The League of United Latin American Citizens of the United States, LULAC, was created 90 years ago with the mission of fighting for the rights of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States. Today this fight continues. Their lobbying and court efforts have stopped racist laws in several states. They currently have projects such as getting the states of the union to distribute their electoral votes in the presidential election proportionally, and not under the system of "the winner takes them all", as happens in Texas. This system allowed Donald Trump to win the presidency, despite obtaining 3.5 million votes less than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On Saturday, one week after the tragedy in El Paso, LULAC organized a protest there to demand new laws and get the attention of Texan governor Greg Abott. The presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke who for a week paused his campaign to address the crisis in his hometown, also joined the march.
LPO spoke with Ray Mancera, current LULAC national parlamentarian and former vice president of the oldest Latino political association in the US.
What is the work that LULAC does?
We are a non-party group that fights for the civil rights of Mexican Americans and immigrants in general. We are celebrating 90 years of work. This group was created to fight discrimination against the Mexican-American community. There were many abuses against the community: land theft, school segregation, they were denied funerals and access to political rights, or to participate in a jury, even if they were citizens. Our current CEO, Cindy Benavides, is of Nicaraguan origin. This is a group that defends Latin Americans in general. We fight to have the same rights as other Americans do. Half of the work was to overthrow segregationist and other discriminatory laws. We fought so that Mexican-Americans could be police officers, civil servants, etc. Jobs that were previously only allowed for Anglo-Saxons.
Also, a lot of the work we do goes to enhance education. We grant scholarships for young Hispanics throughout the US to have access to college.
What was the purpose of Saturday's march?
To continue drawing attention to last week's tragedy. Also to demand that the governor of Texas summons a special meeting of the state legislature, which meets here only bi-annually, to pass laws concerning gun control. Making the access to firearms more difficult, and that people with dangerous backgrounds do not have access to them at all, or at least to delay the purchase process. We aim for that. We also want the FBI to open a special unit that investigates domestic terrorism in this country. Finally, we made the march with the support of the local religious community - Catholics, Christians, Muslims, and Jews - to pay tribute to the 22 people who died, and to give a turn of faith to the protest. The community is still very wounded by what happened.
How did the inclusion of presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke and the Democratic congressmen who participated in the protest happen?
They approached us. Several local officials also approached. Beto asked us to join the march, as did Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California, who is an El Paso native. They wanted to participate. We called on the community in general and they came.
In Texas, the issue of firearms is more sensitive than in any other state. What kind of legislation is LULAC looking for in Texas?
In the US, all people have the right to bear arms. We respect that right of the American people. What we want, is to make sure that people with criminal records or serious psychological disorders do not have such easy access to firearms, as they do today. The rifle that this man used was bought legally.
Do you have a position on assault rifles? These weapons were banned during the Clinton administration and until 2004.
Yes. Nobody needs an AK-47 to hunt a deer. Those are military weapons. Our position is that access to such weapons is not necessary at all. If a person pulls a rifle like this it can cause a lot of damage. We just saw it last Saturday. This Anglo-Saxon man took the anti-Mexican speech to come and murder Mexicans here. As simple as that.
Mexican government identified the tragedy as a terrorist act and analyzes requesting the extradition of the perpetrator. What do you make of this positioning?
The United States is always at the forefront to protect us, its citizens, when we travel abroad and suffer acts of violence. I see nothing wrong with another country exercising the same right to protect its citizens, even if it is in the US.
What kind of US president does the Latino community need?
There's a need to apply laws that already exist. That's amiss [with the current administration]. The Constitution says that every person is created with the same rights, so we want the government to be impartial in granting contracts, offering housing or education loans, and also in the delivery of justice. The laws are not applied fairly with African-American, Native American, and Latino minorities.
Have you recently fought any racist law in court?
In Arizona they passed a law that allowed police officers to ask about your immigration status, even if you ran trough a red light. We took the matter to court and told the judge that, if all the police were going to ask Mr. García for immigration documents, we wanted to make sure he also did it with Mr. Smith. That the law should be applied equally. And if Mr. Smith doesn't have immigration papers, will they take him to jail? Will this law be applied objectively? Not for racial reasons. And we won the case.
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