“Speak Up” Theme at 88th Annual LULAC National Convention Partnership Luncheon

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Partnership luncheon highlighted key partners working toward the advancement of the Latino community.

Despite a growing feeling of fear, apprehension and even outrage in response to the recent current events, national leaders at the LULAC Convention, expressed hope that through unity, progress can be made.

Joaquin Castro, member, U.S. House of Representatives; Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Maria Elena Durazo, vice chair, Democratic National Committee (DNC) were featured speakers at the Partnership Luncheon at the 88th Annual LULAC National Convention at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Just last week, LULAC and MALDEF, together with lawyers from ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League, were at the Federal Courthouse in San Antonio to stop SB4, the “Show Me Your Papers” bill.

“Our challenges are many,” said Saenz at the luncheon. “SB4 is a law for badge vigilantes. If I ever despair, I remember our history. Through the courage of Latino and Latina residents, we can prevail. Working together, LULAC, MALDEF (and others) we can secure future success for a thriving America.”

Congressman Castro had similar words to applaud the community’s response to the recent health care proposal. “A dozen elected officials cannot hijack policies which affect every American. You spoke up and were heard. Your representatives need to hear where you stand. The new healthcare bill would be a disaster for Texans. If it were to be approved, millions of people would have lost their coverage, including more than 660,000 Texans. No one would win. Except for the one percent. Continue to raise your voice, and let your elected officials —friends and family — know where you stand.”

The DNC’s Durazo recognized the outpouring of engagement and civic participation that led to voter turnout and a turn around in California. “We gave them candidates to vote for. Today, we are in an era where humans are dehumanized. In Arizona, we just threw out racist Joe Arpaio. We are working very hard to rebuild the Democratic Party, from the bottom up.”

While LULAC is a nonpartisan organization, since its conception, it has stood up to support the civil rights of all minorities or people facing discrimination: Latinos, African-Americans, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ or the handicapped. “LULAC has long stood for unity amid diversity. We have advanced so far in the last 88 years. We are not willing to roll back the clock. Rather, we must continue to fight for justice for all,” said LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha, Jr.

The Mexican government, today bestowed its highest honor for one individual, the Ohtli Award, to Luis Roberto Vera, esq. Vera who worked closely with MALDEF, ACLU and other groups to be the first to file a complaint against SB4, has served as LULAC’s general counsel for 19 years. It was a particularly moving moment for Vera. As he received the honor from the Mexican Consul General, his mother was in the audience. Born in Mexico, she was desperate for a better life, and swam across the river at age 14. “Thousands share stories like mine,” he said. “People risk their lives and leave everything they know, behind, hoping for a better future for themselves —but more importantly, for their children.”

The LULAC Convention is the oldest and largest gathering of Latino leaders in the nation and packs more energy and excitement than any other event in the Latino community. This year’s National Convention and Exposition addresses the most pressing issues for the Latino community including a border wall, deportations, SB4 and the new administration’s cutbacks on education, health and human services. Most activities, except meal events, are free and open to the public.

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Geoffrey Nolan
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