In Response to 2nd Anniversary of El Paso Massacre, MALDEF Announces New Program to Combat Open Bias and Racism

Aug 4, 2021
4:26 PM

Maylin Reyes hangs a Mexican flag at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Monday, August 5, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

On the second anniversary of the August 3 El Paso Massacre, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) announced a new initiative to combat bias and racism against Latinos, a Tuesday media release from the organization said.

The Freedom from Open and Obvious Bias and Racism, “will focus on addressing and reducing the rise in hate crimes rooted in anti-Latino sentiments, including discriminatory policing policies that encourage or tolerate racism,” the release explained.

“As the largest racial minority group in the country, Latinos have faced, and will continue to face, very serious impacts from the increased tolerance of white nationalism in the United States,” MALDEF president and general counsel Thomas A. Saenz said.  “As the legal voice of our community, MALDEF staff will use our legal skill and advocacy experience to prevent and eliminate the effects of obvious racism and bias throughout our society, including within law enforcement, where such thinking is at its most dangerous.”

The new program expands MALDEF’s litigation and advocacy efforts to a fifth subject-matter area, the release explained. Previously, MALDEF has worked in the following areas to promote and protect the rights of Latinos in education, employment, immigrants’ rights, and voting rights. Now, it will also add bias and racism.

“Racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric spewed by public officials inspired a gunman to kill 23 people two years ago in El Paso,” MALDEF board president Marcus Allen said. “Today, many politicians and elected officials continue to demonize Latinos for political gain. It is up to us to put a stop to the kind of public hate speech that radicalizes a person to kill.”

The MALDEF release said that the August 3, 2019 El Paso Massacre “is the deadliest hate-motivated mass murder of Latinos in modern history,” noting that “the shooter was charged with capital murder after he drove more than 10 hours to kill Latinos, posting an anti-Latino screed online shortly before the mass shooting, according to news outlets.”

“I invite you to join me in supporting the launch of MALDEF’s new national initiative to legally and peacefully combat and focus on open and obvious bias and racism, so that what occurred at the Walmart massacre on August 3 two years ago in our El Paso community by a white supremacist sympathizer will not happen again,” MALDEF board member and El Paso attorney Enrique Chavez Jr. said.