Ira Mehlman

Ever since the defeat of a bill in the Senate last year that would have granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, there have been repeated accusations that some of the principal players in the debate have received money from dubious sources, have ties to shady political figures, and deliberately use intemperate language to whip up fears and play on prejudices.

It turns out that these accusations are all true…but it is not the groups and political figures who oppose amnesty who are guilty. Rather, some of the leading organizations and politicians promoting mass amnesty for illegal aliens have been engaging in all of these practices.

Among the network of organizations that have not only been promoting amnesty for illegal aliens, but actively working to thwart enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, few have been as effective as CASA de Maryland. CASA not only lobbies on behalf of complete amnesty for immigration law violators, it operates day labor hiring centers around Maryland specifically geared toward helping illegal aliens find jobs that federal law prohibits them from holding. The group has published and distributed material advising people not to cooperate with law enforcement officials if questioned about their immigration status.

In spite of its rather radical agenda, CASA has actively sought – and achieved – the mantle of mainstream respectability. Among the group’s board of directors is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, and CASA has received millions of dollars in public support. According to Kim Propeack, a spokeswoman for CASA, 45 percent of the organization’s $6.3 million 2009 budget is expected to come from state and county governments.

While continuing to benefit from huge amounts of money from state, county and city governments in Maryland, CASA has become the darling of one of America’s most bitter adversaries. Early this month, CASA de Maryland, received a $1.5 million grant from Hugo Chavez, the avowedly anti-American president of Venezuela. Last year, CASA’s executive director Gustavo Torres, at the invitation of Chavez’s government, visited Venezuela to lecture on “youth leadership.”

Chavez has been using Venezuela’s oil wealth to spread his unique brand of revolution and hatred of the United States throughout the world, and the money he is spending in Maryland is likely to come with political strings attached. “He [Chavez] is committed to creating this constituency in the United States,” says Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue.

Ira Mehlman

Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.