LOS ANGELES – Two years after the deadliest hate-motivated attack on Latinos in the United States took place in El Paso Texas, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) is launching a new initiative to combat bias and racism against Latinos.

The initiative, known as 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.

“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,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “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.”

With the launch of the new program, MALDEF expands its litigation and advocacy efforts to a fifth subject-matter area. The organization has a long history of working to promote and protect the rights of Latinos in education, employment, immigrants’ rights, and voting rights.

“Racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric spewed by public officials inspired a gunman to kill 23 people two years ago in El Paso,” said Marcus Allen, MALDEF board president. “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.”

Anti-Latino sentiment and hate crimes targeting the community have steadily risen since Donald J. Trump took office in 2016, according to federal data. The August 3, 2019 shooting massacre that left 23 people dead in El Paso is the deadliest hate-motivated mass murder of Latinos in modern history. 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,” said attorney Enrique Chavez Jr., a MALDEF board member and a resident of El Paso.