Since 1972, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustice throughout New York and beyond. The mission of this national civil rights organization is to ensure that Latinx in the United States are treated with dignity, justice, and fairness.
Lourdes Rosado and her team are dedicated, social justice warriors. They work tirelessly on behalf of the community to create fundamental change in our society. Fundamental change takes time, and Lourdes described their work as a long-term game. They are “professional marathon runners”, they never give up the fight and understand while the wins may be small or far between, their work matters and will impact change. Lourdes and LatinoJustice PRLDEF do tremendous work on behalf of the Latinx community, and Nixon Peabody is proud to be a long-term Pro Bono partner of the organization.
Below are a few excerpts from our discussion:
Can you tell us about LatinoJustice's mission?
Lourdes Rosado: Celebrating our fiftieth anniversary this year, LatinoJustice PRLDEF was founded in 1972 by three Puerto Rican lawyers in New York City. Initially founded as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the organization’s first landmark case was ASPIRA vs. New York City Board of Education, which established the right of NYC public school children to receive bilingual education while simultaneously learning English. This lawsuit paved the way for more victories, including, eventually, federal law that provides protections and entitlements to English learners in this country. As we continue the work our founders began, we aim to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable, and accessible justice by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education.
What type of work do you do during these marathons?
Lourdes Rosado: We have five substantive areas that we work in. First is economic justice, where we litigate and do advocacy work around issues regarding employment, education, and housing. Second is immigrant rights to ensure that immigrants here are treated fairly and not discriminated against. Thirdly we work on criminal justice reform. This has become a very important part, given the disproportionate policing and incarceration of Latinos. Fourth is voting and redistricting. Fifth is the work on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico. In addition, we offer leadership development programs to increase the numbers and encourage Latinos and other children of color to become lawyers and eventually go on to hold leadership positions in our communities.
What opportunities are there available for us to help Latino justice?
Lourdes Rosado: First is pro bono partnerships. Nixon Peabody has partnered with us on some of our most important cases. In one particular case, a Latino woman was arrested for simply eating lunch in the back alley of her job. LatinoJustice and Nixon Peabody challenged the illegal seizure and arrest, and eventually, after going to the Supreme Court, we got a great settlement. This case showed the immigrant community and the Latino community that, with our partners, we can step up for the Latino community.
Another way to get involved is through our leadership development continuum. One program Nixon Peabody helped start and is a sponsor of is our Cap Institute. Through our leadership programs, you can become a mentor for high school and college-age Latinos and kids of color interested in becoming lawyers.
Helping to spread our message on social media is also very helpful. We will be pushing out messaging to promote the right to vote in several states. Our community is targeted with lots of misinformation regarding voting, helping to spread the message about voting rights is crucial. In addition, we are always grateful when folks participate in our gala, show up to events, and donate to the organization.
What do you hope the future will look like for?
Lourdes Rosado: What I want is to see Latino power. I want us as a community to hold more decision- making posts throughout the country. Given our numbers, we shouldn't just be participating in civic society; we should be driving the agenda. To do that, we need to break down the barriers like voter suppression, employment discrimination, and worker abuse. We need to make sure people have access to schools and have all the pathways to success.
I also need to ensure that there's a pipeline of young people prepared to take on this increasing responsibility in our world. That's where our leadership programs come in. We need to make sure that we have the people who are ready to take on this responsibility and really set the agenda for our country and our democracy.
We are still fighting against discrimination and exploitation and fighting for basic human and civil rights. Right now, we're still deep in the fight, and it might be decades before we see more progress. But if you're a professional marathon runner and a resilient loser, you can still make a difference in moving us forward.