- The Washington Times - Friday, August 8, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

CITGO Petroleum Corp., the oil company controlled by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, on Monday donated $1.5 million to CASA de Maryland, the state’s leading illegal-alien advocacy group. It is just the latest example of Mr. Chavez’s efforts to score propaganda points inside the United States, aided and abetted by “progressive” politicians and former politicians. Since 2005, Mr. Chavez has been working with former congressman Joseph Kennedy to offer heating-oil discounts for the poor in Massachusetts, and the program expanded to the Washington area two years ago with Citgo and CASA teaming up to distribute oil.

Americans are true salutatorians when it comes to aiding the poor — and we’re such good Samaritans that we don’t stipulate the recipients of our aid be American. But if CASA is involved in assisting the poor, that means assisting illegal aliens, poor or not, who have utterly broken American laws. Therein lies the rub.

CASA, which lobbies in favor of in-state tuition and drivers licenses for illegals, as well as other acts of favoritism, refuses as a matter of principle to ask recipients about their immigration status. Executive Director Gustavo Torres is a political ally of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, serving as a member of his transition team. CASA also has other powerful political friends in Maryland, among them Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and a majority of the members on the County Council. Indeed, any politician — including John McCain or Barack Obama — who supports amnesty or an open-borders immigration policy — is an ally of CASA. CASA will receive $1.9 million in taxpayer dollars from Montgomery County next year for the organization’s day-laborer centers as well as health, education and housing programs for illegals. Approximately 45 percent of Casa’s $6.3 million budget next year will come from the state and county.

Last year, Jerry Seper of The Washington Times reported on how Casa spends its money. The organization distributed guidebooks instructing people targeted by federal agents during job-site raids not to cooperate with authorities if they are arrested or detained. The book featured cartoon-like drawings of black and white police officers escorting Hispanic men in handcuffs and showed babies crying because their fathers are incarcerated. CASA’s advocacy director, Kim Propeack, welcomed the support from CITGO, applauding its “sense of corporate responsibility” and its commitment to “ensuring that the profits they earn through their business are shared by low-income people.”

CASA is a useful conduit - and that surely is not lost on Mr. Chavez and his propaganda machine. In November, CASA’s executive director was reportedly a panelist at a five-day panel discussion titled “United States: A possible revolution,” at the Venezuelan International Book Fair in Caracas. The event received substantial play in Caracas, where participants complained about the “superexploitation” of workers in the United States, according to the Militant, newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party. Funding CASA’s efforts to undermine U.S. immigration laws is a good political investment for Mr. Chavez. Americans speak forcefully and united when it comes to immigration: secure the borders and take a tough law-and-order approach. It seems with CITGO, Mr. Chavez and the go-easy-on-illegals crowd, Americans are going to have to gear up for another round.

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