LatinoJustice PRLDEF Opens Southeast Office to Protect the Rights of the Latino Community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2014

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF has opened an office in Florida to work on behalf of Latinos throughout the Southeastern United States. For over 40 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has worked to protect the rights of Latinos throughout the country and in Puerto Rico from its New York City headquarters.

The past decade has seen a significant growth of emerging new Latino communities in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. This population growth has been met with the continuing attack on Latino voting rights like the recent 2012 voter purge in Florida; an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment leading to a proliferation of local anti-immigrant ordinances and state-wide laws in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina; and the dilution of long-standing civil rights protections against discrimination and other issues against Latinos.

The Latino communities throughout the region reached out to LatinoJustice to put more resources in the area. Though LatinoJustice has worked for decades in the Southeast with NYC legal staff and local lawyers and community-based organizations, it was time to expand and provide local resources.

“Latinos throughout the Southeast can now count on an organization with more than 40 years of success, not only in the Northeastern U.S., but throughout the country including Puerto Rico,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Over the years, Latinos in the Southeast have told us that there was a real need for our lawyers to be in their communities. We have answered that call with the opening of our Southeastern Regional Office.

The new office, located in the Central Florida/Orlando area is currently staffed by two lawyers, Associate Counsel Martha Pardo, a 2006 graduate of Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, and Ford Foundation Legal Fellow Caleb Soto, a 2014 Yale Law graduate and Miami native. They will be joined by legal intern Kelsey Burke, a third year law student at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical College of Law in Orlando.

Most recently LatinoJustice PRLDEF worked with broad community support in Central Florida to ensure proper representation during the state-wide redistricting process. LatinoJustice worked in a broad coalition in Central Florida to create and advocate for several Latino-dominant election districts during the past redistricting process. This included creating the first Latino majority state senate district in Central Florida and a Latino majority congressional seat.

The organization is presently working on several critical civil rights areas throughout the Southeast, including voter protection, police abuse, immigrants’ rights including access to higher education, workers’ rights, felon disenfranchisement and voter rights restoration, among many other issues throughout the region.

Pardo who focuses on civil and voting rights had previously been an attorney advocating for indigent individuals’ rights in housing and public benefits while working at Florida Rural Legal Services and Jacksonville Legal Aid in North and South Florida. Soto helms the newly created Rights Restoration Project (RRP) to address felon disenfranchisement issues. The RRP seeks to assist those previously convicted of felonies in their clemency hearings to expeditiously restore their right to vote and enable them to participate in democratic processes that promote accountability in the justice system.

“Even before I today public’s announcement, I was getting calls from local community members asking for help on various legal issues,” said Pardo. “There is a demonstrated need for an organization like LatinoJustice that can understand the unique issues the Latino community is encountering as they attempt to integrate and advance who also speaks their language.”

LatinoJustice has a long history of working in Florida. In 2004, LatinoJustice staff helped defeat an attempt by officials in Palm City to pass an anti-immigration ordinance. In November 2008, LatinoJustice successfully sued the Volusia County Board of Elections for failing to provide the requisite bilingual voter materials and interpreters mandated by Section 4(e) of the Voting rights Act.

And in 2012, in a federal case filed in Southern Florida the organization joined with several other civil rights groups in fighting against the state’s attempts to purge Latino voters from the rolls.

“LatinoJustice PRLDEF has been a good protector for our community since the early 70s, but we need their presence here on the ground in Orlando,” said community advocate Trini Quiroz.

Anyone interested in contacting the LJP Southeast Office and Rights Restoration Project, please contact 1-800-328-2322. Or you can send an email to info@latinojustice.org.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF · 99 Hudson Street 14th Floor · New York, NY 10013-2815 · P: 212.219.3360 · 800.328.2322 · F: 212.431.4276

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