Meet our 2014 Spring Interns

Posted on 02/13/2014 @ 04:34 PM

Get to know Andres Jaime Sanchez

Where are you from?
My parents are from Colombia and Mexico. I was born and raised in Queens, New York.

Why did you want to intern at LJP?
I wanted to intern in an office surrounded by passionate individuals dedicated to serving the Latino community in a transformative way.

Why do you want to be a lawyer? 
 It is a professional pursuit that challenges me every day and has brought out the best in me.

What is your favorite food to eat/make?
I love to cook and eat everything! My favorite would probably be churrasco with chimichurri sauce or porchetta.

What is a hidden talent? 
 I can build a bookshelf out of gas pipes and scrap wood.

What is your motto or philosophy?
The only limits we have are those we place on ourselves.

Mets or the Yankees?
I'm a futbol fan. FC Barcelona!


Get to know Chrystina S. Lopera

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Queens. My parents are Peruvian and Colombian.

Why did you want to work at LJP?
I wanted to work for LJP because I knew I would get the experience I need to achieve my goals. More importantly, I really want to be part of the changes we can make and I knew I would learn about the real issues around the country here.

Why did you want to become a lawyer?
I wanted to become a lawyer to help people and make changes.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)
As a Peruvian I love ceviche but I am the worst cook.

What is a hidden talent?
I was on the Step Team in High School cheering for the Girls Varsity Basketball Team.

What is your motto or philosophy?
Though I am human, innately imperfect and bound to make mistakes, I do not use that inevitability as an excuse.

Knicks or the Nets?
Nets.

Broncos or Seahawks?
Whichever uniform colors appeal to me more.


Get to know Manuel Antonio Lorenzo

Where are you from?
Tenafly, NJ

Why did you want to work at LJP?
I met Jose at a LALSA event honoring Juan during my 1L year and became interested in the work LatinoJustice does. We reconnected this past winter and I wanted to work on some interesting casework/issues affecting Latinos during my last semester of law school.

Why did you want to become a lawyer?
I wanted to enter a career where I thought I could make a positive change in the world.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)
Fried Chicken (homemade)

What is a hidden talent?
Karaoke

What is your motto or philosophy?
Success is when preparation meets opportunity (not mine, but one of my favorites)

Knicks or the Nets?
Knicks

Broncos or Seahawks?
Broncos


Get to know Ben Mejia

Where are you from?
New York City. My father is from Peru and my mother is from the UK.

 Why did you want to work at LJP? I wanted to intern with LJP because LatinoJustice has been a vital force in fighting for and securing equal rights for the Latino/a community.

Why did you want to become a lawyer?
I wanted to become a lawyer because I determined at least two things – that the practice of law could be an intellectually demanding, rewarding career, and that as an attorney, I could work to secure greater liberty and equality for all.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)
Tough question since I love making and eating most kinds of food, but I’m going to have to go with lomo saltado or dumplings.

What is a hidden talent?
I was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

What is your motto or philosophy?
My alma mater’s motto – “mihi cura futuri” – which means “the care of the future is mine.”

Knicks or the Nets?
Nets first, Knicks second.

Broncos or Seahawks?
Who?

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Suffolk Univeristy Law School's Prelaw Seminar

Posted on 01/29/2014 @ 05:23 PM

Register at www.suffolk.edu/prelawseminar

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Join us for the Justice for Job Seekers Community Forum

Posted on 01/29/2014 @ 04:36 PM

Tags: Advocacy, Workplace Justice

A coalition of community, workers and advocacy organizations has come together to fight the Justice for Job Seekers campaign that represents low-wage workers throughout New York. There will be a special performance of the play "Ana Busca Empleo."

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Last Day to Vote for Jazmin Chavez for MillerCoors Lideres

Posted on 10/29/2013 @ 10:47 AM

Tags: Youth Leadership Network

Today is the LAST DAY to vote for Jazmin Chavez for the MillerCoors Lideres Award.

Jazmin is our Coordinator of Communications and Digital Outreach and oversees our Youth Leadership Network. We could tell you what the program is all about, but we'd rather show you.

If we win, we will receive $25,000 for our youth leadership and education programs and it will allow us to continue to create 21st century leaders who are effective both online and offline and who can use their creativity for social justice.

Can we count on your vote? VOTE NOW!

Youth Leadership Network - More Than A Quota Campaign

To view this video, you will need to install the Flash Player.

Please vote for Jazmin Chavez at www.MillerCoorsLideres.com.

Here's how to vote: Enter your date of birth.

Click on the gray box on the left side that says, "Vote for the 2013 Lider of the Year."

 Check the box under Jazmin Chavez.

 Enter the security code in the box provided, also known as the captcha code.

Click on the button that says, "Vote."

Then click on the Lideres Logo on the top left hand side to do it again. You can vote as many times as you want, and we encourage you to vote more than 10 x if you can.

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Know Your Rights Training for Immigrants and Allies

Posted on 10/01/2013 @ 07:38 PM

Know Your Rights Training for Immigrants and Allies

Friday, October 4, 2013

2:00 pm

To Register click here

LATINOJUSTICE PRLDEF located at 99 Hudson Street – 14th Floor between Franklin & Leonard Streets.

Nearest subway stop is #1 local Franklin St station which leaves you a block away, or #2/3 Chambers Street stop several short blocks away, or A/C/E to Canal Street which leaves you several long blocks away.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF will be leading this training in partnership with the New York Immigration Coalition. The training will help organizers and members know how to keep undocumented members safe and the do’s and don’ts of those who may come into contact with the police.

Contact # is (212) 219-3360, info@latinojustice.org.

Please send this out widely as this training will be useful not just for this event but for other days of action going forward.

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Meet our 2013 Fall Interns

Posted on 09/14/2013 @ 05:28 PM

Get to know Eric Eingold

Where are you from?

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

The opportunity to gain experience at one of the most important civil rights organizations in the county would have sounded too good to be true when I was applying for law school. More specifically, I want to learn what being a civil rights lawyer at an organization dedicated to reforming the law actually looks like on a day-to-day basis.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

I went to college in Central Florida and was active with some of the community organizing efforts while I was in school. During my last year of college, the student organization I was a member of began to do work with an organization that represented immigrant farm workers in rural communities north of Orlando. The local sheriff, his actual name was Sheriff Borders (not a joke) was doing his best to emulate Sheriff Arpaio. He had his local officers deputized under 287(g) and there were countless accusations of racial profiling in the area. The thing that propelled me to want to become a social justice lawyer was the work we were doing with the local community. The more the local police terrorized the community, the more they organized and fought back. After that I knew I wanted to find a career in social justice and after a couple twists and turns I realized that I could best serve the individuals and organizations I want to work with as an attorney.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Be aware that we might request you make it for us!)

Really good ramen soup (not the 12 pack you can buy for $1).

What is a hidden talent?

Eerily good remembering archaic and irrelevant sports statistics.

What is your motto or philosophy?

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time.But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Lilla Watson, Aboriginal activist in Australia

Mets or the Yankees?

I'm from South Florida, and the Marlins owner is so terrible any person with a conscience can't support the team. The Heat and the Dolphins were my first loves!


Get to know Michelle Gonzalez

Where are you from?
Queens, NY

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

I wanted to intern at LJP to learn about litigation strategy in civil rights cases.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

I want to become a lawyer because of LJP . Prior to going to law school, I worked at LJP for two years as the Executive Assistant and was very inspired by the work and accomplishments of the legal team. I want to effect the kind of change the LJP team has in the realm of racial justice and empower communities of color.

What is your favorite food to eat/make?

(Be aware that we might request you make it for us!) Pollo guisado. It’s probably the only dish I’ve really mastered!

What is a hidden talent?

My sense of hearing is almost superhuman.

What is your motto or philosophy?

The philosophy my mom passed on to me is, “No hay mal que por bien no venga.”

Mets or the Yankees?

Although I’m from Queens, I was raised to root for the Yankees.


Get to know Lino Diaz

Where are you from?:
Freeport, Long Island

Why did you want to intern at LJP?:
I first heard about LJP shortly after the passage of S.B.1070, and when I found that they did impact litigation, and thus would be working to take a stand against obviously racist and harmful legislation, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the organization

Why do you want to be a lawyer?:
I want to be a lawyer because I want to use the law as a sword to effect change for the communities I care most about.

What is your favorite food to eat/make:
Eat (as my cooking abilities are mostly limited to omelets): lasagna, drenched in hot sauce

What is a hidden talent:
I’m a pretty decent violin player

What is your motto or philosophy:
Life is for living

Mets or Yankees:
Knicks


Get to know Versely Rosales

Where are you from?
Ridgewood, Queens

Why did you want to intern at LJP?
I want to assist attorneys devise innovative litigation and legislative strategies that will lead to positive change and empower underserved communities.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?
Because I believe I can be an effective agent of change through the practice of law.

What is your favorite food to eat/make?
Right now, grad school ramen.

What is a hidden talent?
Distance runner

What is your motto or philosophy?
Mihi Cura Futuri – the Care of the Future is Mine.

Mets or the Yankees? Yankees.


Get to know you Andres Jaime Sanchez

Where are you from?
My parents are from Colombia and Mexico. I was born and raised in Queens, New York.

Why did you want to intern at LJP?
I wanted to intern in an office surrounded by passionate individuals dedicated to serving the Latino community in a transformative way.

Why do you want to be a lawyer? 
 It is a professional pursuit that challenges me every day and has brought out the best in me.

What is your favorite food to eat/make?
I love to cook and eat everything! My favorite would probably be churrasco with chimichurri sauce or porchetta.

What is a hidden talent? 
 I can build a bookshelf out of gas pipes and scrap wood.

What is your motto or philosophy?
The only limits we have are those we place on ourselves.

Mets or the Yankees?
I'm a futbol fan. FC Barcelona!


Get to know Zion Rivera

Where are you from?
I'm from Brownsville, Brooklyn. My family, initially, was poor, but after my mom managed to open a family day care within our home, we became part of the working or rather, lower-middle class.

Why did you want to intern at LJP?  
 Although I intended to get a business related internship, I do not regret my decision to intern here. I chose LJP because of the location, type of work environment, and because I already had skills related to clerical work. I am very computer savvy and I the computers in my house have been salvaged, upgraded, and repaired by me.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?   
I am not sure if I would like to be a part of the law field. I was thinking that I would go to college for business, more specifically, business management or accounting.

What is your favorite food to eat/make?   
My favorite food to make chicken sauteed in white wine and served with tomato sauce.

What is a hidden talent?   
I enjoy being the one behind the camera, the cinematographer. I partake in parkour and capoeira.

What is your motto or philosophy?  
One of my favorite sayings is "Discretion is the better part of valor." I am non-confrontational and I try to live a peaceful existence. 

Mets or the Yankees?  
Although I may live in the city, it does not mean that I necessarily like what is normally associated with it. My brother and I used to play on a baseball team and since then I have not watched the sport, but if I had to choose, it would have to be the Yankees because they represent New York sports better.

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LAWbound Summer 2013

By Sonji Patrick on 08/15/2013 @ 06:27 PM

Tags: LAWbound, legal education

August5th—9th was the 9th consecutive summer academy for our LAWbound program. The Luis J. DeGraffe Summer Academy is the week-long pre-law intensive for college students accepted into LAWbound. The goal of the program is to provide students with the tools they need to become successful law school applicants, and to expose them to the diversity of career paths in the law. The scholars spend a week at our offices receiving comprehensive instruction on the law school admissions process, participating in a mock Civil Procedure law class, and visiting with legal practitioners from different areas.

This summer’s class had 10 scholars from 9 different undergraduate schools. Two students came from Columbia University, and the rest were from Cornell University, Iona College, John Jay College, New Jersey City University, New School University, New York City Technical College of CUNY, New York University and Southern Connecticut State University.

100% of the scholars were of Hispanic heritage. This class was made of students that were primarily older. Six out of the 10 students are going to be seniors this coming academic year. Two were graduates and only two will be juniors. Women continue to make up the majority of the program. Out of the 10 scholars only two were young men. Historically, our program has been 68% female. This trend continues from last year, and may indicate a widening gap between the genders within the Latino legal community.

LatinoJustice thanks our loyal volunteer presenters: Prof. Fabio Arcila of Touro College Law Center, Yvonne Cherena-Pacheco of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and Angela Joseph of CUNY Law School who come to our offices annually to teach our scholars. We also thank the organizations who hosted our visits and organized panels and tours for LAWbound: New York Law School, The New York State Attorney General’s Office, Verizon Communications, Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP, and the District Attorney’s Office of New York County. This program would not be a success without the committed volunteer presenters and hosts. Of course, the Legal Education program team thanks our LatinoJustice family for not only participating in the week’s curriculum, but also for helping to maintain a smooth, efficient operation.

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If You Were a Teen, You Might Cross the Street Too If You Saw These Cops

Posted on 07/30/2013 @ 02:10 PM

“The point of police is not to instill fear, the point of police is to protect people.” - Kasiem Walters, LatinoJustice & Peapod Adobe Youth Voices Youth Leadership Network Fellow

Kasiem Walters is a high school senior from Flatbush, Brooklyn. Kasiem is also the target of the local police. Why? Because of his age and skin color. Kasiem has been stopped and frisked by the police seven times in his community.

Where I Am Going Kasiem

“The first time I was stopped and frisked I was about 13 years old. I was, of course, leaving my house on my way to school to pick up a friend,” he says in a new #WhereIAmGoing video. “I was just waiting outside, and the cops just pulled up and asked, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’”

“They went through my bookbag, threw my stuff on the ground and all that,” Kasiem recalls. “They were just asking me questions and being rough with me, telling me where I’m going to end up. ‘Do you want to end up in jail?’”

How is a 13-year-old boy supposed to react to this experience? Kasiem said he feels like “It forces you to have this mindset that you are a criminal.”

Kasiem and others don’t need to be afraid in their own communities – we can lift up voices of those impacted by stop and frisk to show that as a community we want to feel safe when we see a police officer. “[The police should] make us feel like we can go to them ... when we see them we can say what’s up.”

As part of the #WhereIAmGoing campaign, we will share a number of stories about stop and frisk – teenager Kasiem’s story, a mother’s story, a pastor’s story, and a police officer’s story.

You can help: sharing these stories is the first step in helping others understand the dangers of stop and frisk.

But we know there are many other stories out there. If you have an experience with stop and frisk that you want to share, let us know through Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #WhereIAmGoing. Where we are going with stop and frisk policies can change if you are heard!

Visit: http://bit.ly/whereteen
Facebook: http://facebook.com/changethenypd
Twitter: http://twitter.com/changethenypd
Hashtag: #whereiamgoing

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The State of Law School Admissions: Is This Is A Good Time To Go To Law School?

By Sonji Patrick on 07/25/2013 @ 07:45 PM

Tags: legal education, Law School

With everyone still wondering about the security of the legal job market and law school applications heading for historic lows, it has been increasingly difficult for law schools to recruit a diverse student body. Thus, there are some things that Latino prospective law applicants should consider during this downturn. If you are preparing for the October LSAT and planning for fall 2014 admission, the time is now. There is no time to waste.

In a presentation at this year’s Northeast Association of Pre-Law Advisors (NAPLA) Annual Conference, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) reported that many law schools’ median LSAT scores have dropped 3-5 points. In fact, the number of LSATs administered has steadily decreased since the 2009-10 admission season from 171,514 at that time to 112,515 for the 2012-13 testing season.

What does all of this tell us? This tells us that law schools are facing challenges across the board filling their incoming classes, which means even more of a struggle to achieve diversity. It also tells us that students who felt their LSAT score may not be competitive should really study the current climate and consider applying. We are encouraging students who have solid GPAs, and LSAT scores in the high 140s and 150s—but have been delaying law school—to go ahead and apply. I have heard many of our pre-law constituents argue for years that their score does not define their capabilities as a law student. Now may be your ideal chance to prove it.

For the fall of 2012, applicants that identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino had decreased by 3.9% from the previous year. Puerto Rican applicants had declined by 9.9% for the same period. As of the midyear (January) of this year, the Hispanic/Latino numbers were down 16% for fall 2013 entry. This number may have rebounded if it mimics the overall trend. For fall of 2013, as of January, applications were down 24% nationally with 84 schools reporting a 30% or more decrease and 61 schools reporting a 20—29% downgrade. However, as of June, the overall application count adjusted upward to a 19% decrease from the fall of 2012.

Interestingly, although the number of Hispanic applications decreased for the fall of 2012 (3.9%), the number of acceptances increased by 2.9%. The same is true for African American applicants: 6.4% decrease for last fall in applicants, but 5.3% increase in acceptances. Native American and Alaska Native applicants saw a decrease of 3.1% in applicant pool, but acceptances remained the same. For Puerto Rican applicants the news is more dismal. In the fall of 2012, the number of Puerto Rican applicants decreased by 9.9% and acceptances also decreased by 13.2%. This requires further study and means that we have more work to do to address this decline.

On the plus side, law schools have taken notice of the trends in the current job market that value experiential education. They have responded by incorporating opportunities in their curricula for more professional skills development, cross-training if you will. Some schools have chosen to condense their law degree into two years versus the traditional three. Others have enhanced their academic programs so that students may earn certificates in business management (for example); made it easier to earn a joint degree or have increased clinical, fellowship and other opportunities for on-the-job training. Every law school who made a presentation at this year’s NAPLA conference talked about the changes they have developed to make their graduates more competitive in this highly demanding and still limited job market.

So what is the takeaway? If you are a prospective law student who is either Latino or from another underrepresented group in law school, the decline in enrollment and the changes law schools are making suggest this might be a good time to carefully consider applying to make your dream of attending law school a reality. The question remains: how will you respond to this new law school landscape?

LatinoJustice PRLDEF offers a variety of workshops and programs to help you on the road to law school. Check our website for upcoming events and join us for our 31st Annual Law Day on Sunday, October 6th.

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Otra razón para apoyar a Tom Pérez

Posted on 07/16/2013 @ 12:11 PM

Otra razón para apoyar a Tom Pérez

Juan Cartagena Presidente, LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Los nombramientos del Presidente Obama son recibidos hoy día con demoras, dudas, y maniobras innecesarias. El partidismo extremo que domina al capitolio en estos años ha permitido un estancamiento en los procesos de nombramientos y ratificaciones. Si el senado sigue así el gobierno no puede gobernar. Pero cuando tiene que ver con nombramientos hispanos -- en una era de pocos hispanos teniendo voz a los círculos más íntimos del presidente – estas jugadas son intolerables. Especialmente para la minoría más grande del país, los latinos.

El super-cualificado Tom Pérez se encuentra en el ojo de esta tormenta. Con una trayectoria impresionante del servicio al público y los marginalizados en Maryland anteriormente, y a nivel nacional en su puesto de dirigente de derechos civiles en el Departamento de Justicia, el Sr. Pérez tiene poco rivales. El presidente lo nominó a ser Secretario del Departamento de Labor hace ya cuatro meses. La minoría republicana del Senado ha rechazado su candidatura y hacen todo lo posible para desviar el nombramiento del único latino que se sea parte del gabinete de Obama al presente. Al presentir que los votos no iban a favor del presidente, el liderazgo del senado decidió posponer hasta julio cualquier voto inicial al nombramiento.

Pero el jefe de derechos civiles, aun esperando buenas noticias, no dejó de proteger a las minorías del país. Y de ahí viene otra razón contundente para apoyar al Sr. Pérez. El Departamento de Justicia ofreció su opinión en el litigio en Nueva York contra “Stop & Frisk” del al policía nuevayorquina. Pérez y Eric Holder, el Secretario de Justicia, ofrecieron a la corte federal su asistencia si la juez federal decida a favor de los demandantes y en contra de la ciudad en el caso de discriminación por las prácticas del elenco policiaca que excesivamente detiene y revisa a más de 600 mil personas al año. Específicamente, Pérez indico que el puesto de un asesor independiente con poderes de informar a la corte sobre el progreso de implementar nuevos procedimientos para eliminar las practicas excesivas y discriminatorias por la policía sería un remedio apropiado en estos litigios. El mismo Pérez, que tiene un record admirable en demandar por discriminación y abuso a departamentos de policía a nivel nacional, le dijo a la corte que en varia ciudades como Los Angeles, New Orleans, Detroit y Pittsburgh, el papel del asesor independiente es saludable en estos litigios y es indispensable para ganar la confianza de las comunidades en estos casos.

Y no solo eso. El uso de un asesor independiente mejoraría la seguridad pública en la ciudad y aumentaría la eficacia de la policía en general. Y con este planteamiento a la corte federal, el Sr. Pérez señala que estará dispuesto de ayudar a resolver el problema de “Stop & Frisk”.

El hecho que Pérez y su jefe el Secretario Holder fueron inmediatamente criticados por el Alcalde Bloomberg y el Comisionado Ray Kelly en este asunto, representa otra razón para apoyar al Sr. Pérez. Porque cuando te encuentras en la mira de la ira del alcalde en cuanto a “Stop & Frisk” es porque estás haciendo algo justo.

Ahora tenemos que asegurar que lo que representa Tom Pérez, calidad, servicio al público, compromiso y valentía, serán representado en el gabinete del presidente Obama con su asunción a Secretario del Departamento de Labor.

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Applications Now Being Accepted for 2014 Public Interest Fellowship

Posted on 07/08/2013 @ 05:51 PM

About Us:
LatinoJustice PRLDEF is one of the foremost Latino civil rights organizations in the country, serving a pan-Latino constituency. Since 1972 we have brought precedent-setting impact litigation that has profoundly improved the treatment of Latinos in our society. Current areas of focus include constitutional rights, immigrants’ rights, redistricting, voting rights, housing, education, language and job discrimination, workplace justice issues, freedom of movement and treatment of day laborers, criminalization of Latinos, unlawful police practices, and all forms of bias that adversely affect Latinos. Recent landmark successes include Lozano v. City of Hazleton, enjoining a Pennsylvania town from enforcing its own immigration ordinance restricting access to employment and housing, and Doe v. Mamaroneck, prohibiting discriminatory police enforcement against day laborers in Westchester, NY. Our primary geographic focus is the Eastern United States with an expanded focus on the Southeastern U.S. particularly Florida.

Qualifications:
LatinoJustice seeks applications from rising law students entering their third year of law school or recent graduates who will be engaged in a judicial clerkship for the coming year who will be eligible for a fellowship commencing in September 2014. We are seeking energetic, motivated candidates with a record of commitment to social justice issues, and who have excellent legal research, writing and communications skills. Bilingual Spanish/English fluency is required.

We invite applicants to submit a summary project proposal which should also describe how the proposed project fits within LatinoJustice’s mission and our current litigation priorities. Project proposals should also incorporate and include law reform litigation as part of the project. We will also work with candidates to create a winning fellowship proposal. Note that Skadden, Equal Justice Works and other fellowship programs each have their own specific eligibility criteria, and applicants should check their respective websites for further details and requirements.

Salary & Benefits:
Salary is determined by LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s contract salary scale, as set forth by collective bargaining, which is comparable to other NYC public interest organizations. Fringe benefits include health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance as well as vacation, sick, family, and medical leave.

To Apply:
Submit resume, academic transcript (unofficial copy ok) and cover letter describing your proposed fellowship project proposal by no later than July 26th, 2013 to Jose Perez, Associate General Counsel at: jperez@latinojustice.org. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until a fellowship candidate is selected.

2014 Fellowship Application

Public Interest Fellowships Are Available at LatinoJustice PRLDEF for Fall.

More

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Call Congress and Tell Them to Restore the Voting Rights Act

Posted on 06/27/2013 @ 04:44 PM

Call your members of Congress and help us restore the Voting Rights Act.

To reach your senators offices, you can dial (toll free) 888-995-8349. If that line doesn’t work, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Read the statement of Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

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Statement of Juan Cartagena Denouncing the Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Part of the Voting Rights Act

Posted on 06/25/2013 @ 01:46 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 25, 2013

Media Contacts: LatinoJustice PRLDEF – John Garcia, (212) 739-7513

The Supreme Court today eviscerated the most effective sections of the Voting Rights Act in a decision that will roll back the critically important gains made by Latinos in Section 5 jurisdictions, potentially halting their rising political power. In a 5-4 split decision the Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, ruled that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the VRA, which undergirds Section 5, was unconstitutional.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF Amicus Brief in Shelby County v. Holder

Section 4 details the formula used for deciding which states and jurisdictions with histories of voting discrimination are prevented from enforcing changes to their election procedures until the changes have been reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or a federal court through a process called preclearance. The Court found that the VRA's present formula for deciding which jurisdictions should be subject to preclearance is unconstitutional, because while the formula was rational in the 1960s, it's not anymore. In other words, things are so different today that it justifies overturning decades of court decisions.

“Ignoring overwhelming evidence of ongoing discrimination in voting today, a majority of the Supreme Court today dismissed thousands of pages of testimony in one of the most extensive congressional records ever to support federal legislation, in a brazen act of judicial activism. Congress apparently has no constitutionally protected role in enforcing the anti-discrimination guarantees of the 14th and 15th Amendments,” says Juan Cartagena, President General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“Section 5 protections exist in the largest four states with Latino populations: California, Texas, New York and Florida. Make no mistake about it. This decision rolls back these protections at a time when the mid-term elections in 2014 will be a signal of the growing political clout Latino voters will exercise. We will now have to prepare to fight off multiple attempts to stop and derail the Latino vote.

“To that end, we ask that President Obama and Attorney General Holder invest additional resources in the Voting Section of the Department of Justice to ward off what will be an avalanche of regressive voting laws. Similarly, we ask the Attorney Generals in New York and elsewhere that stood with us to support Section 5 to stand with us again to ward off these proposed laws. Finally, we call upon Congress to re-energize its efforts to secure amendments to the Voting Rights Act that overturn this decision,” noted Cartagena.

Section 5 of the VRA has been an effective tool for LatinoJustice PRLDEF to combat voter discrimination. In the 1980s it was used to halt New York City primary elections in total because of a failure to obtain preclearance of discriminatory city council redistricting plans. In recent years LatinoJustice PRLDEF has used Section 5 to impact voting changes in Hillsborough County, Florida where we’ve worked with Latino voters in Tampa, and in New York City where we shaped the New York State Senate, Assembly and New York City Council redistricting plans through our Unity Plan efforts.

The Unity Plans were the product of coordinated advocacy and legal analysis by the City’s top Latino, African-American and Asian-American voting rights attorneys and political activists that used the leverage of Section Five to create positive change for all protected minorities.

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CIRfloor Update

Posted on 06/24/2013 @ 04:11 PM

ACTION ALERT!

The Senate will have a procedural vote on the Corker/Hoeven bill that will highly increase border security and negatively affect our border towns, at 5:30pm. Although it is unlikely that the bill will pass without any of the border security provisions, we must urge our senators to keep fighting for our border communities!

Sign this petition to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and urge them to continue fighting for our border communities. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/senators-schumer-gillibrand?source=c.url&r_by=8075849

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/chuckschumer

Thank you for your commitment and leadership in fighting for our border communities. As NY’ers, this border surge is of great concern to us and we need your continued leadership to help include the requirement for all border patrol agents to wear lapel cameras and to grant greater authority to the newly-created Border Task Force in the immigration reform package. We are counting on you to continue fighting for our border communities during this immigration reform debate.

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KirstenGillibrand

We need you to support our border communities and all New Yorkers in the fight for Comprehensive immigration reform. As NY’ers, this border surge is of great concern to us and we need your continued leadership to help include a measure requiring all border patrol agents to wear Lapel Cameras and grant greater authority to the newly-created Border Task Force in the immigration reform package.

CALLS: Please call Senators Schumer and Gillibrand today as soon as possible. Leave voicemails if necessary. Thank you!!!

The Corker-Hoeven amendment has been folded into a substitute bill introduced by Senator Leahy. A procedural vote (cloture) on the substitute bill is expected today with a final vote on the bill likely this Thursday or Friday.

Please call Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand to voice concern about the border compromise, emphasizing use of lapel cameras by border patrol agents and granting subpoena power to the newly-created Border Task Force.

The message is simple:

“My name is [ ] and I represent [Name of Organization]. We were pleased to hear Senator Schumer express support for inclusion of greater oversight and accountability for Border Patrol. We believe the following measures must be included in any immigration reform package. We urge you to fight to include the following measures:

1. Require all border patrol agents to wear lapel cameras
2. Grant greater authority to the newly-created Border Task Force

As New Yorkers, we are here to support you to get these critical fixes into the bill.”

Senator Schumer’s Office
Washington D.C. Office Phone: 202-224-6542
New York Office Phone: 212-486-4430

Senator Gillibrand’s Office
New York City Office Tel. (212) 688-6262
Washington, DC Office Tel. (202) 224-4451

Tweet at Schumer and Gillibrand

Sample tweets:

.@ChuckSchumer Thanx for supporting our border communities. We are counting on you to continue your support for civil rights in #CIR bill!

.@ChuckSchumer Support lapel cameras & grant greater authority to the newly created Border Task Force #CIR #timeisnow #CIRfloor

.@ChuckSchumer As NY’ers, this border surge is of great concern to us. Please continue to support our border communities! #CIR #TIMEISNOW

.@SenGillibrand Help fight for our border communities by increasing authority to newly created Border Task Force #CIR #TIMEISNOW #NY4CIR

.@SenGillibrand We need your support in this border surge! Help by fighting for our border communities #CIR #TIMEISNOW #ny4cir #cirfloor

.@SenGillibrand As NY’ers, the border surge is of great concern to us. PLS support our border communities #CIR #TIMEISNOW #NY4CIR #cirfloor

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NALEO National Voter Registration Summer Program

Posted on 06/10/2013 @ 01:35 PM

NALEO is currently seeking recent graduates, current undergraduates or graduate students to participate in their National Voter Registration Summer Program. NALEO will be offering this unique opportunity in California (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego), District of Columbia, Florida (Miami), Texas (Houston, San Antonio), New York City, and North Carolina (Raleigh).

Resumes will be accepted for the summer program through Tuesday, June 11th. Internships will begin the week of June 17th and conclude in August.

For more information, visit: http://www.naleo.org/downloads/NALEO_Summer_VR_Opportunity.pdf

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We Need You To Step Up for Immigration Reform

Posted on 06/06/2013 @ 05:43 PM

In 2007, while activists and aspiring citizens from all walks of life marched and rallied, opponents of immigration reform just sat on their couches and made call after call to members of Congress.

Ultimately, their direct contact to lawmakers decided the fate of comprehensive immigration reform--and it didn't go in our favor.

Six years later, Congress is considering a new bill that will provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America. This time around, we know what we all have to do to win. That's why we're asking you to make one call per day, for the next week, until Senator Johnson votes to support commonsense immigration reform.

Let's beat the naysayers at their own game: http://action.seiu.org/page/content/100/

The Senate will most likely vote on the S. 744 immigration reform bill in mid-June, debates open up TOMORROW and we don't just need every Democrat on our side - we need Republicans too.

We're going to need to pass this bill with strong bi-partisan support in order for the legislation to survive in the House, which is why it's imperative your Senator hear from you now. Legislative strategists have determined that it takes at least 100 calls per day to sway how a Senator votes. Just 100 calls a day can make or break a piece of legislation.

Be 1 of 100 callers and commit to calling your Senator every day for the next week? Just 7 simple phone calls could change the landscape of immigration in our country.

The most effective thing you can do is call.

When it's all said and done, don't you want to know that you did absolutely everything you could do to pass this legislation?

Be 1 of 100 callers to tell the Senators every day that you support commonsense immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans:

http://action.seiu.org/page/content/100/

In Solidarity,

LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

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Call to Action: DREAM Act

Posted on 06/06/2013 @ 02:30 PM

Join us TODAY as we call Governor Cuomo and urge him to publicly support the NY DREAM Act and urge the State Senate to pass the bill this session!

We need a mass amount of calls coming into his office! So take 2 minutes out of your day to call Gov. Cuomo.

T he dreams of undocumented youth cannot wait!

DIAL 1-518-474-8390

“Hi my name is ___________ and I am calling to urge Governor Cuomo to make NYS DREAM Act bill S.2378, which would extend TAP to undocumented youth, a priority. Governor Cuomo needs to publicly support it and urge the senate to pass the NYS DREAM Act now!”

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Meet our 2013 Summer Interns

Posted on 05/30/2013 @ 04:21 PM

We have another round of phenomenal college and law school interns in the office. We asked them the complicated questions! Here's the results!

Meet Adela Hurtado:

Where are you from?

Miami Beach, Florida

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

I wanted the opportunity to be able to help the Latino community because it is something I am passionate about. I’ve heard the great things LatinoJustice does and wanted to get involved.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

To be able to help those whose civil and human rights are being violated.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)

Veal, red/white onions, with pasta. It’s one of my favorite dishes my father makes for me. I like to throw in green peppers now into the mix!

What is a hidden talent? Photography! It’s something I love to do and study.

What is your motto or philosophy? “One day’s anger can destroy your entire life.” – Zhuge Liang (181-234AD), my role model. He was a prime minister and brilliant statesman during the Three Kingdoms period in China.

Mets or the Yankees?

Yankees.


Meet Lindsey Kaley: 

Where are you from?

Maine

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

I wanted to work with an organization that used litigation to fight for civil rights, while still being connected with the needs and goals of the community. LatinoJustice PRLDEF promises to really engage with both worlds.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

I want to use the privilege that lawyers have within our society and the legal system to work for disadvantaged communities.

What is your favorite food to eat/make?  (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)

I could eat ice cream everyday (especially during the summer), but I love to bake, particularly pumpkin chocolate chunk muffins.

What is a hidden talent?

I’m great at karaoke…even if I’m not so great at singing.

What is your motto or philosophy?

Question everything—there’s always another perspective.

Mets or the Yankees?

Yankees.


Meet Amy Pont: 

Where are you from? 

New Jersey

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

Protect the rights of Latin@s!

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

To change the law!

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)

Arepas- especially with cheese 

What is a hidden talent?

Identifying the names of songs within the first two second of being played

What is your motto or philosophy?

Live life to the fullest!

Mets or the Yankees?

Yankees


Meet Luisanna Del Rosario:

Where are you from?

Dominican-American from Washington Heights, NYC

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

I am deeply committed to social justice issues-particularly those that impact the Latino Community. Why do you want to be a lawyer? I have always relished the opportunity to be an advocate for my family and community. Being an attorney would provide me with a unique platform from which to help empower those who have been historically disadvantaged.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)

Mami's pernil (emphasis on Mami)

What is a hidden talent?

I sing- I used to be in my school gospel choir once upon a time.

What is your motto or philosophy?

No truth is absolute.

Mets or the Yankees?

A bit torn on this one but I'll have to go with the Mets.


Meet Stephanie Cordero: 

Where are you from?

Native of Quito, Ecuador, but have been living in Queens for the past 13 years.

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

To fight for Latin@’s rights. Why do you want to be a lawyer? To use the law as a tool to empower my community.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)

Steak! (to eat though; my hidden nontalent is I don’t know how to cook : / )

What is a hidden talent?

I know how to do a cartwheel.

What is your motto or philosophy?

Living is easy with eyes closed.

Mets or the Yankees?

Mets


Meet Xavier Martinez: 

Where are you from? 

Washington Heights, New York City

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

I have been interested in social justice issues for many years, particularly those that affect the Latino community. It was natural that I would want to intern for Latino Justice after seeing the interesting and important cases on its docket. I also thought that the impact litigation approach was extremely appealing as I would have a chance to contribute to potentially huge landmark cases.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

I have always wanted to be a lawyer to provide a voice for individuals who do not have one in society. My main goal in practicing law is to represent the interests of marginalized social groups in society, including those of my friends, family and broader Latin American and African American community.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)

I love a well-made macaroni and cheese. I, however, am not a good cook and will not be able to do macaroni and cheese any justice. BUT, I am an excellent eater with a refined palate for luxurious macaroni and cheese.

What is a hidden talent?

I train in Thai Kickboxing and have had an amateur fight.

What is your motto or philosophy?

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

Mets or the Yankees?

YANKEES ALL DAY. I Will be seeing the subway series tonight.


Meet Cecilia Frescas: 

Where are you from?

I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico but came to the U.S. with my mother and four brothers at the age of 6. I was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I went to elementary, middle, and high school. I came to New York City to attend Eugene Lang College The New School University for Liberal Arts, where I am currently going into my third year double-majoring in Global Studies and Politics.

Why did you want to intern at LJP?

As a community organizer, I have worked closely with my community on various social justice issues. However, for the past five years I have only been involved at the forefront of the movement, and not necessarily paid much attention to all of the organizing that occurs in the background. Interning at Latino Justice would give me an opportunity to have a more holistic view of the social justice work that takes place within different realms. Not only that, but interning with LJP would also provide me with an opportunity to meet people that work in the field of law, and that have utilized litigation and other tools to create systemic changes. Also, as an undergrad who is thinking about grad school, it is important for me to understand social justice as it pertains to different professional careers.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

I have always been very fascinated by law and the power that it has in society. However, it was recently that I discovered how law can be used to help change society in many ways. I realized that it does not matter how many people are out in the streets protesting, the real change comes once laws can also be changed. That being the case, it is very important to have lawyers that can help change those laws and that can also help the community understand the very different laws that are already in place. Currently, and after having conversations with many of the other legal interns, I am still deciding whether law is the right career choice for me.

What is your favorite food to eat/make? (Beware that we might request you make it for us!)

As a good Mexican, I absolutely love pork (Carnitas) tacos! That is definitely one food that I cannot do without. I am also known to be a very big fanatic of Mofongo, and I don't say that just because I am at LatinoJustice!

What is a hidden talent?

I am known to be very good at being loud, which works its wonders when I am out in the streets protesting or giving a speech!

Mets or the Yankees?

If I had to choose, I'd have to say the Mets!

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Vieques Remembered

Posted on 05/13/2013 @ 03:19 PM

By Juan Cartagena May 2013

Ten years ago on May 1st, I entered the pristine Red Beach of Vieques, Puerto Rico that for 60 years prior was reserved only for the military officers of the U.S. Navy. It was an appropriate cleansing after a night of celebration that heralded May 1, 2003 as Vieques Libre Day and the end of the 60 year naval bombing of this gorgeous island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Along with my fellow protestors and veterans from New Jersey we were also enjoying access to untouched areas of Vieques as a symbolic gift for years of protests, condemnations and civil disobedience.

The Vieques movement is a catalytic episode in the history of Puerto Rico and its diaspora. It is also an amazing tale of resistance, fortitude and the strength of nonviolent, civil disobedience against the largest military forces of the world.

It was also one of my proudest moments as an activist, civil rights lawyer.

For decades the people and the fishermen of Vieques and nearby Culebra Island had resisted the U.S. military occupation of their islands. Culebra was a focal point for many of the activist and independence forces of Puerto Rico and its own victory that ended the continuation of naval bombing in 1975.

But what the Navy gave in Culebra it appropriated in Vieques. Vieques represented a larger investment by the Pentagon and housed its practice areas for land, sea and air bombing exercises that inundated the island with explosives on both its eastern and western shores.

In the middle stood the residences of Vieques’ 9,000 plus community, besieged daily by the sounds, smells and pollutants generated by the naval exercises. Napalm, Agent Orange and other toxic substances were all previewed in Vieques. Unexploded ordinances on land and in the seabed were a constant source of frustration for those who dared to enter the military zone, or to eke out a living subsiding on fishermen's wages.

In 1998, that all changed with the tragic death of a civilian worker, David Sanes Rodríguez, who was killed by an errant bomb in a naval exercise. His death was not the first one attributable to the military occupation because Vieques was, and still is, an island that faced disproportionate rates of cancer and other debilitating diseases. Vieques also witnessed violent clashes between its residents and the U.S. military whenever the military was on leave. And in 1978 Angel Rodríguez Cristóbal protested the military occupation of Vieques was arrested for trespass and died mysteriously in federal jail in Florida, terrorizing all future protestors. But the death of Mr. Sanes Rodríguez was definitely the incisive moment that galvanized Puerto Ricans of all political persuasions and that eventually led to Vieques Libre Day.

For the next five years Vieques grew to become the cause celebre of my generation of Puerto Rican activists, on both sides of the charco. Increasing levels of organized resistance, hunger strikes, unauthorized entry into the militarized zones, and waves of civil disobedience arrests galvanized Puerto Ricans and their supporters. In Puerto Rico thousands of supporters flooded Vieques led by unions, churches, political parties, environmentalists and more.

Vieques fishermen and their families recounted horrific tales of disease, courageous tales of chasing naval battalion carriers with single-motored boats, and inspiring accounts of their generational resistance and quest for peace. Puerto Rican independence leader Ruben Berríos defiantly camped within the military zone for months while his ideological counterpart, Governor and statehood supporter Pedro Roselló yelled at a Congressional committee “don’t push it!” at a hearing on Vieques.

Rarely did the three strands of political life in Puerto Rico (commonwealth status quo, statehood, and independence) coalesce in the way they did over the goal to demilitarize Vieques. In short order celebrities joined the cause as Edward James Olmos, Robert Kennedy Jr., Jesse Jackson, and Jacqueline Jackson joined island celebrities Ricky Martin, Danny Rivera, Robbie Draco Rosa, Carlos Delgado and countless others in wave after wave of civil disobedience.

All three Congress representatives from the diaspora engaged in disobedience and were arrested: Nydia Velázquez and Luis Gutiérrez in Vieques and José Serrano in a solitary protest in front of the White House in DC. Through efforts supported by these representatives, the leaders of the Vieques movement came to New York to enlist the support of the Rev. Al Sharpton and the African-American community. The result was the arrest and excessively long sentencing of the ”Vieques Four” Sharpton, José Rivera, Alfredo Carrión, and Roberto Ramirez who were held in federal confinement for the simple act of entering naval lands without authorization.

The sentencing of the Vieques Four highlighted another atrocity of the Vieques movement: the cooptation of overzealous federal prosecutors and federal judges in Puerto Rico. Non-violent, civil disobedience in Vieques for first time offenders with established ties in the community were systematically subject to prosecutorial demands for bail between $3,000 and $10,000. And the courts stood idly by. Worse yet the courts issued in one wave of civil disobedience sentences of 40 days or more! – again, for first-time offenders to 40 protestors.

The courts were another battleground in the battle for Vieques. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, now called LatinoJustice PRLDEF, also answered the call. Spurred by labor activist Dennis Rivera and labor union 1199, PRLDEF attorneys were in Vieques assessing possible claims.

They, along with Robert Kennedy, Jr. and María Jiménez of the University of Puerto Rico Law School, PRLDEF filed Waterkeeper Alliance v. Gordon to seek a court order against the bombing and to begin environmental remediation. Foster Maer, one of the attorneys recalls that Judge Héctor Lafitte on his own motion sought to dismiss or curtail the suit. Eventually the federal agencies settled on the remediation portion of the case and the lawyers were forced to table their civil rights claims.

In the Puerto Rican diaspora civil disobedience was present in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Hartford, and San Francisco. A local meeting in Jersey City to draw support and called by tenant activist Anthony Cruz galvanized my resolve to become actively involved. Trained by Vicente “Panama” Alba I was arrested twice before the United Nations and once before a military recruitment station in Jersey City.

I represented protestors in criminal courts in New Jersey and obtained full dismissals of their charges. I, along with scores of New York City protestors, refused conditional dismissal offers from city prosecutors and were eventually tried in one of largest criminal trials in the city’s history for an ordinance violation – not even a criminal charge. We were found guilty and paid off our minimal fines. And every day in court was another day before the press as we outlined the atrocities of the Navy’s insistence on using an inhabited island for war practice.

Civil disobedience for me was as natural as dissent is American. It was cathartic. As I testified on the stand I did it to maintain my relevance to the Puerto Rican community that had been the focus of my professional, activist and cultural work. And the ability to question authority in this non-violent manner was in keeping with a long line of historical figures: Harriet Tubman, Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez.

Collectively we took action that the state criminalizes to foster principles that were morally correct in the face of injustice. In the words of John Rawls, the civilly disobedient appeal to the people as the ultimate arbiter of the law, not to the police, the district attorney or the courts. The words “an unjust law is no law at all” have been attributed to St. Augustine and it became my guide.

The pressure continued as a referendum in Vieques overwhelmingly supported peace and an end to the bombing in July 2000. As the pressure mounted on the Bush administration to pull the Navy out it became evident that the military training maneuvers in Vieques were obsolete. Organizers in Puerto Rico and New York began to obtain alternative opinions from retired military officers about the utility of the war exercises.

Then came 9/11.

By that time I was one of the spokespersons for the Hudson County Committee in Support of Vieques. The terrorist attacks of September 11th were about a mile away from our homes in Jersey. The people of Puerto Rico observed a 30-day moratorium on civil disobedience. The Navy responded with another round of bombing and war exercises in September. In New Jersey we responded deliberately and strategically . We fully supported the efforts to bring the criminals and terrorists to justice.

But we repeated our support for the end of the injustice in Vieques. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic we reminded everyone of the incredible legacy of military service that Puerto Ricans have forged, valiantly, in every war since World War I. “Standing for peace is not anti-American” we noted, as our renewed call for peace in Vieques ramped up. And we ended our missive with the referendum of Vieques voters in mind: “Democracy was not canceled on September 11th but democracy will not survive if we act uncritically.” Our statement garnered the support of multiple activists and leaders throughout New Jersey.

Finally, President Bush decided to heed the call and stood by his promise of a Navy pullout by May 2003.

Vieques Libre Day had arrived and I was blessed to be there. The camaraderie was everywhere, the relief and joy, palpable. I returned with a handful of gifts for my partners in the disobedience movement: sections of wire fence that kept Viequenses off of their own island.

In March 2013, I returned for the first time to Vieques, this time with my two grown children. They grew up with the Vieques struggle as a backdrop in our home, participating in various ways. One year, before the victory, while the Vieques Four were transferred from a federal correctional facility in Puerto Rico to one in Brooklyn, I asked for and got a simple Father’s Day gift. To march in protest for Vieques in Brooklyn so that the four men would know they had support. Through the rain we marched, played plena drums, and chanted.

All of this was on my mind as I visited Playa Caracas – the new readopted name of Red Beach – and enjoyed its beauty again. The wild horses were still on the island. The bioluminescent bay is still a natural wonder of the world. But the economy, even with the tourist trade and its accompanying gentrification, was still in peril. Demilitarization. Decontamination. Devolution. Development. These were the four rallying cries that led to Vieques Libre Day in 2003. They are still relevant today – especially the need for decontamination and economic development. We enjoyed the island in every possible way and eventually returned on the ferry to the big island, Puerto Rico.

On May 1, 2013, in New York City, I attended a briefing on the current situation in Vieques sponsored by the Puerto Rican government’s agency in the U.S., the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. Veterans of the Vieques movement were there like Assemblyman José Rivera, one of the Vieques Four, Rep. José Serrano, who recounted his solo protest in wonderful detail, Luis Garden Acosta, an incredible force on urban environmental issues and like me, one of the arrestees before the U.N., and labor leader David Galarza.

Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatia commended the contributions of Puerto Rico’s diaspora to the victory in Vieques and recounted his own prison cell days as a sentenced civil disobedient in Puerto Rico. Reminiscence, however, quickly gave way to reality. Decontamination is painfully slow and measured in decades. The Environmental Protection Agency states that the “blow in place” practice of collecting unexploded ordinances and detonating them in place, does not pose an unacceptable risk to air quality. Sounds counter-intuitive, especially for those of us who live near the World Trade Center heard that before from the EPA. But the agency also admits that the Superfund clean-up is almost all land based.

Carmen Guerro, the Cabinet Secretary of the Puerto Rican government in charge of these matters shared the startling photo just released by Vieques environmental activists and highlighted the next day by Juan González of the New York Daily News. A scuba diver is standing under water on the ocean’s bed, dwarfed by a massive unexploded bomb that extends for 12 feet above the sea bed. Guerrero also noted tellingly that of the seven licensed kayaking operations that have permission to tour the bioluminescent bay only one is owned by a Viequense.

Much needs to be done.

It will take years to fully assess the magnitude of how Vieques changed the relations between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and to assess how non-violent resistance overcame all odds. Ten years ago Puerto Rico, a small island of less than four million inhabitants, was the talk of the world.

The dynamism that existed in this David and Goliath story went well beyond the White House, the Pentagon and the courts. It touched the people viscerally. I was able to perform with the bomba and plena group Segunda Quimbamba a composition dedicated to end of the bombing on a nationally syndicated music show hosted by the now-famous Sofia Vergara, and no one blinked. The crusade to stop the bombing seemed to have no end. At the height of the protests, environmentalist Tito Kayak from Puerto Rico scaled the crown of the Statute of Liberty in the New York Bay and hung a flag of Vieques as the ultimate symbolic call for peace. In his court appearance in Manhattan I heard him proclaim confidently “Bieke o muerte!” Such was the commitment to peace.

The people of Vieques remembered its resistance, its courage, and its collective will. The island’s recovery is still in progress but its place in the history of nonviolent movements cannot be gainsaid.

Paz para Vieques.

Follow President and General Counsel, Juan Cartagena on Twitter @LJCartagena.

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CIR13 MarkUp Tweet Chat

Posted on 05/06/2013 @ 12:26 AM

Join us and New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform as we discuss the immigration reform markups that are taking place this month. The work is not yet done and we must understand that we still do not have any legislation. Now more than ever, we need you to help us protect the path to citizenship! Get involved and join the conversation on CIR13 Follow LatinoJustice & #CIRmarkup to join the conversation!

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