CASA Opens New Headquarters Amid Immigration Debate

By Peter Granitz - WAMU 88.5
|  Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 2:45 PM EDT
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CASA's New Headquarters Stirs Immigration Debate

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The largest immigrant advocacy organization in Maryland is celebrating its 25-year anniversary by moving into an historic mansion in Langley Park. Other groups don’t want the government to offer any more help with the move.

CASA de Maryland, which helps immigrants learn English, get jobs and prepare for citizenship tests, recently renovated the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park.

The state chipped in tens of millions of dollars for the project, and since CASA is non profit, it qualifies for federal tax credits. That doesn’t sit well with Brad Botwin, who leads Help Save Maryland.

He said state leaders are being fleeced by CASA and the new headquarters -- or multicultural center, as CASA deems it -- is nothing more than a clubhouse for illegal immigrants.

“So it attracts people to come," he said. "There’s no reason for them not to. You get free medical care, free schooling, free use of facilities, day labor centers that help you get a job.”

But Antonia Pena couldn’t disagree more. CASA taught her how to survive when she emigrated from Columbia, she said.

“Long time ago when I came here, it was the only organization with somebody who would listen to me and my friends,” she said. 

Pena said she’s seen an increase in verbal attacks on immigrants since the debate over Arizona’s immigration bill started. There’s still no federal solution in sight, but for now, Pena said she’s happy with a new building.

"As far as legal status is concerned, CASA de Maryland is neutral on that," said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. "It’s not their role. Their role is to help the immigrant community. And it’s one that I think carries on the best traditions of our country.”

Cardin said he’d like to see Congress tackle an immigration overhaul this year ... but with six months left, that’s looking less likely.

Listen to the complete story at wamu.org

Copyright 2010 WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio. All Rights Reserved.

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