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.
A report by the public-interest group Judicial Watch highlights a number of additional positions taken by PRLDF during the 1980s and early 1990s. The following examples are excerpted from the report:
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.
LatinoJustice PRLDF receives financial support from the Allstate Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the New York Times Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the UPS Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
LatinoJustice PRLDF's Chairman is Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Chile during the Clinton administration.