Judicial Watch yesterday obtained, through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, documents showing that, as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Hilda Solis drew a press gaggle when she visited illegal aliens in Maryland last spring and urged them to assert their “federal rights.” Judicial Watch’s investigation was prompted a year ago by an article in Washington Hispanic newspaper on June 1, 2012, which quoted Solis as saying: “[Barack Obama] knows very well that it is very important to preserve the rights of the Hispanic community and of other communities, in any area where they are working. The federal laws are very clear and protect all workers equally, whether or not they have papers.” What follows are some highlights from the records released yesterday in response to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit of March 13, 2013:
- A similar sentiment was expressed in the agency’s internal newsletter of May 31, 2012 covering the event: “This administration . . . will not be satisfied until everyone that wants to work finds a job,” Solis said. “And that’s what our partnership with CASA de Maryland offers.” This edition of the DOL newsletter was routed to White House publicists Amy Brundage and Shannon Gilson by Labor Spokesman Carl Fillichio, who recently offended DOL staffers by emailing them a game called “Lent Madness,” which involved eliminating Episcopal saints in a Fantasy-Football style tournament.
- CASA, which stands for the Central American Solidarity Association, is a nonprofit founded in 1985 whose mission is to ensure that “all people – especially women, low-income people, and workers – can participate and fully benefit [in and from American society], regardless of their immigration status,” according to a May 29, 2012 memo to the Secretary preparing her for the visit. Another May 29, 2012 memo developed in preparation for the Secretary’s visit characterizes CASA as being “located in a shopping center” and “the site of the largest corner for day laborers.”
- Also included in the agency’s release is a July 14, 2011 Washington Post profile of CASA’s director Gustavo Torres. According to the article, “nearly half of CASA’s $6 million budget comes from local, state, and federal appropriations.” The article goes on to state that “CASA uses a significant portion of that money to help illegal immigrants.” DOL awarded the organization $187,000 in 2012 according to a May 31, 2012 email also included in the production, indicating that the agency was well aware of the way taxpayer funds were being spent.
Judicial Watch’s ongoing investigation into this issue has revealed that Solis’s prospective successor, former Deputy Attorney General Thomas Perez, served as Board President for CASA. Since Obama took office, CASA has secured $588,390 in grants from DOL and $1,182,390 from all federal agencies combined, according to official figures at usaspending.gov.
UPDATE July 9, 2013:
The records obtained on July 9, 2013 by compulsion of the court show that CASA, which bills itself the “go-to” organization for illegal alien advocacy in that state, boasts an annual operating budget in excess of $5,000,000. Notwithstanding CASA’s apparent strength and size, DOL continues to conceal funding sources for the organization, arguing that disclosing how much taxpayer funding it receives each year could cause the day laborer training center “competitive harm.”
Also notable in the agency’s supplemental production is the fact that both U.S. Senators for Maryland Mikulski and Van Hollen appear to have lobbied DOL through a process called “lettermarking,” for CASA to win Susan Harwood Training Grant from DOL’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Interestingly, though awarded $181,390 by OSHA, CASA offered none of the “intensive” safety training it promised in applying for the grant, concentrating its efforts instead on exceeding even its own goals in the delivery of labor rights training.
Solis reportedly told center graduates, “The federal laws are very clear and protect all workers equally, whether or not they have papers”
Current Labor Secretary Nominee Thomas Perez Served as Group’s President
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on March 14, 2013, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Obama Department of Labor (DOL) seeking records detailing the May 30, 2012 visit of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to CASA de Maryland’s Langley Park training center. President Obama’s current nominee for Labor Secretary, Thomas Perez, served as President of the Board for CASA, which described its chief goals in recent IRS filings as helping all people “participate and benefit fully” in American society, “regardless of their immigration status.”
While taking part in a roundtable discussion at the center, Solis reportedly told CASA center graduates to report their employers for wage and hour violations, regardless of the workers’ immigration status. “[Barack Obama] knows very well that it is very important to preserve the rights of the Hispanic community and of other communities in any area where they are working,” Solis was quoted as saying. “The federal laws are clear and protect all workers equally, whether or not they have papers.”
On June 1, 2012, Judicial Watch sent a FOIA request to the Department of Labor seeking access to the following information:
a. Documentation of funding to Casa de Maryland, directly or through its affiliation with Prince George’s and Montgomery County Colleges;
b. Talking points, briefing books, or any other internal memoranda (in any language) developed in preparation for Secretary Solis’s visit to Casa de Maryland this week;
c. Documentation of transportation, meals, and security associated with Secretary Solis’s visit to Casa de Maryland this week, including invoices, reimbursement authorizations, and check requisitions; and,
d. Notes, agendas, minutes, and any other communications relating to Secretary Solis’s visit to Casa de Maryland this week, including video, audio and e-mail contact with the press and third-party organizations before and after the event.
Under federal law, DOL was required to respond to the Judicial Watch FOIA request by June 29, 2012. According to the Judicial Watch March 14 lawsuit, DOL has “failed to make a determination about whether it will comply … or notify [Judicial Watch] of its right to appeal any adverse determination … Nor has [DOL] produced any records responsive to the request, indicated when any responsive records will be produced, or demonstrated that responsive records are exempt from production.”
The Judicial Watch lawsuit asks the District Court to order DOL to conduct a search for all responsive records to the original FOIA request, produce al non-exempt records, enjoin DOL from continuing to withhold non-exempt records, and grant Judicial Watch attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.
“The most transparent administration in history is once again in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The outrageous stonewalling by the Obama Department of Labor strongly suggests it is covering up connections and policies that most Americans would find objectionable,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration’s partnership with a radical organization that openly encourages illegal immigrants to operate outside the law is especially egregious in light of the continued unemployment crisis for the American citizens and legal residents. No wonder there’s a cover up.”
In February 2012, Judicial Watch and its client, MDPetitions.com scored a major court victory over CASA de Maryland when the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County ruled against a CASA attempt to block a referendum vote on whether Maryland should provide taxpayer dollar subsidies for the college tuition of certain illegal aliens through the so-called “Maryland Dream Act.”
On March 19, 2013, Judicial Watch cited the illegal activities of CASA in a statement opposing the nomination of Thomas Perez to be the next Secretary of Labor, saying, “Perez is a former president of the board of CASA (Central American Solidarity Association) de Maryland a group whose recent filings with the IRS describe its chief goals as helping all people “participate and benefit fully” in American society, “regardless of their immigration status.” In opposing the Perez nomination, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff Sessions (D-AL), described CASA, which was financially supported by the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, as ‘a fringe advocacy group that has instructed illegal immigrants on how to escape detection, and also promoted illegal labor sites and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.’”
Washington, DC – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, applauded today’s ruling by the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County allowing the Maryland Dream Act to be subject to referendum on the 2012 ballot (John Doe, et al., v. Maryland State Board of Elections, (No. 02-C-11-163050)). Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued the following statement:
This is a tremendous victory for anyone concerned about using tax dollars to subsidize the education of illegal alien lawbreakers. We are thrilled that the voters of Maryland will have the final say on the Maryland DREAM Act.
Illegal alien activists failed in their attempt use the courts to push their unpopular and radical agenda. American citizens are fed up with taxpayer-funded policies to benefit illegal aliens. We expect that the vote in November will put a stop to this effort to help illegal aliens at the expense of law-abiding Americans and residents.
The MDPetitions.com group is represented by Judicial Watch. The chairman of MDPetitions.com is Maryland Assembly Delegate Neil Parrott of Washington County; Delegate Patrick McDonough of Baltimore and Harford Counties is its honorary chairman.
The Maryland DREAM Act was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly and signed by Governor Martin O’Malley on May 10, 2011. The law creates a new taxpayer-subsidized tuition policy — the ability to pay reduced tuition rates at Maryland community colleges and public higher education institutions — for certain eligible illegal aliens. The MDPetitions.com petition drive collected 132,071 signatures, nearly twice the amount required by law to put the new benefit to voters in a referendum. Illegal aliens and the activist group Casa de Maryland challenged the petition drive in court in order to protect taxpayer dollar subsidies for the college tuition for certain illegal aliens.
An activist group working to protect a new Maryland law granting illegal immigrants taxpayer-funded tuition benefits has plans to launch a multi-million-dollar fundraising campaign to help defend the measure from a ballot-referendum challenge.
Known as the Maryland DREAM Act, the law was enacted by the state’s General Assembly in April and signed by Governor Martin O’Malley weeks later. Essentially, it creates a new taxpayer-subsidized benefit — the ability to pay reduced tuition rates at Maryland community colleges and public higher education institutions—for certain eligible illegal aliens.
A news report quotes the Department of Legislative Services, the research arm for the Maryland State Legislature, estimating that the DREAM Act could cost Maryland taxpayers $778,000 in fiscal year 2014 and up to $3.5 million in fiscal 2016 to subsidize the tuition rate undocumented students will receive.
To give voters a chance to eliminate this costly benefit for illegal aliens, a group (MDPetitions.com) led by Maryland Assembly Delegate Neil Parrott launched a highly successful petition campaign to put the issue to a vote. Almost twice the number of signatures (130,000) required for a referendum to appear on the November 2012 ballot were collected throughout the state.
In an effort to protect the public subsidies for illegal immigrants’ college tuition, a renowned open borders group, Casa de Maryland, went to court and tried to throw out tens of thousands of valid signatures. Judicial Watch represents MDPetitions.com, which simply wants to give citizens the chance to be heard on this important issue. Illegal immigrant lobbyists, like Casa de Maryland, want voters to have no direct say on the issue, even though their money will finance this new measure.
Earlier this month Casa de Maryland conceded that MDPetitions.com did in fact collect more than enough signatures, announcing that it will no longer challenge the “sufficiency and number of the petition signatures” gathered to place the repeal of the illegal alien tuition benefits policy on the November, 2012 Maryland ballot. However, the group continues to maintain that the Maryland DREAM Act cannot legally be subject to referendum.
But as MDPetitions.com argues in its court filings, Maryland voters are merely exercising their rights under Article XVI, Section 2 of the Maryland Constitution, which unambiguously states: “The people reserve to themselves power known as The Referendum, by petition to have submitted to the registered voters of the State, to approve or reject at the polls, any Act, or part of any Act of the General Assembly, if approved by the Governor, or, if passed by the General Assembly over the veto of the Governor.”
Casa has seemed to concede that its political lawsuit to derail the ballot measure will fail. So the group is hiring a fundraising manager to lead a new $10 million campaign to “raise dollars from individuals, unions, and corporations” to “defend the Maryland DREAM Act.” The job description states that the new law is being “challenged through a ballot referendum challenge in the November 2012 elections.” The campaign fundraising manager job is described as a temporary position for an initiative called “Educating Maryland Kids.”
Of interesting note is that the assistant attorney general picked by President Obama to head the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) bloated civil rights division, former Maryland Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, served as president of the board of Casa de Maryland. The group is based in the state’s Tacoma Park area and proudly advertises its day laborer centers—in Baltimore, Wheaton and Silver Spring—which are all partially funded with public money from counties and cities.
A few years ago Casa de Maryland received a $1.5 million donation from Venezuela’s ardent anti-U.S. leader, socialist Hugo Chavez, who is a close ally of State Department terrorist nations like Iran, North Korea and Cuba. The Chavez-controlled Citgo Petroleum Corp. made the donation to support illegal aliens in the U.S. and the connection between the South American strongman and a top DOJ appointee is more than unsettling.
In a related matter, JW filed a taxpayer lawsuit early this year—before the DREAM Act passed—against the Board of Trustees of Maryland’s Montgomery College for unlawfully charging discounted “in county” tuition rates to students who graduate from public high schools in the county, regardless of their place of residency or immigration status.