Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by Focusing on Our Future

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 - Congress designated the middle of September to the middle of October as Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanics to the United States. At MALDEF, every day is a day to protect and advance the legal rights of Latinos; to help parents guide their children’s education; and to develop public policies and strategies that shape a future when Latinos will have greater numbers and increase our presence in positions of authority in public, corporate and community life. We need your help today!

This year marks MALDEF’s 40th anniversary as the law firm for the Latino community. Today, the challenges facing the community are as significant as they have ever been. MALDEF attorneys are currently challenging anti-immigrant local ordinances in four states. We have been successful in blocking their implementation but the stakes are high. Beyond the current disruption and fear these ordinances inflict on Latino communities, their aim is to remove Latino school children from local public schools. Defeating these ordinances is our top litigation priority.

Just last week, a California appellate court ruled that AB 540, the law authored by the late Assembly Member Marco Firebaugh, conflicts with federal immigration law and does not allow California to waive out of state tuition for students who graduated from our high schools. While three quarters of the beneficiaries of AB 540 are United States citizens, the law is critically important for undocumented students and the children of undocumented immigrants who have lived their lives here and, with more education, can better contribute to California’s economy and future. We will go and continue this fight in the California Supreme Court. In the meantime, our lawyers are reaching out to students and campus officials to help educate them about the impact of the decision. AB 540 remains the law and policy of California and no student’s dreams or plans for a community college, state college or University of California degree should waver. The ruling is yet another reminder of the importance of Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the federal level, where, as you know, MALDEF remains active.

This year, we also embark on a four-year effort that, together with your help, will mean a record number of Latino Members of Congress and legislators elected in the 2012 election. Right now, we are focused on three areas: 1) Working to protect the right to vote of Latino citizens by litigating against unnecessary voter ID laws that create unacceptable hurdles for citizens to register and vote; 2) Monitoring campaigns for deceptive or other tactics to intimidate Latino voters; and 3) Being ready on Election Day to address complaints and go to court to keep the polls open if delays or disruptions occur.

Next year, we begin education efforts to make sure our community is fully counted in the 2010 Census. It will take a year to do so as community fears of immigrant enforcement may jeopardize their willingness to fill out forms or answer census enumerators’ questions. We must be counted in the census in order for MALDEF attorneys and the community to play an active part in redistricting and reapportionment in 2011. If we do all that we are capable of, you will see Latino legislative districts in states and areas not thought of ten years ago.

The demands on our excellent MALDEF staff are higher than they have ever been. That is because we – all of us – have the capacity, desire and responsibility to do as much as we can to shape a better future for Latinos and for all America. MALDEF needs your support and the best way to honor our heritage and plan for our future as a community is to support MALDEF by clicking here. Together, we will shape the future.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund