CASA de Maryland (also called CASA) is a left-of-center 501(c)(3) immigration advocacy organization that helps immigrants, most often of Central American extraction, find employment, regardless of their legal status in the United States. CASA’s executive director has told workers he will never turn their names over to federal immigration officials.
CASA leads its membership in political and policy advocacy that has included public demonstrations against the Trump administration’s restrictionist immigration policies, promoting a path to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the United States, promoting legislation allowing undocumented aliens to pay in-state tuition at Maryland state colleges, and campaigns to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
CASA is one of five organizations suing to overturn the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census form. In 2008, CASA tried to prevent the police department in Montgomery County, Maryland, from giving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents the names of foreign nationals arrested for violent crimes and illegal firearms possession.
In November 2007, CASA executive director Gustavo Torres attended a conference in Venezuela, a nation then ruled by hard-left socialist president Hugo Chavez, where the main event was a panel discussion entitled “United States: A possible revolution.” The following year Citgo Petroleum – an oil company owned by the Venezuelan government – made a $1.5 million donation to CASA.
In addition to funding sources controlled by the Venezuelan government, federal state and local governments in the United States have provided a significant share of CASA’s donations. A 2011 Washington Post profile reported that “nearly half” of CASA’s $6 million budget came from “local, state and federal appropriations.” Contributors noted in the 2017 CASA annual report include several federal agencies, the state governments of Maryland and Virginia, and local government agencies within those states.
More than two dozen left-wing foundations, advocacy organizations and labor unions have also contributed to CASA, including the SEIU, Unite Here, the Ford Foundation, Democracy Alliance, the Center for Popular Democracy, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the PICO National Network, the Workers Defense Project, the AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America, and Change to Win.
CASA de Maryland (CASA)—formerly known as “Central American Solidarity and Assistance”—is a left-of-center 501(c)(3) immigration- advocacy organization. In addition to direct political advocacy, CASA operates “worker centers” that help Central Americans living in the United States find employment, regardless of their legal status to work or live in the U.S. A 2009 report in the Washington City Paper stated those helped by the placement program were “often-undocumented.” Speaking to a group of day laborers awaiting placement at a CASA worker center in 2008, executive director Gustavo Torres reportedly told them: “We will never give a single name to immigration authorities.” CASA claims nearly 11,000 job placements for 2017  and provides workers with other services, such as legal help (most notably for immigration law concerns and driver license acquisition), and English lessons. 
A July 2011 profile of CASA in the Washington Post portrays the worker centers and other social service programs as feeding into the advocacy campaigns: “Transforming poor immigrants into job holders into English students into advocates on their own behalf—that’s what it’s all about.” Torres proclaims his goal is to “build a powerful … movement of immigrants and other minorities including the African American community to fight for justice—and they decide what justice means.” 
History and Growth
As of 2017 CASA had revenue of more than $10.6 million, expenses of more than $10 million, and more than 100 employees working in three states: Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The staff list includes 18 positions under the heading of “community organizing” and nine under “politics and communications.”
Media accounts in 2011 reported CASA had 10,000 “members” paying $25 dues each. As of 2019, the CASA membership form indicated dues of $35, and CASA claimed membership of 12,388 – two-thirds from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, with 93 percent residing in Maryland or Washington, D.C.
CASA in Action, an affiliated 501(c)(4), was created in 2010 to directly promote the election of CASA-friendly candidates. Torres is the president. For 2017 it reported raising $914,000 and spending $778,000. Contributors included numerous left-wing labor unions and advocacy organizations, including America Votes, the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, For Our Future, the Center for Community Change Action Fund, the AFL-CIO, Local 32BJ SEIU, the SEIU, the UFCW, UFCW Local 400, and the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO.
In 2008 Citgo Petroleum—an oil company owned by the Venezuelan regime then led by far-left socialist President Hugo Chavez—made a $1.5 million donation to CASA. According to a Washington Post report: “The contribution is the latest effort by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to reach out to the poor in the United States in what critics call an attempt to curry favor with low-income Americans and embarrass President Bush.”
Chavez had recently referred to then-U.S. President George W. Bush as “the devil,” and formed close alliances with the terrorism-supporting government of Iran and Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro. Citgo remained a tool of the Venezuelan regime after Chavez passed away. In late 2017, a cousin of Chavez was appointed president of the state-run firm by Chavez’s successor as Venezuelan dictator, Nicolas Muduro.
2006 School Harassment Threat
In February 2006 Torres said CASA would picket the schools attended by members of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a far-right anti-immigration “direct action” group. The Minutemen had been photographing the contractors who were arriving at CASA work centers to hire day laborers. The pictures were then allegedly turned over to law enforcement, with the assumption that the contractors would be investigated for illegally employing undocumented immigrants.
Torres declared this to be “extremist” behavior and told a newspaper that CASA would respond by “going to picket their houses, and the schools of their kids, and go to their work.” He later said his remarks were a “misunderstanding” resulting from his “anger” and that CASA would leave the schoolchildren alone.
2009 Police/ICE Cooperation
In early 2009 the Montgomery County Police Department in Montgomery County, Maryland, enacted a policy of giving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents the names of individuals arrested for violent crimes or illegal firearms possession. The move was supported by many in the community concerned about violent crime and was endorsed by the county executive – a CASA supporter. CASA had opposed the policy change, and threatened a lawsuit, claiming it could lead to racial profiling.
2019 U.S. Census Lawsuits
In 2018, CASA joined four other organizations in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, challenging the Trump administration’s decision to include a so-called “citizenship question” on the 2020 U.S. Census form. In early January 2019 a U.S. District judge ruled against the government, setting the stage for a potential appeal that could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. 
The New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and ADC Research Institute are the other four plaintiffs participating with CASA in the lawsuit. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Gustavo Torres is the executive director for CASA de Maryland and also president of CASA in Action. His total compensation from both organizations for 2016 was $123,051.
A native of Colombia, Torres and has told interviewers he fled to Nicaragua in 1987 to avoid persecution. In Nicaragua he went to work for a newspaper that was friendly to the far-left Sandinista regime then in power. In 1991, he came to the United States, marrying an American whom he had met in Nicaragua, paving the way for him to obtain U.S. citizenship in 1995. Torres and his wife divorced the following year.
Torres went to work as an organizer for CASA in 1991, the year he arrived in the United States, and was named the leader of the organization in 1994.
In November 2007 he attended a conference in Venezuela, where the main event, according to the Militant, a newsweekly affiliated with the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, was a panel discussion entitled “United States: A possible revolution.” Torres appeared on behalf of CASA for a debate regarding the impact of immigrant workers in the United States. The following year, Citgo Petroleum, an oil company owned by the socialist Venezuelan government, made a $1.5 million donation to CASA.
In 2009, the Socialist Worker reported Torres was the emcee of a May Day rally in Washington, D.C., sponsored by a coalition of organizations supporting legal status for immigrants working and living illegally in the United States.
Board of Directors
The CASA board of directors regularly includes members with affiliations to influential left-wing political causes, funders, and labor unions. Former board members include Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and Cecilia Munoz, who is a board chair at the George Soros-founded Open Society Foundations, a former executive at the New America think tank, a former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration, and a former employee at UnidosUS.
As of 2017 the board included members affiliated with the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center (Gladys Cisneros), the Democracy Alliance (Austin Belati), the Communications Workers of America (Teresa Casertano), the SEIU (Shola Ajayi), and the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Ayo Atterberry).
Tax dollars have been one of the single largest sources of CASA’s funding during the Torres era. A 2011 Washington Post profile reported that “nearly half” of CASA’s $6 million budget for that year was from “local, state and federal appropriations.”
Government support has increased as CASA has grown. In 2000, with a budget of just over $950,000, CASA reported government support of nearly $500,000. By 2016, the budget was ten times larger — more than $9.5 million — and government support had grown to more than $4 million.
Specific governmental donors listed in the 2017 CASA annual report include the National Endowment for the Arts (federal), the Environmental Protection Agency (federal), the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Labor, the city of Baltimore (Maryland), Montgomery County (Maryland), Baltimore County (Maryland), City of Falls Church (Virginia), Fairfax County (Virginia), Prince George’s County (Maryland), the State of Virginia, and the State of Maryland.
IRS records for the period from 2008 to 2016 show more than $2.1 million in grants from six private left-wing foundations:
Fund for Change ($145,000): A Maryland-based foundation that also funds left-wing organizations such as USA Action, the USA Action Education Fund, the Environmental Integrity Project and Progressive Maryland. 
Herb Block Foundation ($80,000): A foundation based in Washington, D.C. and named in honor of the late left-of-center Washington Post political cartoonist Herb Block (1909-2001). The foundation also contributes to other left-of-center organizations such as Public Citizen, the Violence Policy Center, and the William J. Brennan Center for Justice. 
Additionally, CASA has announced the Rockefeller Foundation, in partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, provided a $1 million grant. The 2017 CASA annual report also names NEO Philanthropy and the Carnegie Corporation of New York as foundation contributors.
Left-wing Advocacy Organizations
The CASA 2017 annual report notes the following left-wing advocacy organizations as contributors: Democracy Alliance, the Center for Popular Democracy, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the PICO National Network, Solidarity Center, the State Voices affiliate in Pennsylvania, UnidosUS, and the Workers Defense Project.
The Open Society Institute (now the Open Society Foundations), founded by left-wing billionaire George Soros, was an important source of funding when CASA’s budget was much smaller. From 2001-2007, the Open Society Institute provided CASA with grants totaling $508,000. In 2001 CASA’s total revenue was less than $1.5 million. The Open Society Institute – Baltimore is listed in the 2017 CASA annual report as a contributor.
The CASA 2017 annual report notes the following left-of-center labor unions as contributors: the AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America, Change to Win, Local 32BJ SEIU, the SEIU, the UFCW Local 400, the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO and Unite Here.