99 Hudson Street - 14th Floor
New York, NY
Phone :(212) 219-3360 / (800) 328-2322 Fax :(212) 431-4276 URL: Website
Supports bilingual education
Supports racial gerrymandering of voting districts
Supports expanded rights for illegal aliens
Founded by three young attorneys — Jorge Batista, Victor Marrero and Cesar A. Perales — LatinoJustice PRLDF was established in 1972 as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. (The organization would not adopt its current name until 2007.) LatinoJustice PRLDF says that its 1972 creation came about because Puerto Ricans "had no voice" in public life and "were simply invisible." From its inception, the group's stated mission was to protect the "civil and human rights" of Puerto Ricans and members of the greater Latino community.
LatinoJustice PRLDF's first lawsuit, the 1974 Aspira v. New York City Board of Education case, resulted in the groundbreaking Aspira Consent Decree which compelled the city to expand its bilingual education programs and to increase the number of Spanish-speaking teachers in its employ. School districts in other cities soon implemented comparable bilingual programs, and to this day supporters of bilingual education invoke the Aspira ruling. When then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Education Chancellor Harold Levy preferred to focus resources on strengthening English language immersion classes rather than bilingual programs, LatinoJustice PRLDF harshly criticized their approach, even though bilingual programs had been notoriously ineffective in teaching English skills to Spanish-speaking students.
The promotion of Spanish as an acceptable alternative to English in the business world has been a central LatinoJustice PRLDF issue throughout the organization's history.
In its formative years, LatinoJustice PRLDF filed two class-action suits against the New York City Police Department, resulting in court orders compelling the Department to institute minority-outreach recruitment programs, lower testing standards for minority applicants, and preference for minorities in promotions and career advancement -- measures that resulted in an increased the number of Latino officers and sergeants.
In 1980, when then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch criticized a Supreme Court decision that upheld racial quotas, the PRLDEF signed a statement characterizing the comments as “'ill-informed, rhetorically excessive and unnecessarily divisive.”
In 1981, the PRLDEF supported a lawsuit that contended an entry-level government test, known as Professional Administrative Careers Examination, had an adverse impact on the African and Hispanic Americans who failed the exam. The lawsuit argued the test, therefore, violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act ...
In 1981, the PRLDEF applauded a decision by a federal judge that forced teachers at an Ann Arbor Michigan elementary school to undergo “consciousness raising” about a dialect spoken by young black children called “Black English.” The training program cost taxpayers $44,000. The civil rights attorney who handled the case, Gabe Kaimowitz, worked for the PRLDEF. He said his intent was to make the lawsuit the “basis of suits against schools in Chicago and New York, and to extend the suit to embrace not only poor blacks but poor Puerto Rican students,” who supposedly spoke a dialect known as “Spanglish.”
In 1983, the PRLDEF filed a complaint against Elizabeth, New Jersey Mayor Thomas Dunn following a City Hall directive requiring staff to speak English while on the job. Ignacio Perez, a staff attorney with the PRLDEF, admitted that no one in the mayor’s office had filed any complaints related to the directive.
In 1988, the PRLDEF engaged in a battle with the New York City Police Department over its “racist” promotion exam, ultimately presiding over a radical redesign to allow more minorities to achieve a passing grade. According to The New York Times: “The new test, a four-part exam prepared with the help of an expert designated by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund … involved changes in format, including the addition of open-book questions and a video portion.”
In 1990, the PRLDEF attacked then-New York Mayor David Dinkins after the mayor labeled three Puerto Rican “nationalists” who shot five members of Congress in 1954 “assassins.” The radicals were members of a violent Puerto Rican terrorist group Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN). The PRLDEF said the mayor’s comments “lacked sensitivity.” Reuben Franco, President of the PRLDEF, said: “[Mayor Dinkins] doesn't recognize that to many people in Puerto Rico, these are fighters for freedom and justice, for liberation, just as is Nelson Mandela, who himself advocated bearing arms.''
In 1990, the PRLDEF opposed a bill under consideration by the New York City Council that “would have required retailers to post at their storefronts English language signs explaining the nature of their businesses.” A spokesman for the PRLDEF said the bill ... would “create more animosity between different groups.”
In 1991, the PRLDEF filed a lawsuit against a consortium of non-profit organizations in New York City seeking to renew some of the city’s worst slums by developing middle-class housing projects. The program had been enormously successful.... According to estimates, 80% of the new homeowners were African American, Asian or Hispanic. The PRLDEF argued that the city and state subsidies that helped drive the project should be allocated for low-income housing.
An issue that is currently high on the LatinoJustice PRLDF agenda is the quest for amnesty and expanded civil rights for illegal aliens living in the United States. Calling itself "the premier Latino organization fighting for the rights of day laborers throughout the Northeast," LatinoJustice PRLDF supports "immigration reform" that "will contain a path for legalization and citizenship for the millions of undocumented living in the United States."
When the tuition rate for what LatinoJustice PRLDF calls "undocumented students" (i.e., illegal aliens) at the City University of New York increased dramatically in 2001, the organization brought a lawsuit that successfully challenged those higher costs, thus making illegal immigrants graduating from New York State high schools eligible for the same State tuition rates available to legal residents.
A prime objective of LatinoJustice PRLDF is to help develop Latino attorneys who -- by forging alliances with civil rights organizations, civil liberties groups, and government agencies -- can influence public opinion and the crafting of legislation pertaining to illegal aliens' rights. Toward this end, in June 2005 LatinoJustice PRLDF launched its LAWbound initiative aimed at "increasing the number of Latinos who successfully stay on the path to law school."
LatinoJustice PRLDF has litigated in numerous districting and redistricting cases. It sponsors training sessions and workshops aimed at increasing the number of race-based redistricting plans that serve to guarantee political election victories for Latinos.
LatinoJustice PRLDF passionately opposed President George W. Bush's 2003 nomination of conservative Republican Miguel Estrada, a Honduran-born immigrant, to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.