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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Immigration highlights Latinx civil rights struggles

February 19, 2020 | Malik Giles | campus editor

 

TR continuing education & engagement executive director Robert Munoz talks with peers at a table Feb. 13 during The State of LatinX Civil Rights on TR Campus.

Immigrants who are not U.S. citizens cannot change their name under Indiana law, so when a transgender woman who identified as male could not change his first name, civil rights attorney Thomas Saenz took the case.

TR Campus, in collaboration with the Texas A&M School of Law, brought in Saenz to present a discussion of Latinx civil rights and immigration issues Feb. 13. Saenz is the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a national civil rights organization founded in San Antonio in 1968.

“Their belief and expectation when the organization began with it over time that certainly after half a century the need for the civil rights work that MALDEF is doing would diminish,” Saenz said. “But their conclusion unanimously was, if anything, the need has become more stark.”

Some of the cases MALDEF is working on today are not headline cases, but like the transgender case, they still deeply affect immigrants’ lives, Saenz said.

Another case Saenz presented involved a heavily Latino school district in Pasadena, Calif., where many of the parents of children attending are immigrants. MALDEF’s client was an immigrant mother who volunteered at her daughter’s school and was concerned about the brief lunch periods and the negative effects it was having on her daughter.

The principal threatened to report her to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and restrict her from volunteering in one of her two daughters’ classrooms.

Civil rights attorney Thomas Saenz speaks about the cases MALDEF covered relating to immigration and Latinx issues.

“That judge, in an earlier stage of the case, made clear that in his view this case wasn’t important enough to be in his federal courtroom, that it didn’t belong in front of him,” Saenz said.

He brought up a census issue in Alabama. The state government recently argued that the U.S. should remove the census estimate of undocumented immigrants from each state’s population total, Saenz said.

“That is the denial of personhood and the attempted denial of personhood to a huge portion, millions of our Latino population nationwide,” Saenz said. “I characterize this as statistical genocide.”

TR student Jazmine Boss enjoyed learning about Latin civil rights, and as an African American student, she now plans to put together a black civil rights tour.

Luz Herrera, a Texas A&M law professor, praised Saenz and MALDEF for what they pursue.

“They together pursue litigation, policy, advocacy and community education to promote civil rights of all Latinos in the U.S.,” Herrera said.

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