One of the country’s oldest and most respected Latino civil rights organizations is at a critical juncture, and some members fear it may or may not decide its future. said it could have an impact.
A nasty legal dispute stemming from a decades-long dispute over whether Puerto Rico should be a nation has sparked an infighting between members and leaders of the United Citizens League of Latin America, known as LULAC.
Some have accused the organization’s president of fueling the very discrimination the organization initially sought to eliminate. Six current and former members are trying to alienate Puerto Rican members after Dallas lawyer Domingo Garcia, who has led the group since 2018, was nearly ousted last year by a Puerto Rican candidate. claims.
The group said it suspended its Puerto Rican members and fired the most prominent leaders of Puerto Rican descent for no reason. The group is considering two constitutional amendments, one of which threatens to expel all islanders from the group.
Most Latinos historically lean Democratic, so LULAC helps attract votes for Democratic politics. With Latinos emerging as an important floating voter, the civil rights group will be one of the leading Latino advocacy groups aiming to play a central role in the 2024 presidential election.
They are now one of the fastest growing and rapidly diversifying racial and ethnic voting blocs in the United States. An estimated 34.5 million Hispanic Americans were eligible to vote in the election. The 2022 election alone.
The group plans to hold a national convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, next month, but some members said the tension was a historical perception of the divide between Mexican-Americans in the Southwest and Puerto Ricans on the East Coast. I am concerned that it will have a negative impact on There are also concerns that the amendment could empower a small faction within the group that has long sought to keep Puerto Rican members out.
An issue that argues that infighting should be at the top of the organization’s agenda, including increasing access to education and the long-term impact of the pandemic on Latinos, who have been hit hardest by the health and economic crisis. Some argue that it can be a distraction from
Founded in 1929 in South Texas by a group of mostly Mexican-American World War I veterans, LULAC has survived a bitter civil war. The founders initially limited membership to the group only to U.S. citizens, excluding illegal workers and Mexicans who wanted to join at the border.
When the group was first established, the Texas Rangers set up lockdowns to deter Mexican-American hosts, and signs outside some restaurants still read “No Mexicans or Dogs allowed.” worked to expand Hispanic civil rights during the
From a small network of local groups to national prominence, LULAC has fought legal battles aimed at desegregating public schools, improving integration, and promoting homeownership and economic mobility for young Latin Americans. won the The group was part of a successful effort to end segregation in California’s public schools, leading to the 1954 breakthrough that made segregation of children in schools unconstitutional. paved the way for a Supreme Court decision.
As the group grew in influence and expanded its reach, rifts arose among its members. Once often seen as a monolithic group, Latinos have grappled with issues of political and cultural identity in recent years as they become the second largest ethnic voter group after whites. The organization’s demise and proposed rule changes could bode well for that future.
The first amendment rewrites a provision of the Constitution to limit group members to residents of the United States, “meaning the 50 states and the District of Columbia,” but not Puerto Rico. Failing that, another bill would require Puerto Rican membership to be proportional to the Puerto Rican population in the United States.
Carlos Fajardo, whose position has stalled as Puerto Rican LULAC state director (the group says he is also one of the “currently suspended” Puerto Rican leaders) said the proposed amendments would be against Puerto Ricans ” prejudice” and “the latest act of discrimination” against Puerto Ricans.
“It’s sad,” Fajardo said, adding that the group’s president also did a lot for Puerto Ricans who were accepted into the group more than 30 years ago. “We have to fight for civil rights within civil rights organizations.”
Joe Henry, the group’s Iowa State Political Director and Mexican-American, said it didn’t make sense for the group to exclude Puerto Ricans who are American citizens. He argued that such a move would go against the group’s spirit and mission. “Our organization aims that an injury to one person is an injury to all,” Henry said.
The group’s president, Garcia, who is also Mexican-American, denied the allegations of discrimination.
“No,” Garcia said in an interview when asked about allegations that he was trying to limit the power of Puerto Rican lawmakers. He said the problem was the organization’s failure to verify whether its councils in the region were funded by political parties, which could jeopardize its status as a nonprofit. rice field.
“Puerto Rico has had a council for 30 years and it has never been an issue,” he said. “It’s just a matter of where the money comes from.”
Garcia and other leaders said amendments to the group’s bylaws are rarely approved and require a two-thirds vote of all registered delegates present in parliament.The group has approx. 132,000 members There are supporters from the US and Puerto Rico, but not all will attend the conference.
Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans have historically composed this poem. The two largest Latino subgroups in the United StatesMexicans and Mexican Americans make up nearly 60 percent of the Latino population, or about 37.2 million people. According to the Pew Research Centermore than four times the number of people of Puerto Rican descent.
Tensions within LULAC began to build last year when hundreds of members began to gather. gathered in Puerto Rico for the group’s 2022 conference. The event was abruptly canceled on the eve of the group’s election, which included a showdown between Garcia and Juan Carlos Rizaldi, the son of longtime board member and Puerto Rican national activist Elsie Valdes.
A Texas judge has accused five leaders of Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party of working with LULAC insiders like Valdez to sway the election results, alleging that five of its leaders took a stand against the group’s officials in Dallas County. After filing a lawsuit, the group was ordered to suspend the proceedings. About 900 members continued to gather in Puerto Rico, even after the conference was called off. Conducted an iconic voice poll Support Rizzardi.
Bernardo Eureste, who drafted the amendment to deny membership to Puerto Ricans, said the proposal clarifies what was already in the organization’s bylaws and only prevents what he calls a “takeover” of the organization. said it was intended.
When asked if the proposed amendment would go against the spirit of the group’s unity, as some members have argued, he replied: Or people from the mainland? ”