JUNE 13, 2013
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.