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Home | Tag Archives: MALDEF

Tag Archives: MALDEF

State Senator Jose Rodríguez to Receive MALDEF’s Highest Honor

Texas State Sen. José Rodríguez will receive the Valerie Kantor Award for Extraordinary Achievement at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)’s annual gala in San Antonio this Friday.

Sen. Rodríguez will enter his fourth legislative session representing Texas Senate District 29 in the Texas Senate in January 2017. In his first three sessions, Rodríguez has championed the needs of everyday Texans, working across party platforms to develop, pass, and amend legislation.

He has secured funding for local priorities; passed more than 150 bills that support education, health care, sustainable energy, equality, economic development, veterans, and criminal justice reform; and served as an effective leader who relentlessly advocates for the people of Senate District 29 and Texas.

The Valerie Kantor Award for Extraordinary Achievement, the highest honor given by MALDEF, is named for the former MALDEF board member, who served from 1974 until her death in a plane crash in 1978. It is given to former MALDEF board members who have distinguished themselves for their contributions to the group and the Latino community.

“It is a privilege representing the people of District 29 in the Texas State Senate, and it is a privilege to have served the public virtually my entire career, from working for Housing and Urban Development in D.C., making sure farmworkers had access to legal services through Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, to serving as El Paso County Attorney, the elected position I held for 17 years before being elected to the Texas Senate in 2010,” Rodríguez said. “I have always endeavored to be a strong, effective voice for my community, and now more than ever, we need leaders and a government that works to ensure that the opportunities our great state and nation offer are accessible to all. This recognition by MALDEF is a humbling reminder that we have made progress, but our work must continue.”

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access.

“Sen. Rodríguez has made truly exemplary contributions to El Paso and the entire state of Texas, but his influence and leadership have been national in scope,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “MALDEF has been privileged to work with such a paragon of political service as a member of our board of directors for many years, and we are proud to honor him with the Valerie Kantor Award, the highest honor that MALDEF bestows.”

Rodríguez was elected to the Texas Senate in November 2010, after serving as the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years. As a freshman legislator in 2011, he passed 41 bills related to education, health care, economic development, renewable energy, public safety and the courts, ethics and government transparency, and the military.

During the 2013 legislative session, the Senator continued this remarkable record of achievement. He passed 50 bills and two concurrent resolutions into law.

The bills included local priorities with statewide impact — including the transformation of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso from a branch of the Lubbock-based health sciences center to an independent, standalone university component of the Texas Tech University System — as well as a series of reform bills to address cheating and accountability in standardized testing.

Rodríguez built on this record during the 2015 legislative session when he passed 71 bills and concurrent resolutions dealing with education, health care, economic development, veterans, and criminal justice reform; 66 of which became law.

Notably, he helped secure funding for Senate District 29 priority items, including $3.5 million for the long-awaited Franklin Mountain State Park Visitors Center; $70 million in tuition revenue bonds for an interdisciplinary research facility and $7 million for the pharmacy program at the University of Texas at El Paso; $75.52 million in tuition revenue bonds for the Medical Science Building 2 at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-El Paso; and $30 million for Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grants for military cities.

A former migrant farm worker, Rodríguez understands that education and equal opportunity are the keys to individual and community success. He has fought for better funding for our schools, to improve access to health care for millions of uninsured Texans, and for workers’ basic rights, including rest breaks and recovery of unpaid wages.

Rodríguez has worked with colleagues over several sessions to stop anti-immigrant proposals, such as forcing local police into federal immigration enforcement roles; eliminating the ability of Texas DREAMERs, college-age state residents brought here as unauthorized immigrant children, to attend university and pay the same tuition as other Texas residents; and flooding border communities with expensive and unnecessary expansion of DPS troopers on the basis of ill-defined “border security.”

In addition, he fought against efforts to draw electoral lines that diluted minority voting strength, and he has defended equal rights for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.

His remarkable ability to work across party lines and his tenacity on the Senate floor have gained him numerous accolades, including being named “Freshman MVP” by Capitol Inside, “Legislative Hero” by Texas Access to Justice Foundation, “Best of Senate” by the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, “Advocate of the Year, Elected Official” by the Texas Association for Education of Young Children, “Texas Women’s Health Champion” by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Champion of Equality” by Equality Texas, “Legislator of the Year” by the Family Law Foundation, “Senate Legislator of the Year” by Texas Nurse Practitioners, and the “2015 TABE Joe J. Bernal Community Service Honoree” by the Texas Association for Bilingual Education.

Most recently, he was elected Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus. Prior to assuming this position, he served as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus for nearly two years. In addition, Rodríguez is a Presidential Appointee to the 10-person Board of Directors of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission-North American Development Bank (BECC-NADB); a long-serving member of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) Board of Directors; and the current Chairman of the Border Legislative Conference (BLC), which is a joint program of the Council of State Governments (CSG) West and its regional partner in the South, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), and comprised of legislators from the 10 American and Mexican states bordering the U.S.-Mexico border.

Texas faces lawsuit over provision of Border Security Law

Taking aim at a new Texas law making it a state felony to harbor undocumented immigrants, a national civil rights group announced Monday that it is suing the state.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, filed suit Sunday against Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw and the Texas Public Safety Commission, which oversees the DPS. The group alleges that the state has violated the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause because immigration enforcement is only a federal responsibility.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two San Antonio landlords and the director of an immigrant services agency, also says the new provision violates the plaintiffs’ guarantee to due process.

The provision in question is part of House Bill 11, a sweeping border security measure that went into effect in September.

Under that provision, people commit a crime if they “encourage or induce a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection.”

MALDEF said the law was “enacted on dubious advice” because lawmakers were warned that the harboring provision would not withstand a constitutional challenge.

“The U.S. Supreme Court, as well as federal courts in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina have all struck down, as unconstitutional, state-enacted immigrant harboring laws like the one in HB 11,” Nina Perales, MALDEF’s vice president of litigation and the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, said in a statement. “Texas already has enough laws to protect us from human smuggling without targeting religious and nonprofit organizations that care for immigrants.”

The DPS, saying it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, declined to comment for this article. A request for comment from the Texas attorney general’s office wasn’t immediately returned. During debate on the bill, proponents of the provision said it would help crack down on human smuggling by punishing people they were harboring and transporting for profit. 

Jonathan Ryan, the executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, which provides shelter and legal services to undocumented immigrants, is part of the lawsuit along with David Cruz and Valentin Reyes, two San Antonio landlords who do not question their tenants’ immigration status.

Perales said that her plaintiffs haven’t been charged with a crime and that the lawsuit was instead filed to prevent charges against them or any people in their positions.

“Plaintiff Ryan fears that he could be subject to prosecution under HB 11’s harboring provisions for performing work that is central to his role as Executive Director of RAICES” the filing states.

“He further fears that the current and prospective employees and volunteers at RAICES, Casa RAICES, and La Casita will be deterred from seeking or performing work with the organization’s clients for fear of being investigated, arrested, and prosecuted under HB 11’s harboring provisions.”

Perales said recent testimony by McCraw at the state Capitol made filing the litigation more urgent.

“We do know from public statements that were made by Director McCaw that they are moving forward to implement the harboring law so now was the time to challenge it,” she said.

The lawsuit specifically cites McCraw’s testimony from last week where he told lawmakers about the agency’s preparations to further implement HB 11.

“Yes, we’ve educated [and] we’ve trained,” the filing quotes McCraw as telling the committee.

It also cites language from a Dec. 16 hearing where Deputy Attorney General Brantley Starr told lawmakers that although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government has the sole authority over immigration matters the state can craft state-level offenses “as long as they are sufficiently unique.”

MALDEF argues in the filing that although the harboring provisions are codified under the “Human Smuggling” portion of the state’s penal code, current law already protects people from the crime, including language in the state’s kidnapping, human smuggling and unlawful restraint statues.

Author: Julián Aguilar – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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