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Building Latinx Power and Progress in 2020 - by Juan Cartagena

Building Latinx Power and Progress in 2020 - by Juan Cartagena

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Juan Cartagena

Juan Cartagena
President & General Counsel

"There is an urgent need today … to analyze the intersection of police reforms, changes in the penal system and drug policy in this country. In reality, Latinos are disproportionately and negatively affected by police and criminal system practices that discriminate against them but rarely involve them in forging solutions."

One of the nation’s leading voices on equality and nondiscrimination, Constitutional and Civil Rights Attorney Juan Cartagena inspires change to systems that marginalize communities of color. As a public speaker, El Diario columnist, and Rutgers University lecturer, Juan focuses extensively on Puerto Rican and Latino rights issues, including the community impacts of mass incarceration.

Juan is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University School of Law and is the recipient of multiple recognitions, including Dartmouth College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award, and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute’s Cesar Chavez Community Service Award. Juan lives in and represents the State of New Jersey, having previously served as a Municipal Court Judge in Hoboken and as General Counsel to the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.

You can read Juan Cartagena's bi-weekly column in El Diario here.

Have a question for him or a thought about his articles? Tweet him @LJCartagena!

Below is a special message from Juan Cartagena, you can support LatinoJustice PRLDEF's work here.

As the year draws to a close, I can’t help but think ahead to 2020, which will be a profoundly important year for Latinxs, for immigrants and other marginalized communities and for justice writ large. I refer to a confluence of 2020 civic processes that will have a resounding and long-lasting impact for decades to come – the decennial Census and the Presidential Election.
 
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we could not truly have imagined the damage that has been inflicted on our constitutional and democratic norms by a president with seemingly no regard for the law and a senate that ignores all harms being created in this country in a goal to push through legislation that will satisfy their wealthy donors while rolling back civil rights and putting the weight of a flawed tax scheme on the shoulders of the least affluent.
 
Nor could we have imagined that this administration would so blatantly try to target immigrants by pushing for immigration bans, floating status questions on the Census and using the bully pulpit to mobilize hate groups. Unfortunately, all of this has come to pass. Fortunately, LatinoJustice, along with our peers, has pushed back every step of the way.
 
This past year, LatinoJustice had a hand in several key legal victories and other activities that sent a clear message that we will not yield to hatred, bigotry and human rights violations:

  • We helped push, through legal and community advocacy, the president to abandon his effort to force a citizenship question on the upcoming Census
  • We fought an Erie County lawsuit challenging the newly-enacted Green Light law, which permits non-citizen New York residents to obtain driver’s licenses
  • At our urging, the City of Philadelphia took proactive steps to comply with the Voting Rights Act after they failed to comply with the Voting Rights Act mandate to provide Spanish language access to voters
  • We filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services after they declared fraudulent and seized the Puerto Rico issued license and other identifying documents of a Puerto Rican born U.S. citizen
  • We denounced the hate rhetoric that consistently harms and threatens Latinos in the face of white supremacist violence that killed 22 Mexicans in El Paso, Texas and called for the impeachment of the president for that reason alone
  • We secured yet another employment rights victory when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a previous decision against the owner of a Korean restaurant who had impermissibly transferred his interests in three NYC properties to family members to avoid paying a $2.7 million judgment that would satisfy the wage theft judgment previously awarded to his former workers pursuant to New York State and federal labor laws
  • We held a criminal justice reform convening in Brownsville, Texas, bringing together more 100 advocates, formerly incarcerated persons and others impacted by and interested in reforming the criminal justice system
  • We helped three talented Latinx law students get hired by Top 100 law firms after being recruited through our Corporate-Law Firm Alliance Summer Program (CLASP)
  • We launched our Decolonize Justice film series with an anchor documentary we produced along with seven mini-documentaries to show how criminal justice, policing and drug policies harm Latinos nationwide

LatinoJustice secured many other victories as a result of our work on behalf of Latinxs nationwide in 2019 – and all of it was possible because of supporters like you! We aim to double down in 2020 – and there is a lot to do. Among our priorities:

  • Redress the damage done to public trust after the President undertook his Census intimidation campaign;
  • Build up our network of advocates and allies to press for the restoration of voting rights to individuals with convictions;
  • Bring legal action on behalf of laborers who have been denied basic worker’s rights in Nassau County, Long Island;
  • Advocate for economic relief for Puerto Ricans struggling with the effects of the Island’s debt crisis;
  • Continue our call for the impeachment of a president whose blatant disregard for the safety and well-being of Latinxs in this country is a dereliction of duty;
  • Expand access to the legal pipeline for dozens of Latinx students interested in a law career; and much more.

The impact of your year-end gift of $25, $50, $100, $250, 500 or more will be leveraged throughout 2020, making a major difference for people like Roxanna Orellana Santos and her family after she was racially profiled and arrested in Maryland. Roxanna, with LatinoJustice’s help over nearly ten years, was finally granted the right to legally stay in the United States with her three U.S. born children. Therein lies the power of the LatinoJustice network, strengthened by your continued generosity.
 
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to justice.
 
Sincerely,
Juan Cartagena
President & General Counsel