News for Amigos de Casa San José: Jan. 13, 2019

Dear Casa San José Amigos,

Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How to take action:

Would you like to do more for families affected by ICE?   Casa San José’s Rapid Response Team stands ready to assist whenever a community member is detained by ICE. But, along with the very important work that our volunteer attorneys do, we also have non-legal volunteers on call. Laura usually calls volunteers by early afternoon on weekdays.  When called, these Accompanying Volunteers head down to the DHS/ICE building on the South Side, meet up with the volunteer attorney, and try to gather information and provide comfort to the detainee. It is usually a rather quick process, but we could use a few more volunteers to spread the responsibility. If you speak Spanish and are interested in helping out with this critical task, please contact Jarrod West, jarrodkwest@hotmail.com. 

Learn how to provide legal accompaniment to our community members as they have to interact with ICE and the courts, and how to provide them much needed housing, at the Better Allies Workshop hosted by the New Sanctuary Movement, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 6:30 – 9, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 304 Morewood Ave.  Laura, Casa’s Emergency Response Organizer, says it will be very helpful if some of our Amigos can attend.  More info. is here.

How you can help:

Contribute $20 to sponsor a Latina community member at the Women’s March on Jan. 19.  We want to bring a large contingent of Pittsburgh Latinas, but the fee for the bus will be difficult for many, especially if their partner has been detained.  If you would like to do this, please contact Laura at laura@casasanjose.org to let her know.  Please also come with us!  If you can, also contact Laura to reserve a seat.  (Photo is from last year’s DC trip.)

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Needed:  volunteer tax preparers who can speak Spanish!  It will be a big help to our community members at tax time if there are more Spanish speakers, and there is a free tax preparation campaign by United Way in Allegheny County.  No prior tax experience necessary! Volunteers must be comfortable using a computer and enjoy working with people. All volunteers will complete a background check and pass an IRS-certification test before preparing taxes. Volunteers will receive training and support before taking the certification test; volunteers can use all training materials notes when taking the test.  Information on the training options can be found by clicking here. Training days and locations can be found by clicking here.

A Syrian refugee girl wearing a hijab was attacked brutally by another student at Chartiers Valley High School in Bridgeville on Dec. 14, and was severely injured.  We fully support the Muslim Community and the Council on American-Islamic Relations in their fundraising effort to help this immigrant family cover her medical expenses.  Here is the link to the GoFundMe page where you can find more information and donate.

News on what we’re doing:

Please come! Casa San José is sponsoring a screening of “Undeterred”, a powerful and inspiring documentary about about community resistance and mobilization in the rural border town of Arivaca, AZ – 6:30 pm, Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Glitter Box Theater, 460 Melwood Ave. – more info. here.


On Dec. 12, we enjoyed joining with Bishop Canevin High School in celebrating the mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We were invited to join them as the charity that they are supporting as a school community.  Griselda Soto, a native Mexican from our community, spoke to explain the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe.


Welcome to Sister Karen, our new Finance & Development Administrator!  Sister Karen came to us from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden where she was the Development Director.  She has been helping Casa with grant-writing since its beginning, but when she was asked to officially join Casa to oversee its finance and development activities, she was happy to say yes.  “I really believe that the work we’re doing here is phenomenal,” she said.  Sister Karen was also a high school teacher for 19 years, and has known Sister Janice since they entered the convent together.

The Celebración Día de Reyes at St. Catherine’s Church was a beautiful festival for our community.  Casa San José provided the children’s activities and facilitated the Rosca-baking – thank you to our great volunteers who assisted and to everyone who came! (First photo courtesy of Oscar Aquino, with more of his photos of the event here.



And more:  English classes expanding due to increasing demand at East Liberty location.  We are having 2 more free legal clinics in January, as well as a Community Meeting to inform about recent ICE raids, answer questions and plan new goals for the future, and members of our youth program, Puentes Hacía el Futuro, are going to the Basketball Charity Game hosted by the Pittsburgh Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  On the 19th, we are arranging for a busload of Casa San José representatives to take part in the Women’s March in DC.  And we continue to serve the hundreds of immigrants that come through our doors and call our phones every day.

Our story, continued:

This was shared with us by Cliff Tuttle, a lawyer, real estate litigator and legal writer, also author of the blog it appears in: “Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk.”  Mary Nell Cummings is a lawyer specializing in regulatory compliance, advertising and healthcare, and an adjunct professor at Pitt Law.  They are both volunteer attorneys with our Rapid Response Team.  “HOW CASA SAN JOSE AND ITS VOLUNTEER RAPID RESPONSE LAWYERS CAN BE A FORCE FOR JUSTICE AND MERCY.”

“Casa San Jose volunteer attorney Mary Nell Cummings relates the following story how its Rapid Response Team made a huge difference to a family in need. This account has been edited to protect lawyer-client confidentiality.

‘On January 3, a Casa San José community member was picked up by ICE. He has lived in the US for 18 years with absolutely no criminal record or any arrest or complaint. He has three US-born children. His oldest son has stomach cancer, and the family has been told that there isn’t much more that can be done. ICE picked him up as he was going to give a friend a ride to work. ICE was not looking for him, he was literally at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We were able to get to ICE quickly, and by talking to agents and telling them of this msn’s son’s condition, not only were we able to keep him from being transferred to Beaver County Jail but ultimately he was released from the South Side office! If he had been transferred to Beaver County Jail, he would be in the system and it would be much more difficult to get him out before a scheduled bond hearing (which we all know takes weeks/months). Time he doesn’t have because his son is so ill.
While we kept our client from being transferred, Monica Ruiz and Sister Janice and  Laura Perkins did their magic – gathering documents, evidence, letters from doctors. Monica drove all over Pittsburgh, and ultimately provided convincing evidence of our client’s son’s condition and the agents agreed to let him go – without even an ankle bracelet. This was nothing short of a miracle. In the past, detainees were able to bond out of the South Side office and while ICE still has the authority to do that, it is not done. The fact that the Rapid Response Team was there made a world of difference. We were able to advocate for him and reunite him with his family at a critical time.’

Learn more:

Attend the 19th Annual Pittsburgh Racial Justice Summit, a multi-cultural initiative of the Black & White Reunion, with workshops all day Saturday, Jan. 26, an opening ceremony on Friday evening, and a Dance Party afterwards.  There will be a Race & Immigration panel where Monica will be presenting.  Register here – seats are limited!

“How a crackdown on MS-13 caught up innocent high school students: the Trump administration went after gang members — and instead destroyed the American dreams of immigrant teenagers around the country.” Hannah Dreier, New York Times Magazine, Dec. 27.

Sister Janice recommends the movie Ixcanul Volcano, (on Netflix) in which a Mayan girl working on a Guatemalan coffee plantation dreams of escaping an arranged marriage to make a new life in America.

Sister Valerie recommends “Family Separation, Part 1” and “Family Separation, Part 2” episodes of CBS Series Madam Secretary, Season 5. “Elizabeth goes head to head with a U.S. governor over the state’s new policy of separating unauthorized immigrants from their children.”  Sister Valerie says that these powerful dramatizations of this issue help us to understand and gives us hope.

“Judges check Trump’s immigration cruelty”, Editorial, New York Times, Dec. 25.

“Outraged by family separations, this man has held a solitary vigil in the desert for 2 months”, Jeff Dingler, Washington Post, Dec. 24.

Update on Colcom Foundation – “Greenwashing hate: anti-immigrant Colcom Foundation funds dozens of environmental groups,” Brendan O’Connor, Sludge, Jan. 7.

Thank you for joining us!

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