News for Amigos de Casa San José: Feb. 21, 2019

Dear Casa San José Amigos,

Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How to take action:

Call our Senators Casey and Toomey to say you do not support a fake national emergency to fund a wasteful border wall.  (Find their contact info. here.)  The Senate may soon cast crucial votes to override Trump’s declaration when this resolution gets to the Senate; Toomey may be wavering, so a call to him is critical. This was the takeaway at the President’s Day protest rally at the City County Building where our Emergency Response Organizer Laura was a speaker.

Laura at rally

More exciting news from Laura:  Casa San Jose is organizing a Door-Knocking campaign in Beechview on March 30th and in East Liberty on April 20th. We are now recruiting volunteers to help us with this effort. Our goal is to get 100 people out on the streets to do outreach in these two neighborhoods, letting residents know of the rights of their neighbors and how they can be better allies.
We will be holding four different trainings for our canvassing volunteers the week of March 18th. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.  Once everyone has registered, we will email them directly with more information on the training.  Thank you very much for your solidarity!

Good news to report!  “PA State Police now limited in flagging undocumented immigrants to ICE”, Kavitha Surana, ProPublica, Feb. 5.  Many thanks to the Amigos who helped make this happen by responding to our call on Nov.21 to sign the petition to Gov. Wolf, who called for the new regulations which went into effect early this month.

How you can help:

Campamento at ballpark

Campamento Sonrisa 2019, our summer camp for our kids ages 7-13, is taking shape and we could use your help. We are expecting 50 campers this year, doing educational and fun things for 10 weeks all around Pittsburgh.  Camp would not be possible without your support!

  • To donate supplies and food – please see our Amazon list – or if you’d like to purchase elsewhere, use this list as resource and deliver to our office at 2116 Broadway, Beechview.
  • To help cover scholarships, t-shirts, staff and meal expenses,  please mail tax-deductible checks to Sr. Karen, with memo line to Campamento Sonrisa, or call Sr. Karen at 412-974-2758 if you want to use a credit card.
  • Do you have a skill you would like to teach our kids?  Or a suggestion of a cool place to visit?  Or the ability to invite our group to an interesting site?  Or would you like to volunteer (as a driver, a facilitator, a chaperone)?  If the answer is yes, please email jeimy@casasanjose.org.

Do you have a carseat you could donate?  Our East Liberty branch needs one.  If you have one, please contact Ruth at ruthfarrell@gmail.com to arrange it.

Volunteering at the border, message from Mary Nell Cummings:   “I spoke yesterday with the volunteer coordinator at Annunciation House in El Paso.  The need continues to be great.  Ice is still releasing 2,000 – 2,500 people each week.  Most of the these are families.  You are all welcome at Annunciation House – you can come any time – you don’t need to travel on a weekend.”  For more info, please email her at:  mncummings@mncummingslaw.com

Many of our Amigos have been asking about ways they can learn or practice Spanish.  We want to let you know about the Carnegie Library’s free classes and conversation groups, listed here with details.  All levels, several locations, and you can get some great books there too.  The more people that know Spanish – or any foreign language – the more welcoming we are to the world.

The Bridge Series at the Ace Hotel on Wednesday February 27 at 7 pm will feature Casa San Jose, with readers Malcolm Friend, Pam Goldman and Geeta Kothari.  This series aims to unite the Pittsburgh literary and activist communities to raise awareness and funds for local organizations.

All are invited to Fair Districts PA’s “Slay the Gerrymander Happy Hour” on Friday, March 1st, 5:30 at Biddles Escape, to learn about the latest in PA Redistricting Reform.  Creating a true representation of voter sentiment will reduce the amount of anti-immigration policy-making in our legislatures.

Volunteers, stay tuned! We are creating new opportunities for those interested in helping with our artwork, fundraising, Spanish language learning, etc.  More information coming soon!

News on what we’re doing:

Monica was named by the Pittsburgh Business Times as a 2019 Pittsburgh Woman of Influence, a selection of the top women executives in the city. ¡Felicitaciones, Monica!

Another hurray for Jeimy who was named one of the Incline’s Who’s Next: Community Leaders and Activists for 2019!  Jeimy is now planning many activities – theater, film and discussion – with her high school students in Jóvenes Con Propósito about the book, In the time of the butterflies, by Julia Alvarez.  This is the book selected by the “One College, One Community Reads” program at CCAC, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Al and Saturday group

At our Saturday youth program on Feb. 2, with our intern Albert in charge, the kids had a great time with six Zone 6 police officers and their police chief who came by with snacks, drinks, and lots of answers to questions. After the Q&A, the officers stayed to play games and hang out. The kids called it the “coolest session” so far.

MANY THANKS to everyone at Bishop Canevin High School for gathering donations, monetary and material, to provide basic necessities for those who have just arrived in the US with very little to sustain them.  Our youth have been putting them into attractive individual “blessings bags” to distribute locally and also ship to the border.


Our last community meeting on Feb. 20, led by Ibania, was on the topic of domestic violence.  A representative from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh spoke about how to have a healthy relationship, and a police officer explained what happens when an incident is reported.  We are also continuing to give “Know Your 
Rights” sessions and are planning future broadcasts on Spanish language radio.

And of course we continue daily to give many new immigrants welcome, support, information, accompaniment, and services.  We also now have partners working with us promoting immigrant rights in Cranberry, Lawrence and Westmoreland Counties.

Our story, continued:

During the arctic blast that struck our region a few weeks ago, a young man died of exposure in the middle of the night, not far from the PPG Paints Arena.  He was Guatemalan, from a small town called Nebaj in the remote highlands, an indigenous Mayan region violently targeted in the genocidal civil war of the 80’s and now seen to be “on the verge of a civil rights catastrophe.”  His distant relatives and friends living in Pittsburgh had to figure out what to do.  How to get the body from the morgue, how to ship it back to his grieving parents in Guatemala, how to comply with legal requirements, how to find a place for local friends to honor his life?  They called Casa San José, and one by one, 15 adults and children speaking Ixil as well as Spanish gathered in our office, staying an entire afternoon to get the information and comfort they needed.

Guatemala funeral

We connected them with people who offered their expertise, helpfulness and generosity to manage consulates, transportation, and a beautiful service: the staff at the Craig Funeral Home in McKeesport, Jason Bajcz of Pittsburgh Mortuary Air Service, and Father Fernando Torres of St. Catherine of Siena Church.  The viewing and service were for many their first experience in a funeral home, and the crowd, some in traditional dress, came from near and far.  They also created a social media fundraising campaign, getting donations from all over the country, to affray the costs.  Everyone at Casa was moved and impressed by the strength and coherence of this community, as they pulled together to get all of this accomplished with speed, respect, and grace.  The young man’s body arrived in Nebaj on Feb. 15, where another group gathered to mourn.

Learn more:

Community Organizer Laura is interviewed in this article: “Trump’s ICE Policies Targeting Immigrants ‘Terrorism’:  As an emergency response organizer at a community organization for Latinos and immigrants in Pittsburgh says, the matter isn’t so simple”, Noelle Evans, Telesur, Feb. 14.

Don’t miss Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures author’s series on Monday, March 11 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland featuring Valeria Luiselli.  Her acclaimed book Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions movingly recounts her work as a translator for Central American child migrants facing deportation, some as young as 6, at their required court appearances.

“Live From Las Palmas: New Online Radio Show In Beechview Helping Build Latino Community”, Grace Muller, Pittsburgh Current, Feb. 11.  Profiles popular Pittsburgh DJ Vicente Sandoval, a friend of Casa and recently detained by ICE, now awaiting his court date.

“Inside the largest and most controversial child migrant shelter in the US”, John Burnett, NPR News, Feb. 13.  “In January, the Border Patrol reported more than 5,000 ‘unaccompanied alien children’ apprehended at the border, almost all from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.”

“Tricked, abducted and killed”, the last day of two child migrants in Mexico: the deaths show the vulnerability of migrants forced to ‘remain in Mexico’ under new US policy for asylum seekers”, Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian, Feb. 16.

“Obstructing justice: the chilling effect of ICE’s arrests of immigrants at Pennsylvania courthouses”, Temple University’s Sheller Center for Social Justice, Jan. 30.  “ICE’s presence in PA courts undermines the entire judicial system by preventing witnesses and victims of crime from appearing in court. However, despite the presence of advocate outcries backed by legal evidence, ICE continues to stalk undocumented immigrants and court personnel continue to collaborate with ICE.”

Thank you for joining us!


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