LULAC Convention Focused on Unity in a Diverse America – Henry Cisneros, Henry Cuellar and Victoria Neave Encouraged Advocacy – San Antonio, TX – The Unity Luncheon at the 88th Annual National LULAC Convention reflected the strength in diversity of our country today. Addressing the crowded ballroom at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio were three Latino elected officials. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Member, U.S. House of Representatives; Henry G. Cisneros, Former Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Victoria Neave, Member, Texas House of Representatives. All spoke about the benefits of unity amidst challenging current events.
Cisneros, considered by many to be a hometown hero, was the first Latino to serve as Mayor of San Antonio. He was first elected in 1981, and re-elected four times, for a total of eight years of service. Now, he focuses more on national issues, many of which require crossing party lines to have success. Cisneros is a board member of the Bipartisan Policy Center and co-chair of its Immigration Task Force along with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former governors Haley Barbour and Ed Rendell. He also acknowledged the need to unite with other immigrant and minority communities.
“In the 1920s, Latinos in the United States needed a voice. It was a period like one we live in today. Border instabilities. Economic disruptions. International concerns and discrimination and prejudice against American Latinos,” Cisneros said. “But in 1929, there came into existence the Latino advocacy group that was the loudest voice. The oldest, longest serving, most consistent voice of the Latino community: LULAC.”
“It is not smart for America to allow the targeting of Latinos,” he continued. “We have a president that doesn’t understand…so many good things have come out of the immigrant tradition. And to talk about a wall…is completely unacceptable. LULAC, whose voice we have always counted on, will not be silenced. It cannot be. It is wrong for our country. It is hateful and damaging to our people. But it is wrong and damaging to the future of America.”
State representative Neave spoke about the unprecedented challenges for immigrants now. Her father, was undocumented when he entered this country with a dream for a better life. When Neave was just 15, she joined her father as an active LULAC member in Dallas, Texas. She said the nation’s oldest Latino civil rights organization opened doors for her.
“I’m honored to stand before you as someone who grew up in this organization. Now, more than ever, we need you to unite and stand with our allies and fight for our community. Rise up and fight back and say enough is enough.”
“Almost all citizens of the United States are immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants, and each new generation of immigrants has reinvigorated our nation with the values and work ethic that has made America great,” said LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes. “Our common experience has demonstrated that immigration is good for America, whether your ancestors arrived before the Declaration of Independence or just a generation ago.”
Congressman Cuellar, several times, mentioned that success must be achieved by crossing party lines. Only bi-partisan approaches will be successful, he stated.
“A wall is a 14th century solution to a 21st century. When we talk about the border, it has to be a secure border that works for both sides. We have to look at Mexico as a friend, not as an enemy.”
Since its founding 88 years ago, LULAC has been a non-partisan group that does not hesitate to take a stand on issues facing Latinos, and Americans in general. LULAC supports the expansion of leadership development programs for immigrants, women and minorities and encourages more people of color to run for public office.
Annual LULAC National Convention Partnership Luncheon
San Antonio, TX— Despite a growing feeling of fear, apprehension and even outrage in response to the recent current events, national leaders at the LULAC Convention, today, expressed hope that through unity, progress can be made.
Joaquin Castro, member, U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Maria Elena Durazo, vice chair, Democratic National Committee (DNC) were featured speakers at the Partnership Luncheon at the 88th Annual LULAC National Convention at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Just last week, MALDEF and LULAC, together with lawyers from ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League, were at the Federal Courthouse in San Antonio to stop SB4, the “Show Me Your Papers” bill.
“Our challenges are many,” said Saenz at the luncheon. “SB4 is a law for badge vigilantes. If I ever despair, I remember our history. Through the courage of Latino and Latina residents, we can prevail. Working together, LULAC, MALDEF (and others) we can secure future success for a thriving America.”
Congressman Castro had similar words to applaud the community’s response to the recent health care proposal. “A dozen elected officials cannot hijack policies which affect every American. You spoke up and were heard. Your representatives need to hear where you stand. The new healthcare bill would be a disaster for Texans. If it were to be approved, millions of people would have lost their coverage, including more than 660,000 Texans. No one would win. Except for the one percent. Continue to raise your voice, and let your elected officials —friends and family — know where you stand.”
The DNC’s Durazo recognized the outpouring of engagement and civic participation that led to voter turnout and a turn around in California. “We gave them candidates to vote for. Today, we are in an era where humans are dehumanized. In Arizona, we just threw out racist Joe Arpaio. We are working very hard to rebuild the Democratic Party, from the bottom up.”
While LULAC is a non-partisan organization, since its conception, it has stood up to support the civil rights of all minorities or people facing discrimination: Latinos, African-Americans, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ or the handicapped. “LULAC has long stood for unity amid diversity. We have advanced so far in the last 88 years. We are not willing to roll back the clock. Rather, we must continue to fight for justice for all,” said LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha Jr.
The Mexican government, today bestowed its highest honor for one individual, the Ohtli Award, to Luis Roberto Vera, esq. Vera who worked closely with MALDEF, ACLU and other groups to be the first to file a complaint against SB4, has served as LULAC’s general counsel for 19 years. It was a particularly moving moment for Vera. As he received the honor from the Mexican Consul General Reyna Torres, his mother was in the audience. Born in Mexico, she was desperate for a better life, and swam across the river at age 14. “Thousands share stories like mine,” he said. “People risk their lives and leave everything they know, behind, hoping for a better future for themselves —but more importantly, for their children.”
The LULAC Convention is the oldest and largest gathering of Latino leaders in the nation and packs more energy and excitement than any other event in the Latino community. This year’s National Convention and Exposition addresses the most pressing issues for the Latino community including a border wall, deportations, SB4 and the new administration’s cutbacks on education, health and human services. Most activities, except meal events, are free and open to the public.
Opposition to SB4
San Antonio, Texas – Today, at the 88th LULAC National Convention, leaders gathered to stand against the most controversial anti-immigrant legislation in recent years. Known as the “show me your papers” bill, SB 4 requires citizens and non-citizens alike to check their citizenship status. Taking this even further, law enforcement officials, who fail to comply with SB 4 will be fined $25,000 and face criminal charges.
“The statute is unconstitutional, and the most anti-immigrant legislation passed to date,” said LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha, Jr. “This bill will only result in the breakdown of trust between law enforcement and the community and discriminate against and victimize a vulnerable population. LULAC will continue its fight along with the ACLU, MALDEF and the cities of El Paso, Houston, San Antonio and El Cenizo.”
LULAC filed the first complaint against SB 4 on behalf of El Cenizo, a small town surrounded on three sides by Mexico. El Cenizo has had a “safe haven” ordinance since 1999.
“We are the leading case in opposition to SB 4,” said LULAC General Counsel Luis Vera. “We filed it 22 hours after Governor Abbott signed the bill. The Trump administration declared war on people from Mexico and we need people of good conscience from all backgrounds to stand with us. LULAC cannot do this alone, we need the ACLU, MALDEF and other organizations to help us fight against this oppressive bill whose only purpose is to discriminate against the minority community. We have to believe that we will prevail because there is no other option for minorities in Texas.”
In addition to it being unconstitutional and a violation of federal law, SB 4 is an unfunded mandate. Once it takes effect, local law enforcement will be forced to redirect limited resources away from the community in order for innocent people to be deported.
San Antonio’s Chief of Police William McManus has been vocal about the negative impacts of SB 4. “I could talk all day about what’s wrong with it,” he said at the LULAC National Convention. “For every second that an officer spends dealing with an immigration matter, that’s a second that responding to your emergency calls is lost.” He also condemned SB 4 as being a racist bill. “How else do you determine to ask someone for their papers, if not their accent or their skin color? That’s profiling in its purest form.”
El Cenizo Mayor Raul Reyes, himself, has been a victim of racial profiling.
“I am an American citizen. Yet, because of the color of my skin I have been asked to show my papers. So we’re very thankful to LULAC, because any attempt that suppresses and violates human rights and civil rights is worth fighting for. We know we are on the right side of history. This is bigger than LULAC. Bigger than El Cenizo. Bigger than Texas.”
LULAC Honors Its Veterans at Defenders of Freedom Breakfast
San Antonio, TX – Today, at the 88th League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Convention and Exposition, our nation’s veterans were recognized for their service to our country. As part of the convention, LULAC hosted the Defenders of Freedom Breakfast to recognize Hispanics who have served our country with distinction.
Honored at the breakfast this year was Sergeant First Class Jorge Otero Barreto, who served five tours, from 1961 to 1970 in Southeast Asia. Otero Barreto is the most highly decorated soldier in the Vietnam War, and among his 38 military commemorations has three silver stars, five bronze stars, four Army commendations, five Purple Hearts and five air medals. Most notably, he served 200 combat missions with three different airborne divisions, which is unheard of.
LULAC National President, Roger C. Rocha, Jr. recognized Otero Barreto with the LULAC Presidential Medal of Honor for his service to our country. The LULAC Presidential Medal of Honor is the highest award that the LULAC National President can bestow.
For his valor and heroism, Otero Barreto is known as America’s Rambo. “I went to fight for freedom. I spent ten years in Viet Nam. I am proud. I have just one life to give to my country,” said Otero Barreto.
Close to 90 percent of LULAC Council #777’s membership are veterans—male and female. The Laredo, Texas Council President, Julie Bazan, said, “Sargent First Class Otero Barreto’s service to our country should be recognized. We need Congress and the White House to recognize his service to our country as well. He took care of his men and is a loved member of our community. This morning at the breakfast a caravan of people from Laredo were present to help honor him.”
Another featured speaker at the breakfast was three star Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez who was involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein. “Two days ago, we celebrated America’s Independence Day. Many put their dreams on hold. Some of those who served never had their opportunity to pursue those dreams because of the sacrifices they made. Regardless of where we came from, serving our country is an absolute responsibility.”
The breakfast highlighted the critical role veterans play in helping the next generation of leaders understand how they can advance change. Veterans must ensure our children embrace the common good and speak out against injustices. “We must teach our children that America’s strength lies in its diversity,” added Sanchez.
“Throughout our nation’s history, Hispanics have been proud to serve, fight and in many instances have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country,” said LULAC National President, Roger C. Rocha, Jr. “In fact, Hispanics have fought in every U.S. conflict from the American Revolution to the war in Afghanistan and have received at least 44 Medals of Honor.”
During the 88th National Convention, LULAC will continue to honor and educate veterans through the following programs: a discussion of the “Choice” program which allows veterans the use of their own physician when they are unable to be seen by their VA physician; information on burial benefits, as well as, the compensation and claims process which can be difficult to navigate; challenges and fears for green card veterans; and a town hall where veterans can discuss a variety of issues related to the VA. In addition, the convention will highlight the work done by the LULAC Veterans Program. For example, this year LULAC sponsored 10 Vietnam commemoration events around the country honoring Vietnam veterans for their service.
LULAC Opens Expo to the San Antonio Community Offering Health Services, Concerts, and Family Activities
San Antonio, Texas—LULAC members and community leaders gathered at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to open the free community expo as part of the 88th Annual LULAC National Convention. The expo is one of the most interactive parts of the convention, which is expected to draw over 15,000 people.
“LULAC’s storied history in San Antonio stretches back decades, and we are thrilled to bring the convention back home to Texas this year,” said LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha, Jr. “This expo is one of the many ways that we are bringing resources to San Antonio to celebrate over 88 years of service to the Latino community.”
This year’s expo will feature free health screenings, HIV testing, and presentations from government agencies, local nonprofits, and corporations providing information about their services to the Latino community. Visitors can take advantage of the career fair featuring recruiters from AT&T, Spectrum, UPS, and more. Individuals of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to attend and submit their resumes to recruiters.
In addition to the career fair and health screenings, a free baseball clinic led by Luis Roberto Clemente, son of baseball hall-of-famer Roberto Clemente, and other former Major League Baseball players from the San Antonio community will be open to children. Community members can also take advantage of free concerts throughout the duration of the expo, including performances by David Marez, Rick Fuentes and Brown Express, Mariachi Los Galleros, Ruben Ramos, Campanas de America, Los Maladrines, Latin Breed, and more.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff spoke about the importance of LULAC in the community. He mentioned current events, and said, “We’re going to show them they’re trampling on our constitutional rights.”
Administrative District Court Judge of the 379th Criminal District Court Ron Rangel spoke of his own experiences with LULAC and applauded the LULAC host committee and LULAC leaders for their efforts to bring important resources to San Antonio.
“I knew what it was like to be poor. But when I was in high school, LULAC gave me a scholarship,” said Rangel about how that monetary assistance made a big difference for him, and countless others. “LULAC was there to give us pride… focus… opportunity.”
The expo is also the site where people can pick up their free tickets for the LULAC Voces Unidas Concert that closes out the convention. This year’s musical extravaganza is a Selena Tribute featuring Pete Astudillo and Isabel Marie and past and present members from the bands Tierra, EL Chicano, Malo, Santana, Thee Midniters, and Abel and the Prophets.
LULAC thanks its presenting sponsors Charter Communications, PepsiCo, and Toyota for their extraordinary contributions to the LULAC National Convention.
Investing in Tomorrow’s Leaders, Community Resources Announced at 88th LULAC National Convention
San Antonio, Texas— Newly-elected San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg welcomed residents and visitors to the opening day of the 88th Annual LULAC National Convention at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization, expects close to 20,000 attendees at this year’s annual convention in the Alamo City, which is part of LULAC’s roots.
“LULAC was formed in Texas to fight against the blatant discrimination that plagued the Latino community,” said LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha, Jr. “Today, we remain committed to combatting injustices by building sustainable communities with access to vital information and resources that help our community succeed. As part of the festivities, today LULAC kicks off its convention announcing our work with the young Latino population in San Antonio, our partnership with Tyson Foods, and the Federal Training Institute.”
San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg is a strong advocate of supporting tomorrow’s leaders and building a city that attracts better employment that our young people need to flourish. He said, “As a city councilman, I worked with local school districts to host Kid’s Town Hall meetings, which became avenues for San Antonio’s youth to learn about their local government, connect with elected leaders and get involved. Making sure we have opportunities for our youth to connect with elected officials and learn about and take part in local government is vital to our success as a city.”
LULAC, along with the resources made possible by its sponsors, partners and supporters, has a long history of advocating for improved education and employment for the 10 million Latinos in Texas.
Research indicates that the Texas workforce will be majority Latino in the future. However, lack of investment in the community and higher concentrations of Latino kids living in under-resourced school districts also account for Latinos being undereducated.
“Alamo Colleges, a Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI), have partnered with LULAC to help bring resources and initiatives that benefit our students,” said Federico Zaragoza, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Economic & Workforce Development. “LULAC provides Alamo College students with thousands of dollars in scholarships, sponsor career fairs and financial planning workshops, engage students in LULAC civic or community service projects, and engage our students to participate in voter registration projects. LULAC makes higher education ‘real’ for many of our students.”
In Bexar County, more than 26 percent of children do not have consistent access to nutritious foods, making it harder to focus in school and more likely to have social and behavioral problems. LULAC, in partnership with Tyson Foods, is fighting against hunger. LULAC and Tyson Foods have jointly donated more than 1 million pounds of protein to food banks across the country and Puerto Rico since 2009. Among all protein processors, Tyson Foods is the largest donor of meat and poultry to Feeding America and its network of food banks. Tyson Foods has been an active participant in the fight against hunger since 2000, donating more than 100 million pounds of protein. Yesterday, Tyson Foods donated an entire truckload of chicken to the San Antonio Food Bank.
“We know we can’t solve hunger alone,” said Nora Venegas, director, federal government relations for Tyson Foods. “It’s the organizations and heroes in communities all over the country who are doing the real work. We’re proud to support those who are fighting hunger across the country like the San Antonio Food Bank.”
“We are grateful to Tyson Foods for this generous donation which will help our efforts in providing nutritious meals to the 58,000 food insecure people we serve in our community each week,” said Eric Cooper, CEO, San Antonio Food Bank.
To respond to the need for employment opportunities, LULAC’s Federal Training Institute will offer workshops during the convention that are designed to help minorities tap into the many government jobs across the country.
“Hispanics are the fastest growing population in Texas,” said LULAC National Chief Executive Officer, Brent Wilkes. “Texas’s economy is dependent on the Latino workforce and thus, we must help ensure that they have the resources they need in order for Texas to succeed. LULAC is committed to help remedy the inequities face by Texas’s Latino population as well as all immigrants and minorities.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit