A Maryland organization that runs four government-funded day-labor hiring centers is training volunteer “legal observers” to videotape members of the Minuteman border security group and to picket their homes, places of work and their children’s schools.
“We are going to target them in a specific way,” Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland told the Maryland Gazette, speaking of the Minutemen volunteers who have set up a surveillance site across the street to discreetly photograph contractors who pick up day laborers at the center.
Going out with their own cameras will only be the first step his group takes.
“Then we are going to picket their houses, and the schools of their kids, and go to their work,” Torres said. “If they are going to do this to us, we are going to respond in the same way, to let people know their neighbors are extremists, that they are anti-immigrant. They are going to hear from us.”
The Minuteman Project’s “covert” campaign to monitor day labor centers has been in operation for a little over a week. The group, which started with much-publicized efforts to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border and report sightings of illegal aliens to the Border Patrol, has turned its attention to the employers who hire undocumented workers.
“From a national standpoint, we want to close the border down and stop the flow of illegals,” said Stephen Schreiman, president of a newly formed Maryland chapter. “We want to do the same thing here, but our approach will be a little different. What we want to do is to basically discourage contractors and businesses from hiring illegals. It’s against federal law.
“We’re going to go after these [contractors] at the state and local level because these people aren’t paying taxes. We’re going to take these people and through a vetting process determine which ones are not paying their taxes and doing business in an inappropriate manner and then turn them over to the appropriate authorities for prosecution. That should put a damper on the hiring of illegals.”
The most recent annual report for Casa de Maryland, a non-profit, shows $2,771,615 in income for 2004-2005, of which 51 percent was provided by various government agencies. According to its website, the organization’s employment program provides day-labor placement for “low-income Latino and African immigrants … as employers seek to replace permanent workers.”
“We never ask for documentation,” Torres told the New York Times in December. “Our mission is to help anyone in need of service, regardless of their immigration status. We are proud of that.”
Casa’s operation has not only been blessed by government funding but it has the support of the local business community.
“In this area, the commercial sector hasn’t been harmed in the sense of people being deprived from work because of the day laborers being here,” said Erwin Mack, executive director of the Takoma⁄Langley Crossroads Development Authority. “Consequently, while there are issues with their right to be in the United States, that’s not what we’re concerned about. We’re concerned that they wait in an area that doesn’t hurt our commercial properties.’
That’s not good enough for Minuteman’s Schreiman who intends to pursue his effort to inform the authorities about unlawful activity and have the law enforced.
And Schreiman’s commitment to stay within the law – and the fact there have been no complaints filed with the police over the Minuteman surveillance – isn’t good enough for Casa’s Torres, who told a Spanish-language newspaper it would be better if the Minutemen did not interfere with Casa. But it is Torres threat to recruit individuals to picket Minuteman members’ children at school that has the greatest likelihood to escalate the tense, but so-far peaceful, situation.
“Threatening children like this is outrageous,” said Minuteman Civil Defense Corps President Chris Simcox. “Casa de Maryland’s funding should be pulled and its contracts cancelled. It is beyond belief that taxpayer dollars are funding this thuggish behavior.”
The Maryland Minutemen have their work cut out for them. Takoma Park, site of the Casa day-labor center they’ve been monitoring, has declared itself a Sanctuary City and prohibits its employees, including police, from arresting illegal aliens or assisting federal immigration authorities.