News for Amigos de Casa San José: May 18, 2019

Dear Casa San José Amigos,

Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How you can help:

Our Fiesta del Sol fundraiser is coming up soon – please join us!

Fiesta del sol image1

We’ll have traditional foods from all over Latin America, inspiring music and traditional dancing, a silent auction and much more!   Buy your ticket here.

You can also make donations, either in cash or in gift cards, gift certificates, food, drinks, or anything else for the auction baskets!  Here is our donation form.

We are also seeking event sponsors. Here is a list of descriptions of our suggested sponsorship levels, and here is the Sponsorship Form to complete.

Please contact Sister Karen (srkaren@casasanjose.org, 412-343-3111), our Development and Finance Administrator, with any questions you may have or to donate with a credit card.

We hope you can join us in celebration of the sun, our light, our community, and the justice we hope to provide for our people.

Also, we need some of your help with our Campamento Sonrisa this summer:


We are looking for 7 volunteers, with some Spanish language ability, to be assistant counselors for our camp, at our Beechview location.  Dates are July 22 through Aug. 15, Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.  There will be 25 kids, with special activities planned all over the city – ball games, swimming, hiking, museums, etc.  For more information, contact Sister Valerie at srvalerie@casasanjose.org.

Finally, we need some people with vans to help move a lot of donated furniture on Thursday, May 23, to go to needy families.  Please contact Laura at laura@casasanjose.org if you can do this.

How to take action:

Our elected officials have crucial roles in determining how our city and state treat immigrants, and everything else, so we encourage everyone who can vote to make their voices heard.  Please VOTE in the primary on Tuesday, May 21.

  • Check your voter registration status and polling location at www.votespa.com
  • Find out about the candidates in your district with this Voter Guide. (You have to be registered in a party to vote in the primary election.)

Jose with tuba

News on what we’re doing:

Welcome to our new Youth Program Coordinator, Jose María Ochoa!  José was born in the state of Georgia, moved to Mexico at a young age and was raised there, and then came back to the US 6 years ago.  He began to get involved with the Pittsburgh’s Latino community through music, culture, and protest, focusing on musical education for youth from oppressed backgrounds.  At Casa, he is running our summer camps, our “SOY” (Support Our Youth) program, and “Jovenes con Proposito”, our after school program for teens. He brings to Casa his deep understanding of the experience of immigration, and his enthusiasm for broadening the horizons of our youth.  Here he is playing his favorite instrument.

The MayDay 2019: Justice for All Workers March and Celebration was a huge success, attracting crowds who cheered for workers’ rights and danced to the music through the streets of Squirrel Hill. Casa was an organizing sponsor and an enthusiastic participator. (Thanks to Grace Muller for photos!)

Mayday Monica marchingMayday Vero and PilarMayday Fernanda

Mayday Ibania

Hurray for the Door-knocking Campaign (which will hold one more canvass on June 22 – see here for info.) We held two canvasses in March and April to educate the community on immigrants’ rights and map out safe zones for immigrants. Over 100 volunteers knocked on 1,804 doors, committing 210 households and businesses to our “Zona de Respaldo.” Each participating house/business put up a poster in their window with Know-Your-Rights and emergency response information in English and Spanish. They committed to sharing it, and responding when immigrants or people of color are targeted in their community. Over this time, we also prepared community leaders to host eight dinners that trained 56 immigrants in Know-Your-Rights. This project was done with the support of PICC (Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition) and the approval and leadership of community members.

Helping community members with their lives and integration goes on daily in our Beechview and East Liberty locations.  Recent emphasis has been on getting new arrivals vaccinated, learning English, enrolling children in our summer camp, and locating affordable housing.

Speaking out:  Casa San Jose was asked to share in a Seder Meal at Rodef Shalom with a special theme of honoring the strength and resilience of refugees and asylum seekers across the globe.  Sister Janice spoke to the participants and Alma Brigido shared her story of immigration.   On May 4th at a Battle of Homestead Foundation event, Monica spoke on a panel entitled “Family Separation at the Border: Its Impact on Pittsburgh”.  She also was a panelist at the YWCA’s “Immigrant Justice is Racial Justice” event on April 26.

Monica at YWCA

Our story, continued:

Pam Harding, one of Casa’s Amigos, tells about her recent volunteer experience at the Oscar Romero Hospitality House, a way-station for immigrants recently arrived in El Paso:

M. Maldonado was waiting to be seen at the medical clinic at the Oscar Romero hospitality house, when I first met him. He patiently sat there with his 7-year-old daughter, appearing exhausted and ill, as did his daughter. I had recently arrived at the Oscar Romero House in El Paso, Texas, to volunteer for two weeks. I was assigned to the medical clinic, having worked as a Physician Assistant.

The facility, under the auspices of Annunciation House, provided food, lodging, clothes and care for those who had traveled more than a thousand miles by foot, truck and bus. Most were from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. All were asylum seekers who had been processed by the authorities. Almost all were family units, though many had left wives and children at home, hoping one day to be reunited with them. All were fleeing abject, unending, poverty or drug cartels that had threatened or killed loved ones.

M. Maldonado felt awful. He was totally congested, with a headache, sore throat, cough. His eyes were burning, and his feet were so sore, it was painful for him to walk. He recounted a journey of three weeks from the western highlands of Guatemala. Food and water had been scarce. There had been no opportunity to change clothes, shoes or sandals.

Once he and other asylum seekers crossed the border, Border Patrol agents took their money, and medicines, (including insulin and hypertensive meds.) He and others had their passports and birth certificates taken as well.  For extra measure, all had to remove their shoelaces.

M. Maldonado was then processed by ICE, an ankle bracelet placed on his leg (for tracking purposes). He and his daughter were placed in a holding cell with many others, including toddlers and babies. Known as “la hielera”, or “the cooler”, authorities turned down the thermostat as low as possible, “freezing” those inside.

After leaving the holding cell, he and his daughter were then sent to another “holding area”, this time under a bridge, where for three nights they slept on rocks with little protection from the elements. It fell to 33 degrees at night. There was a dust advisory. The water they were offered had so much “cloro”, chlorine, in it, it burned their lips and throats.

Oscar Romero staff had been advised by ICE they would be dropping off 60 asylum seekers, including M. Maldonado and his daughter.  They were welcomed at the center, showered, given clean clothes and linens, food and medical attention. Contact was made with their contact person. Bus tickets were purchased. M. Maldonado and his daughter left for Virginia, where a friend of a friend lives.

He has a date to appear in court. It may take years to process his asylum claim. It will most likely be denied, and he will be sent back to the highlands of western Guatemala.

(Here is updated information about volunteering opportunities at Annunciation House and its affiliates.)

Learn more:

Press coverage of Casa’s Doorknocking Campaign!  “Local advocacy group creates ‘support zones’ to educate undocumented immigrants on their rights”, Ryan Deto, Pittsburgh CityPaper, May 8.

“Donald Trump’s Rose Garden immigration speech, explained”, Dara Lind, Vox, May 16.

“Before Trump’s purge at DHS, top officials challenged plans for mass family arrests”, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post, May 13.

“ICE provides local police a way to work around sanctuary policies, act as immigration officers”, Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, May 6.

Last month we included an NPR piece on the general conditions in Central America impelling their citizens to flee.  This article in the NYT conveys their immediacy and terror firsthand:  “Inside gang territory in Honduras:  ‘Either they kill us or we kill them'”, Azam Ahmed, New York Times, May 4.

“We are not invisible:  Latina girls, mental health, and the Philadelphia schools”, National Women’s Law Center, April 15.

Thank you for joining us!


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