported that Maryland ranks second in the Nation in food stamp fraud.47

Financials
In 2010 CASA received $12.3 million in grants and donations, about $5 million of which came from government contracts (see chart below). The rest came from corporate and non-profit foundations. Figures are incomplete. Unsurprisingly, CASA was of little help.

Still, much can be learned from the information that is available. United Way spent a significant amount supporting illegal immigrant advocacy, including CASA. They also funded ACORN, as their 2008 IRS form 990 reveals. Venezuela’s state-owned CITGO is the vehicle Hugo Chavez uses to fund friends around the world. CASA received $1.5 million, spread over three years. The Ford Foundation almost gave as much as Chavez, providing $1.2 million over three years.

More than 40 percent of CASA’s revenue comes directly from government. More comes indirectly through non-profits. CASA donors like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development also receive much of their funding from government. Official tallies therefore underestimate the actual level of CASA’s taxpayer support.

Finally, the Combined Federal Campaign collects hundreds of millions from federal employees every year for charitable donations. 2010’s take was $281.5 million.48 Catholic Charities is on this list, as is United Way, MALDEF, NCLR and yes, CASA.49 Since taxes pay for government salaries, those are your tax dollars at work too.


Also see: CASA Donors as listed in 2010 Annual Report (PDF)

Conclusion
CASA de Maryland is a case study in the corrosive effects of political corruption and a reflection of our degenerating political class. This type of corruption threatens our nation’s entire political infrastructure. If law has no meaning, then our Nation will and must degenerate into the law of the fist. As Obama’s most frequent White House visitor, former SEIU President Andy Stern, has famously threatened, “We’re trying to use the power of persuasion, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll use the persuasion of power…” It appears some among the political class believe this is a legitimate method of exerting influence. As enablers of such abuse, CASA de Maryland and its ilk must be stopped, and America must seek and elect the kinds of leaders who will not trade their souls for votes.

See original article for footnotes.


James Simpson is an economist, businessman and freelance writer. Best known for his exposé on the Cloward Piven Strategy of manufactured crisis, his writings have been published in American Thinker, Big Government, Washington Times, FrontPage Magazine, Soldier of Fortune and others.