CounterIntel in Seattle's Central District

On Monday the 24th of September, I walked through a screen of about a half a dozen biker cops into Douglass-Truth Library, where Judicial Watch co-director and ex-military counterintelligence specialist Chris Farrell was giving a thirty minute long powerpoint presentation outlining the so-called dangers of undocumented workers. Ironically, this soapbox rant from Farrell took place at a meeting for the Good Neighbor Agreement Commitee Meeting that CASA Latina, members of the Seattle Police Department, and various community leaders convened to address concerns about CASA Latina's new home on 17th and Jackson.

CASA Latina is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 by a group of community activists who had been working with Latino homeless in Seattle. They saw the need for an organization that would organize and provide Latinos a stronger voice for recent Latino immigrant laborers. Their programs consist of wage claim advocacy, women's leadership, ESL, and the CASA Latina Day Worker's Center, a free service that allows workers to be contracted by local businesses. Due to Vviaduct construction and a general need to expand their reach, CASA Latina is moving from their old Belltown location in downtown Seattle to a new building on 17th and Jackson, in the heart of the Central District.

However it is the unjust stigma of the day-labor center, and unfair, untrue assumptions about the Latino men served by it, that has drawn national attention to both CASA Latina and the city of Seattle, who provides 25% of their annual budget. While some groups such as the Japanese Congregational Church, the Central Area Development Association, the Seattle Vocational Institute, Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center, and the Squire Park Neighborhood Association embraced CASA's arrival to the neighborhood, others are desperate to keep CASA out. Aggressive business owners, neighborhood associations run by CD-gentrifiers, and other community groups, fearing that the day-labor program will hurt business, bring crime, vandalism, and undesirable people and behavior to the neighborhood, have directed a low blow at CASA Latina by crying to D.C-based Judicial Watch, an NGO that is supposed to monitor government corruption.

In a press release issued Septemper 18th, Judicial Watch claimed that "Seattle, King County & Washington State Apparently Subsidize Criminal Acitivity with Citizen Taxpayer Dollars." The group sent warning letters to Mayor Nickels and the Seattle City Council concerning "the legality of its taxpayer-funded day labor site for illegal aliens." The presentation delivered by Farrell on Monday preyed on the fears and sense of morality of the well-intentioned folks in the room, in an attempt to manipulate their opinions. All the old tricks were pulled out of the hat: federal immigration law was cited for moral appeal, the argument that immigrants pull down wages pitted people of color against each other, the claims that criminal behavior would follow the workers fed on racist assumptions, the assertion that real estate value would plummet was fueled on class divisions. While CASA Latina, members of the Seattle Police Department, and other community leaders were already in the process of forming a Good Neighbor Agreement to address valid concerns from neighbors, Judicial Watch and its local allies were schemeing and plotting to cut this comprimise and collabrative process of at its kness.

Will the Good Neighbor Commitee dissolve? Will Judicial Watch and CASA Latina's opposition take legal action against CASA Latina? Hip Hop, I'll keep ya posted.

Julie C is a freelance writer, emcee, cultural advocate, and community organizer in Seattle. She serves as Northwest Regional Coordinator of Hip Hop Congress, Co-Director of Reclaim the Media, and Assistant Chapterhead of 206 Zulu. She can be reached at Juliec.206 [at] gmail.com.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey