Oct 18, 2021
The origin story of MALDEF-Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund-is rooted in the vision of the late Pete Tijerina. In 1967, he represented a Latina who was seriously harmed by corporate neglect and then again by a judge’s refusal, as constitutionally required, to seat Latinos on the jury. Discrimination against Latinos, fueled by misinformation, was escalating and the need for a dedicated civil rights infrastructure was clear. In 1968, Mr. Tijerina, fellow advocates and the general counsel of the NAACP, the model for civil rights activism, collaborated to form MALDEF. It’s mission, to promote the civil rights of all Latinos in the US in education, employment, immigration and voting rights could not be more relevant now. It was a rare honor to speak with MALDEF president Thomas Saenz, an expert in civil rights law and a champion for systemic reform to our immigration system. He believes that democracy will be realized when Latinos are seen in the full scope of their humanity and service to this nation, from the highest levels of public service to the frontlines of the pandemic.