- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2006

A taxpayer-funded immigrant advocacy group says it will picket and keep a close watch on the homes and businesses of members of a local illegal-entry watchdog group that monitors day-laborer sites in Maryland.

“People should not expect in a modern society to engage in a campaign of intimidation without having a response,” says Kim Propeack, a spokeswoman for CASA of Maryland, which runs taxpayer-funded day-laborer centers in Takoma Park, Silver Spring and Wheaton.

“So if [the Maryland Minuteman Civil Defense Corps] want to come to CASA de Maryland, it’s perfectly legitimate of us to go to the Minutemen’s homes and also protest.”

Miss Propeack’s comments follow those of CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres, who was quoted in a published report this week as saying his group will target the Minutemen in a “specific way,” in addition to videotaping them as they monitor day laborers.

“We are going to picket their houses, and the schools of their kids, and go to their work,” Mr. Torres told the Gazette community newspapers. “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.”

CASA of Maryland, the state’s largest immigrant advocacy group, receives about 51 percent of its $3.6 million annual budget from public sources, such as county governments.

Stephen Schreiman, president of the Maryland Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, yesterday said Mr. Torres’ comments about picketing the schools of their children are “over the top.”

“It’s just unbelievable that an organization that’s supposed to be representing the interests of a group of people would turn around and threaten another group because they don’t like the actions they’re doing that are perfectly legal,” Mr. Schreiman said.

“They’re basically using public funds to harass and intimidate and deprive us of our free speech.”

Miss Propeack yesterday said Mr. Torres’ comment about targeting schools was a “misstatement.”

“I would say that we’re certainly not going to target anyone’s children … but we are looking very seriously at ways in which Minutemen who are harassing our clients can also be targeted,” she said. “We’re not going after their kids, but their homes and businesses are perfectly OK.”

The Minutemen have called for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate CASA for violating its civil rights. They also are urging Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to withdraw funding and support for the day-laborer centers.

CASA is planning other centers in Baltimore, Gaithersburg and Langley Park.

The Maryland Minutemen’s nearly 100 members began photographing and videotaping employers hiring workers at day-laborer sites two weeks ago. They plan to report those who hire illegal aliens to state and federal authorities for tax and business licensing violations.

The group is the second Minuteman corps in the region. Another, with about 125 members, monitors activities at a taxpayer-funded laborer center in Herndon.

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