LOS ANGELES – MALDEF mourns the passing of Michael A. Olivas, who died today in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A longtime supporter of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), he served on the organization’s Board of Directors for several terms over decades, and was currently serving on his passing.  He was also a MALDEF legal services honoree in 2000.

Professor Olivas was a national leader in immigration legal scholarship. He wrote extensively about Latino civil rights, including leading national work on undocumented immigrant youth and the fight for educational access. He held the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center, and served as Director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at UH.  He was a renowned advocate for increased Latino inclusion in legal education.

Please attribute the following statement to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF:

“Michael was an iconic figure in legal academia.  An early and consistent advocate for greater Latino inclusion in legal education, he was a counsel and advisor to so many leaders in law school teaching.  I initially became aware of Michael when I was a first-year law student; he was, even then so many years ago, the most prominent national advocate for growing the ranks of Latino law professors.

“Michael was also a consistent and powerful champion and evangelist of MALDEF and its mission to promote the civil rights of all Latinos through the legal system.  His published works have made an immeasurable contribution in documenting the work of MALDEF and other Latino civil rights legal advocates.  He was a brilliant, and often provocative, strategist in the fields of Latino and immigrant rights.

“There is no question that our nation today lost an extraordinary and towering figure in civil rights law.  At MALDEF, we will miss him tremendously.  Our heartfelt sympathy to Augustina Reyes and the rest of his family on this deep and piercing loss.”

Please attribute the following statement on Prof. Olivas’ passing to Ambassador Vilma Martinez, president and general counsel of MALDEF from 1973 to 1982:

“With the passing of Michael Olivas, MALDEF has lost a great friend and supporter, and the academic community has lost a gentleman and a scholar. Condolences to his family.”

Please attribute the following statement on Prof. Olivas’ passing to Antonia Hernandez, president and general counsel of MALDEF from 1985 to 2004:

“Michael was an exemplary board member, a true believer in and ardent supporter of MALDEF’s mission.  He was also an instigator of new and creative thinking and strategy with respect to so many critical issues of Latino civil rights.  His insight and perspective will be sorely missed.”