News for Amigos de Casa San José: Feb. 4, 2019

Dear Casa San José Amigos,

Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How to take action:

Call on Congress to Defund Hate! We are joining our partners LCLAA and Bend the Arc in asking our Amigos to call their members of Congress and send the message that Pittsburgh loves all its neighbors.  Find more information on the campaign here.  Call your member of Congress (find them here), and here’s a quick script (modify as you wish):

Hello, my name is [first, last] and I’m your constituent from Pittsburgh, PA.  Thank you for ending the partial shutdown without giving additional money to the wall, detention beds or immigration agents.  We now would like you to hold the line by:

  • Cutting funding to ICE and CBP
  • Restricting transfer or reprogramming to prevent raiding other accounts
  • Demanding a commitment from Pres. Trump not to use emergency powers to undermine Congress

How you can help:

Our community organizer, Ibania Rivas, is looking for Spanish-speaking volunteers to help with our upcoming community meetings in 2019.  The dates are below; if you can do any of these, please email srvalerie@casasanjose.org

18-Feb Work: Make calls to invite families to the community meeting (it can be from home during the afternoon and at night) 20-Feb Work: Child care 6-8 pm in the Pittsburgh City Senior Community, 1555 Broadway Ave#1  Pittsburgh PA 15216
18-Mar 20-Mar
15-Apr 17-Apr
13-May 15-May
17-Jun 19-Jun
15-Jul 17-Jul
19-Aug 21-Aug
16-Sep 18-Sep
14-Oct 16-Oct
18-Nov 20-Nov
16-Dec 18-Dec

Tutor our clients in their homes or our office
if you have ESL or teaching experience – we now have 8 volunteers doing this and are getting great feedback from them.  If you’d like to join, contact Sister Valerie at srvalerie@casasanjose.org

We’re seeing an increase in the need for foster parents for immigrant children at Pressley Ridge.  Information is available here.  Monica has been a foster parent for 5 years and she says she “has been so blessed to have these 2 boys as such wonderful additions to the family.”  Another of our volunteers recently completed the training and is delighted to have just embraced a new member of her family.

Be an English as a Second Language tutor at Literacy Pittsburgh – the more people who are teaching English to immigrants, the better their situation and prospects will be.  Tutors will be well trained and supported; speaking Spanish is not required.

News on what we’re doing:

We have started the Community Navigator Training series, a certification program designed by the PA Immigration & Citizenship Coalition, with the goal to develop the leadership of immigrants in providing quality immigration services for their communities in an empowering and effective way.

Of our biweekly free legal clinics, organized by the Univ. of Pittsburgh Law School, this month, one will take place at a new location in Mooncrest, where there is a significant new community of Latino immigrants in a fairly isolated location.

The showing of the documentary “Undeterred” at the Glitter Box Theater last Tuesday, sponsored by Casa San José, had standing room only, undoubtedly helped by our outstanding panelists and terrific empanadas, as well as its topic, community resistance in the rural border town of Arivaca, Arizona. Thank you all for attending, and stay tuned for our next event!

Screen Shot 2019-01-31 at 4.58.05 PM

Our East Liberty office has added yet another ESL class on Sundays, and has enrolled more kids in school.

Congratulations to Monica, who has been selected by Leadership Pittsburgh to be one of 21 participants in the organization’s Lead Now Pittsburgh fellowship program, sponsored by the Heinz Endowments, which will begin in January.

Monica will participate in a panel on “Advancing Health Equity, Racial Justice, and the Human Right to Health: Social Policy Perspectives on Public Health”
Feb. 13, 2019 – 4:30pm to 6:00pm in the Thornburgh Room in Hillman Library at the Univ. of Pittsburgh.  It’s open to the public – please come!

Monica also spoke at the Tuesdays with Toomey rally to protest the shutdown and Pres. Trump’s demand for a wasteful and harmful wall.

Monica twt

Our story, continued:  how to accompany someone to their ICE check-in


One of the actions that our Spanish-speaking (it doesn’t have to be perfect) volunteers can help Casa with is to go with one of our recently arrived community members to their check-in at the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) office.  When an undocumented immigrant is allowed to plead their case for asylum and is awaiting their trial date, they are usually fitted with an ankle monitor and asked to check in about once a month with immigration authorities; if they don’t, they are likely to be quickly deported. Since very few people working at ICE can communicate with Spanish speakers, you are there to interpret and explain procedures, but also to emanate calm, reduce anxiety, provide reassurance and comfort, and possibly help with children if they come along. You are also showing ICE personnel that this person is not alone and unprotected.

If you are a volunteer on our list to be called, here is what happens: first Laura – our Emergency Response Coordinator – lets you know a day or two ahead of time about where and when to meet our client, usually in the morning.  She’ll also give you all the information you need and answer your questions. If you don’t meet at the ICE office (3000 Sidney Street on the South Side, near the Hot Metal Bridge,) you would pick him or her up at home or at the Casa office, drive to ICE, park in their parking lot, and escort them inside.  Inside the front door, there is a security procedure similar to what happens at the airport, and at least 5 security guards in the lobby.  You’ll explain that you are there for a check-in.  Past the security desk, you can enter a door on the right side into a smaller lobby with a reception window, where you’ll also explain that you’re there for a check-in, and have our client hand in his documents.

Then you will wait together (sometimes an hour) until an ICE agent comes in, calls our client’s name, and tells them when they need to come back and perhaps gives some other instructions or another form, like a change-of-address form, that has to be completed and sent in.  You would interpret if necessary, and if there are any questions, this is the time to ask them.  Sometimes there is a problem with the ankle monitor which can only be fixed there.  It’s a good idea to have a few snacks in the car:  granola bars, juice or water bottles, fruit.  You’ll have Laura’s number if you have any questions along the way. Then you’ll take our client back to the Casa office or their home, and let Laura know how things went.

This is a unique opportunity to offer someone an invaluable service, simply by your knowledge of how to navigate our bureaucracies and offices and streets.  Along the way you can share tips about getting around and living in Pittsburgh. The goal is to show how it’s done, to foster independence so that they can go to check-ins on their own, and even accompany others. But here is what they are offering you:  a human connection over widely varying cultures, languages, and countries; a personal bond with someone brave enough to make their perilous way in a hostile foreign land, as probably some of your own ancestors did; and a way to counteract the cruel anti-immigrant policies of our current government.  If you want to do this, email laura@casasanjose.org.

Learn more:

Play at the City Theater, South Side, through Feb. 24: “Where did we sit on the bus?” “a hip-hop autobiography about the power of family and growing up Latinx in a world that categorizes everyone in black and white.” “An explosion of energy, raw emotion, and irresistible storytelling.” (The Chicago Sun Times.)  Also loved by Casa staff who saw it last week.

“Trump administrations asylum-seeker policy takes effect”, Paulina Villegas and Kirk Semple, New York Times, Jan. 29.  This “Remain in Mexico” policy forces many asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed in the United States.  It is a dramatic change from a longstanding practice that permitted them to go free in the US while awaiting their court dates.  Mexican authorities are placing limits on it however.

“An asylum seeker’s quest to get her toddler back: new video footage shows the emotional toll of ongoing family separations”, Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker, Jan. 29.  Six months after the supposed end of taking children away from parents, it is still occurring.

“Why we bear witness:  speaking uncomfortable truths about immigration”, Jose Antonio Vargas, The Marshall Project, Jan. 15.  “No matter how many times I am asked, ‘Why don’t you just get in line?’ I can only respond one way: for most of us, there is no line.”

Thank you for joining us!


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