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:

cropped-campamento-1.jpg

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!

 

Join us on June 28th for our Annual Fiesta Del Sol!

Fiesta del sol image1

Last year, we joined our brothers and sisters all over Latin America in observance and celebration of Inti Raymi, a traditional festival and ceremony in honor of the sun and the abundance it brings to our lives. This year, Casa San José is hosting our second annual Fiesta Del Sol, in celebration of our community’s light and in honor of our cultural traditions.

Since 2013, Casa San José has worked tirelessly with and for the community to ensure that our people have the resources and information they need to thrive. As you all know, Casa San José is small. We are run by our community and uplifted by our allies. We have many volunteers that help build the foundation of our Casa, and we have our donors who plant the seeds to allow us to do this work. With that: we thank you and hope you can help us grow as a Casa.

Join us at our annual fundraiser!
Friday, June 28th
6PM: The Flashlight Factory
831 W. North Ave, Pittsburgh 15233

where we’ll have traditional foods from all over Latin America, inspiring music and traditional dancing, in addition to 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 basket!  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 feel free to 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.

With love and solidarity,
Monica and the team at Casa San José

Fiesta del sol image4

News for Amigos de Casa San José: April 22, 2019

Dear Casa San José Amigos,

Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How to take action:

Call on Governor Wolf (717-787-2500 or on social media) to #ShutDownBerks and end family detention.  The Shut Down Berks Coalition is sponsoring a call in day on Wednesday, April 24, and our partner PICC has offered these talking points:

  • The Berks County Detention Center is violating state regulations by incarcerating children and parents.
  • Governor Tom Wolf, Lt. Governor John Fetterman, and PA Dept of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller should immediately use the full extent of their power to end family detention in Pennsylvania by issuing an Emergency Removal Order.
  • Instead of detaining immigrant families, the state should focus its energy and resources into converting the Berks Detention Center into a drug treatment facility that provides Berks County residents with affordable and quality care.

How you can help:

Please Save the Date – Friday June 28 – for our second annual fundraising event: Fiesta del Sol!  More information is on its way.  If you would like to volunteer to help in any way, please contact Marisa at mmtobias28@gmail.com.

Stand Against Racism – Join YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s Center for Race and Gender Equity for the 2019 Stand Against Racism. This year’s campaign features a panel discussion with leaders from Casa San Jose and the Latino Community Center, where we will discuss this year’s campaign theme No Hate. No Fear. Immigrant Justice is Racial Justice.

  • When: Friday, April 26, 2019 – 11AM-1PM
  • Where: YWCA Greater Pittsburgh: 305 Wood Street, Downtown Pittsburgh

Attend these two terrific free events, sponsored by the Battle of Homestead Foundation:


News on what we’re doing:

Doorknocking

Our Doorknocking Campaign took place over 2 weekends, and reached hundreds of households in Beechview and East Liberty, home to many immigrants.  We had scores of volunteers doing door-to-door canvassing and educating residents on how to safely respond to ICE, and how to support their immigrant neighbors when ICE comes. Many households signed up to be a part of the Community Zone, and put up posters (pictured) in their windows.  It is part of our effort create zones of support and protection for all!

Mexican consulate visit

On April 13, Casa organized the visit of the Mobile Mexican Consulate in Pittsburgh, where Mexican government officials spent a day at Central Catholic High School assisting Mexican citizens living here to get needed documents and information.  There were also Know Your Rights sessions, legal consultations with Justice At Work attorneys, representatives from the Census, and from Bigburgh.com (a site that locates free social services), and also delicious food from our community members!

The Unafraid

On April 2, Ibania spoke to a full theater of high school students from 5 local schools at a film screening of  “The Unafraid at the SouthsideWorks Cinema, organized by Teen Screen. This feature-length film follows the lives of three DACA students in Georgia, where they are banned from attending their top state universities and disqualified from receiving in-state tuition.  Ibania also brought a DACA recipient to share her own experience here.  The event revealed to our students what it means to grow up both American and undocumented in the United States, and many of them went on to write their legislators in support of the Dreamers.


Our story, continued:

Our story this week is about three hardworking independent single mothers.  Marta, Lorena, and Estela (not their real names) are all Casa clients who made the harsh journey from perilous home countries – two from Mexico and one from Guatemala, overcame difficult domestic situations, and are now taking the proper steps to achieve a characteristic American immigration goal: becoming entrepreneurs.

Pilar and Veronica, Casa’s Service Coordinators and Bilingual Navigators, have been helping them make a life in Pittsburgh, guiding them in finding housing, schools, English classes, healthcare, legal advice and employment. They then each asked how to take the next step:  using their cooking skills to create a business. Casa connected them with Guillermo Velazquez at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC) which is building a business incubator in Beechview, and which takes businesses through their start-up procedures.  He advised these women, locating licensed kitchens and leading them through the complex permit and licensing process.  Marta plans to cater to construction workers onsite, and for events. Lorena plans to open a restaurant, and Estela wants a food truck.

Casa San José assists immigrants in many ways, and one of them is through ISAC (Immigrant Services & Connections,) working to connect immigrants living in Allegheny County to the region’s services, programs, and communities.  Pilar and Veronica are our ISAC experts, who use a holistic approach to take families all the way to independence, integration, and ideally citizenship.  For these strong women, Marta, Lorena and Estela, this means pursuing a classic American dream as well.


Learn more:

“Congress needs to step up to protect Dreamers”, Wayne D. Fontana, Pennsylvania Capital Star, March 27.  This is a PA state perspective from our State Senator from the 42nd Senatorial District (South Hills.)

“I left El Salvador to protect my family: it didn’t work”, Isai Rodriguez, New York Times, April 15.

“US says it could take 2 years to identify up to thousands of separated families”, Julia Jacobs, New York Times, April 6.

“Someone is always trying to kill you:  the United States cannot erect a wall and expect women to resign themselves to being slaughtered”, Sonia Nazario, New York Times, April 5.

The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) is a think tank and an educational institute devoted to the study of international migration, to the promotion of understanding between immigrants and receiving communities, and to public policies that safeguard the dignity and rights of migrants, refugees and newcomers.

“The root causes of migration in Central American countries”, Audie Cornish, NPR, March 6.


Thank you for joining us!

Volunteers needed for our 2nd Doorknocking Campaign

Dear Amigos de Casa San José,
This is a quick note to let you know about our 2nd Doorknocking Campaign to take place in East Liberty, following the great success of our first one that took place last Saturday in Beechview.  We had enthusiastic feedback from our volunteers about the experience, and more than 100 households responded positively and took our poster to display.  

We need your help with Round Two!

Who: People who support immigrants in the Pittsburgh area

What: Saturday door-knocking campaign

When/Where: April 20th 9:30-3:30, starting at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, 116 S Highland Ave.

Training: Tuesday, April 16th at Rodef Shalom (4905 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213) 6-8pm. (For those who weren’t at the previous training session.)

Why: We are looking to begin conversations with neighbors in these two communities with the goal of creating a zone of protection and support for our Latinx immigrant population.

How: Our goal is to get 100 volunteers to knock on doors in the East Liberty neighborhood. Volunteers will knock on doors in pairs, beginning conversations with residents about the Latinos in their communities. After answering any questions they may have, the volunteers will ask the residents to put an 8 by 11 inch poster in their front window that shows the Latinx community passing by that they are in a safe space, and on the back of the poster (inside of the house) has basic Know Your Rights in English and in Spanish.

Perks: Free Casa San José t-shirt!  And the warm feeling that comes from helping our neighbors.

Register for the training and/or door-knocking here:bit.ly/CasaKnocks

Questions?: Email laura@casasanjose.org

Zona de respaldo poster

News for Amigos de Casa San José: March 28, 2019

Dear Casa San José Amigos,

Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How to take action:

Dream & Promise Act

Tell Congress to support the Dream and Promise Act of 2019!  On March 12, this bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.  It provides permanent protections and a pathway to U.S. citizenship for Dreamers and people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure (DED.)  (It combines prior efforts to protect these populations.)  Critically, it does not trade these protections for more militarization of border communities or expanded immigration policing.  It is supported by hundreds of immigrant services, human rights, educational, legal, and other organizations. Please make sure that your U.S. Representatives and Senators know you support this bill: you can find their contact information here.


How you can help:

Our Fondo Solidario (Solidarity Fund) de Pittsburgh is now in operation (see “Our Story” below.)  It was established in January to provide legal assistance and bond funds to immigrants impacted by ICE arrests and detentions; contributions came from our online IOBY campaign and LCLAA’s Viva Clemente event. Contributions are still welcome! If you would like to donate to the fund, please send a check made out to Casa San Jose, with “Fondo Solidario” written in the memo line, to our office, 2116 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15216.

Famous local baker Genaro is again making the Pan Dulce (Sweet Bread) for Easter Sunday!  It is a fundraiser organized by the Latino members of the Brookline/Beechview cluster parishes to benefit those parishes.  You can order them for $2 apiece by emailing Sister Janice at srjanice@casasanjose.org – please include your name, phone number, and amount.  Orders must be placed by Sunday, April 14.  Pickup time: Easter Sunday, April 21 from 9 to 11:30 am.  Pickup location: St. Catherine of Siena Church Social Hall (below the church), 1810 Belasco Ave., Beechview neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 4.36.58 PM

Visit We Are All Related: Portraits by Andrea London: a photography exhibit showing “that on some level of human experience that transcends who we are, what we look like, where we’re from, whom we worship or whom we love, that we are all connected on a very fundamental human level.”  The exhibit is downtown at the 937 Gallery, and also at a public art installation at the corner of Penn and Centre Avenues in East Liberty.


News on what we’re doing:

 

training

The trainings for the upcoming Door-Knocking Campaign happened last week, with many volunteers getting ready to do outreach in Beechview and East Liberty this month and next, letting residents know of the rights of their neighbors and how they can be better allies.

 

Kids at community meeting

At our community meeting on March 20, we talked about the upcoming Family Dinners we are organizing at the houses of our community members, where there will be training in immigrant rights for all participants.  So far 60 people have signed up!  Photo: Children are welcome at our community meetings!

bond hearing training

Last Monday, Casa collaborated with Justice At Work, one of our partners, to provide bond hearing trainings for six of our volunteer lawyers on the Rapid Response Team who are not immigration attorneys.  Matt Lamberti from Justice At Work did a clear and effective presentation so that they can now represent immigrants at their bond hearings.  The majority of immigrants do not have legal representation at bond hearings, making it much less likely that the bond will be granted. A recent PBS Newshour report has documented that, under orders from the Trump administration, immigration judges are “increasingly denying bond requests altogether, or setting them at amounts in excess of $10,000, making them unaffordable,” so representation is all the more urgent.

Jovenes a Proposito

Jovenes a Propósito, our after school program for teens at Brashear High School, just started up again at school, after their successful art exhibit at the Glitter Box. The program offers youth a democratic space to develop the skills to find their own voices and leadership.

Talking about Latin women in the women’s day organized by office of mayor

Ibania spoke about Latina Women at the City of Pittsburgh’s Equal Opportunity Review Commission’s program on “Women Business Enterprise: Building Beyond the Wall” on March 14.

We send our thanks to Jim Ferlo and Lisa Valente of the Pittsburgh Matanzas Sister Cities, who sponsored the Poetics in Diversity exhibit – and to Tina Willams Brewer for donating the proceeds of the auction of her art to Casa San José.

Come visit us at our table at the CLAS Latin American and Caribbean Festival on Saturday, April 13, 2019, noon – 8pm at Posvar Hall, University of Pittsburgh.

Monica was interviewed by NextPittsburgh about “the new website that helps immigrants build their lives in Pittsburgh” from the Immigrant Services & Connections consortium of which Casa is a member.


Our story, continued:

Last week we used our new Fondo Solidario de Pittsburgh for the first time.

Ricardo (not his real name), one of our clients, had been picked up by ICE and then sent to the Cambria County jail.  Although he had saved enough money to pay for his bond, he was unable to access it from the prison.  His attorney asked us to help.  Luckily we created the Fondo Solidario for purposes just like this.  Members of our Rapid Response team, Guillermo and Patrick, spent a day on this; they accessed the required funds, went to the ICE office on the South Side to post the bond, and then drove to Cambria to pick him up after his release.  As they waited for him, the prison guards for some reason sent him out the back door without any explanation, and he wandered around in some confusion and fear, without his belongings (which ICE had sent to York.) Guillermo and Patrick finally found him and called him by name, explaining that he was now free, for a little while at least – he was amazed and ecstatic.  They drove him back to Pittsburgh, and the very next day he came to our offices to pay back the bond fee.

Learn more:

“Infograph: Effects of Deportation and Forced Separation on Immigrants, their Families, and Communities” from the Society for Community Research and Action, a division of the American Psychological Association, a vivid visual presentation of how deportations impact the emotional and behavioral health of our nation.

“The boy in the caravan”, Monica Campbell, PBS Frontline Dispatch, Feb. 7 – this podcast follows a 15-year-old boy from El Salvador as he joins a caravan to the United States trying to reach his mother.

“The company offering detained migrants freedom – at a price”, New Yorker video, March 11.  The company Libre by Nexus, an immigration bond services company, is earning millions by preying on detained immigrants, and is under investigation for fraud, deceptive conduct and misrepresentations.

“ICE sets record for arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record”, Alan Gomez, USA Today, March 21.


Thank you for joining us!

 

News for Amigos de Casa San José: March 8, 2019

Dear Casa San José Amigos,

Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How to take action:

door knocking

We are very excited about our Door-Knocking Campaign in Beechview on March 30th and in East Liberty on April 20th. We are still recruiting volunteers to help us with a goal to get 100 people 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. Soon we wil email you directly with more information on the training. Thank you very much for your solidarity!

There is a chance now that the Senate will reject the unconstitutional and false National Emergency called by the President to build a wasteful and offensive border wall. The vote is expected to happen next week, and it’s very close. Please call Senators Casey (412-803-7370) and Toomey (412-803-3501) now to say you are a PA resident citizen and that you support the resolution to nullify the president’s national emergency declaration. (Other contact info. is here.)  Toomey is on the fence, so a call to him is critical.  Even if it passes now, it will need his vote later to override the expected Trump veto.


How you can help:

Volunteers needed for our Fiesta del Sol fundraiser! Last year our event raised over $40,000, which was needed for many expenses, like some salaries, not covered by grants. We are now busy planning our second fundraiser. We need people to:

  • Coordinate the silent auction
  • Donate, solicit and collect donation items for the silent auction and raffle baskets
  • Solicit sponsors
  • Publicity – help us spread the word and sell tickets!
  • Decorations and set-up
  • Help the night of the event

If you would like to help and/or donate anything, please contact Marisa Tobias at mmtobias28@gmail.com or 412-596-1549.


News on what we’re doing:

Come see our youth’s art exhibit at the Glitter Box, March 16, 12-2, 460 Melwood Ave. Jeimy has been leading our Jovenes Con Proposito group which has been working with CCAC South and the program “One College, One Community Reads” based on the novel “In the time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez. Inspired, they created art to showcase their interpretation of the novel. Please join us and show support to our student’s hard work!

art exhibit

Last week we had a presentation about volunteering at the border convened by our volunteer Sofia Llovet-Nava for her youth group at CISV, an intercultural peace education organization.  AnDria Verde spoke about her dramatic experiences in McAllen, Texas and Allan Willinger about his at Annunciation House in El Paso to an attentive crowd.

Andria and Allan about border

We are working with the MAYA Organization, a women’s health nonprofit, to offer free prenatal, birth, and postpartum classes and doula training in Spanish every Monday evening at our Broadway location.

organizacion maya

Poetics in Diversity exhibit:  There will be a public reception with the artists on Tuesday, March 19, from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Energy Innovation Center – Covestro BrightSpace, 1435 Bedford Avenue.  It will honor Tina Williams Brewer, fiberart storyteller and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Governor’s Awards for the Arts, Artist of the Year.  Ms. Brewer is donating the proceeds from the sale of her quilt to Casa San Jose.

Here are Laura and Ibania speaking at a Pittsburgh City Council hearing on a proposed budget cut to affordable housing programs.

Laura and Ibania


Our story, continued:

Sonia (not her real name) came in last week with her young daughter, in considerable distress. She had just received a deportation order, and now was trying to find the right way to transfer custody of her child to her sister who lives in Pittsburgh.  She had been awaiting an asylum hearing, but was suddenly informed that she was to be deported immediately because she didn’t appear for a court date.  She had never received the notification.  Laura made some calls to find out more about her case, and learned that an application for a “stay of deportation” on those grounds was pending, and after an emotional and suspenseful hour, the judge’s office called back to say the submission was approved.  Sonia burst into tears with relief that she wouldn’t have to leave her child, at least for some time.  Ibania brought her a piece of cake.  Anna said that this reminded her of why we are here: to provide help, kindness and, with luck, a reprieve to those who live their lives in suspense and fear. 


Learn more:

“Undocumented immigrants pay millions of dollars in state taxes — even in the reddest states”, Alexia Fernandez Campbell, Vox, March 1.  In PA, that is over $500 million in state and local taxes.

“29 deported migrant parents returned to the US this weekend hoping to reunite with their children and seek asylum”, Lauren Pearle, ABCNews, March 3.

“Leaked documents show the US Government tracking journalists and immigration advocates through a secret database”, Tom Jones et al., NBC San Diego, March 6. ”

“Trump administration forced to extend TPS protections to more than 250,000 immigrants due to court injunction”, Chantal da Silva, Newsweek, 3/1.  This will extend the Temporary Protected Status it sought to terminate for immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan”, who can now keep their protected status until January 2, 2020.


Thank you for joining us!

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.

blessings

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!

 

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

ICE

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!

 

Opportunities to volunteer at the border

We all know the desperate conditions and challenges immigrants face at our border, and we know that some of our Amigos have already traveled down to the border or are planning on going soon.  If you would like to join the effort, Mary Nell Cummings, a volunteer member of Casa’s Emergency Response Team, and a Pittsburgh attorney and law professor, is coordinating  arrangements.  Please see the information below if you would like to join them.  

If you are interested in volunteering at the border, please contact Mary Nell Cummings (mncummings@mncummingslaw.com) and let her know the location you would like to volunteer (if you have a preference), whether you can spend one week or two weeks, the date range, and whether or not you speak Spanish.  She will be in contact with you and let you know options.

We are in contact with shelters in three different locations in Texas:

    1. McAllen, Texas

McAllen Humanitarian Respite Center:  The Humanitarian Respite Center, overseen by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.  This is a collaborative effort made possible by Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, the City of McAllen and countless volunteers from all over the U.S. and other countries. The number of immigrants assisted can vary from 50 to 200 a day.   You can learn more about needed supplies and make a contribution at: https://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/donations.aspx.

  1. San Benito, Texas

La Posada Providencia is an emergency shelter for migrants sponsored by the Sisters of Divine Providence and located in San Benito, TX. It provides a stabilizing support system for immigrants and asylum seekers. We are confirming their need for volunteers, but if you are interested, let Mary Nell know.  They too are in need of contributions to meet the needs of those seeking shelter. You can donate on line at https://lppshelter.org/waystogive/.

  1. El Paso, Texas

Allan’s account describes the work at Annunciation House. Our friends at Annunciation House are working hard to try to find ways to continue to offer hospitality to all those in need. In order to do that, they need funds for housing and supplies, and volunteers to staff the shelters and distribute provisions. As you can imagine, they are in desperate need of all kinds of supplies. You can donate online.

Allan Willinger, who has been volunteering with Annunciation House since early January, has been writing to Mary Nell about his experiences there and gives a good idea of what it’s like. Excerpts are below:

“When ICE is ready to discharge families from a detention center, ICE calls Annunciation House and asks how many people can it take.  In 1 busload ICE dropped 38 people at Mesa Inn around noon.  The volunteers checked them in, called their sponsoring families to advise them on purchasing plane or bus tickets, showed them to their rooms, and helped them pick out and a change of clothes.  Breakfast is at 8 served by the volunteers.  Lunch and dinner are brought in by other groups.

Many of the volunteers speak fluent Spanish.  I’m not one of them unfortunately.  However, there is still useful work I can do – transportation, preparing food packages, showing families to their rooms, and other things.

The guests are often tired when they arrive, but very glad to be here.  They are mostly 1 parent with 1 child (sometimes 2 children).   Annunciation House is far from a 5-star hotel, but the guests are provided with heated rooms, beds, hot showers, 3 healthy meals each day, a change of clothes, and telephone assistance in arranging their sponsors to purchase bus or plane tickets.

I don’t think Annunciation House could operate without their huge network of volunteers to provide meals, service, rides, clothes, other supplies and financial donations… I can’t tell you how nice the guests are – friendly, appreciative, and helpful.  After saying goodbye to 1 mother I drove to the bus station, she pointed her finger up – I assume she was saying she is in God’s hands.  Sadly. I saw four guests with ankle bracelets.  1 mother carried a 10-month-old and had 4-year-old.  She looked weary.  Nearly all the guests at Mesa Inn this week have been from Guatemala.”

Learn more:

Podcast:  “Dispatches from the border: we joined our colleagues as they set out for a trip of nearly 2000-miles along the US-Mexico border”, Michael Barbaro, New York Times’ The Daily, Jan. 14.

“Actually, the Numbers Show That We Need More Immigration, Not Less”, Shikha Dalmia, New York Times, Jan. 15

 

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.)

Screen Shot 2019-01-11 at 4.03.04 PM

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.

Undeterred

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.

Bishop

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.

Fiesta1

Fiesta

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!