Community Post

CASA Latina, Friend or Foe?

By now, most people have heard that CASA Latina will be moving their headquarters from Belltown to Jackson Place, specifically 17th and Jackson. This will happen in the summer of 2008.

So what is CASA Latina? Centro de Ayuda Solidara a los Amigos, or “The Center of Supportive Aid to Friends” is a day labor organization that provides Latino immigrants with employment and educational opportunities. They help unite workers and employers, and provide English as a Second Language classes, among other services. To learn more, see their website.

This has been a very hot topic for the members of the Jackson Place neighborhood. Rumors have been running rampant throughout the CD, with the most prevalent being that the majority of the Jackson Place residents are not in support of CASA, but that the JP community council board went their own route and welcomed them with open arms.

I attended the December meeting of the Jackson Place Community Council Monday evening and this topic was the main focus of discussion with both opinions being well represented. Of those in attendance it did seem that the majority of the neighbors opposed the move, while the board, although not unanimous, was in favor of CASA coming to the neighborhood.

    Arguments FOR CASA Latina

  • helps to support immigrant families
  • helps to assimilate immigrants into our culture
  • helps those willing to work to find it
  • gives JP residents an opportunity to help others in need
  • helps to spark other altruistic actions in the neighborhood
  • shows Seattle that JP is not a neighborhood that has succumbed to gentrification and is not exclusional
    Arguments AGAINST CASA Latina

  • increase in homeless flooding the parks and vacant lots
  • increase in crime, specifically drugs
  • increase in people looking for work that aren’t associated with the program
  • all of theses increases happening in an area with parks and schools
  • CASA takes no responsibility for any problems that arise with their members away from the center.

It definitely seemed that a majority of the neighbors at this meeting felt that the city, the mayor’s office, and the Belltown neighborhood are “dumping” CASA Latina out of Belltown and downtown because of recent renovations and a surge in high priced condos and apartments into a more “blighted” neighborhood such as the JP. They seem to be offended that, if this conspiracy exists, these kind of opinions about JP are prevalent. They feel that JP is a residential area and that any form of a day labor organization is better suited for a more industrial area.

This mentality was met with quite alot of resistance with those in opposition using such language as “anti-immigrant” and “unamerican” to descibe these ideas. They seemed to be offended that Latino day laborers are being portrayed as “trashy”, “dirty” people that ruin any neighborhood that they come in contact with, when they are really hard working people just trying to survive in this country.

The fact of the matter is that CASA Latina is coming to JP whether they like it or not. The majority of the neighbors at this meeting understand this, but feel that the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) with CASA should not be signed because it is a meritless document, “without teeth”, leaving CASA with very little responsibility with monitoring those in their program. They also feel that there should be a neighborhood vote on whether or not to sign the agreement.

The board feels that it is too late for members of the neighborhood to organize a vote on this issue. They seem content in signing the document, but will further discuss this matter at the next board meeting Monday, January 7th Location TBA. Anyone may attend this meeting. JPCC website

To an outsider, like myself, it definitely appears that a majority of the neighborhood was left out of this process, although unintentionally. It seems that people waited too long to voice their opinion, and I am not sure that opinions six months ago could have stopped this move. To me, I think that the truth lies in between the two arguments. CASA Latina looks like an organization that is aimed at helping hard working people find much needed work. I feel that they will help many immigrants find work and establish a home here. Isn’t that what this country is about? Hard work and a sense of community? But I also think that there will be some isolated incidents of crime, panhandling, or other unwanted activity that will give this program a bad name and create fuel for some within the neighborhood to say, “See, I told you so!”. But, I hope that CASA lives up to all of its expectations and brings the established members of the neighborhood and the new guests together to make this great neighborhood even better.

So, friend or foe? How about froe.

What’s your opinion on this? Would you want a day labor organization moving in next door to you??

Yeah, me neither.

0 thoughts on “CASA Latina, Friend or Foe?

  1. if this is going to happen, the city MUST to be held accountable if there are problems. there aren’t many neighborhoods left in seattle for the politicos to dump their problems into, so the c-d is often an easy answer. until people around here get organized and get plenty pissed about being a constant punching bag, it’s not going to be much of a fight.

  2. There is a striking pattern in this list of reasons FOR and AGAINST. Each item on the FOR list is a straightforward and undisputable fact. Each item on the AGAINST list is based on a racist stereotype. There is simply no link between what Casa Latina does and crime and drugs, unless one assumes that any increase in brown people automatically brings an increase in crime.

    The neighborhood was not cut out of the process. Meetings were held, and people were allowed to spout their racist nonsense ad nauseum. They lost the argument because they didn’t have one. In this country, neighborhood representatives are no longer empowered to enforce racially exclusionary policies for neighborhood services and businesses.

    Casa Latina is an established, responsible organization that performs a very important service in our community. The skilled workers who get hired out of their center are essential for our local economy. The alternative is completely unsupervised hiring points that are not associated with any sort of training or education, like the one at Home Depot in Sodo. That is the kind of thing that creates problems. Not an organized, responsible center like Casa Latina. It is not a matter of dumping a problem from Belltown. The hiring center is moving because of highway construction at the current site, not problems. The city recognized that Casa Latina is a community service.

  3. The Official Link between casa and crime. This is a Seattle Police report that documents the number of calls for service at the casa Belltown address. The number of calls steadily increased since they opened the doors. They increased 180% from 2000 to 2006, almost 200 calls since opening. Stats aren’t racist.

  4. A Home Depot day laborer tells a Seattle Weekly reporter, “I don’t know about the inside of Casa Latina, but outside sometimes people use drugs, and sell, too.”

  5. I’m with George. Casa Latina is a positive force providing resources to people with few other options. And as a matter of fact, stats often ARE racist. fyi.

  6. The neighborhood, and the community as a whole need to put their differences behind them and start working with CASA instead of against them. They may not like the fact that CASA is coming, but if the two sides work together, so many positive things can be achieved. I hope for the best.